This article was created to help renters and landlords avoid rent scams in Ireland, and to improve the process for everyone. Our guidance has been created based on lessons learned from actual rent scams in Ireland as well as an aggregation of guidance from Irish institutions such as An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s police force), Threshold.ie (Irish housing advice and advocacy organisation), local Universities and more. An Garda Síochána have reported that the median rental fraud in Ireland now stands at €1,300 so rental security must be treated as a priority.
Putting your best foot forward as a renter
It’s our priority to secure the rental process for renters in a way that doesn’t make their application less desirable from a landlord’s perspective. This is especially true given the competitive nature of the rental market in Ireland. We believe that our security measures can make the process more attractive for landlords and potentially enhance the renter’s application.
International renters are particularly vulnerable
Our guidance is designed for all renters however international third level students are particularly vulnerable and so we’ve included practical advice specific to this cohort also. For example, An Garda Síochána state that people should never agree to rent a property without viewing it first, and should insist on receiving a proper receipt for any payment. This of course is sound advice however most international students are applying from overseas so it’s virtually impossible for them to take this precaution – we will recommend alternatives.
The anatomy of an Irish rent scam
We start by looking at the four broad categories of rent scams in Ireland. We will then outline 14 possible red flags and along with real world examples of actual rent frauds which have occurred in Ireland – familiarising yourself with typical red flags will help you avoid rent scams before they occur. Finally, we will outline some of Secureprop.com’s services which are designed specifically to prevent rent fraud as well as improving the rental process for both renters and landlords.
Understand rent scams
Common types of Irish rent scams
Rent scams involve fraudulent individuals or organizations posing as legitimate landlords or property managers to deceive prospective tenants. Common types of rent scams include:
- Pre-let payment theft: Scammer requests a deposit and/or rent in advance but can’t show you the property as they claim to be out of Ireland.
- Identity Theft: Scammer pretends to be the property owner or agent and requests personal information such bank account details, or copies of identification documents. This information can be used for identity theft.
- Sublet scam: Scammer is living at the property and shows a number of people around, takes multiple deposits from several people and then disappears.
- Phishing: Scammer send a malicious link to rental applicants for phishing purposes.
Irish rent scam red flags
An understanding of rent scams flags will help you avoid fraud before it’s too late. We’ve listed common rent scam red flags below along with real life examples of how the fraud is committed.
1. Foreign bank accounts
Ask yourself why a property owner living in Ireland would not have an Irish bank account? Of course, there could be a legitimate reason however renters should recognise this as a common red flag. Rent scammers want you to pay them in a country where it’s easier to access the funds and harder for authorities to coordinate international investigations. As a rule of thumb, An Garda Síochána recommend never to pay rent or rent deposits to foreign bank accounts.
2. Landlord refuses escrow account
Rent escrow accounts protect the renter’s deposit and advance rental payment if applicable. Most genuine landlords should have no problem with a renter paying rent via a Secureprop.com escrow account however rent scammers would obviously want to avoid this. Learn more about rent escrow accounts here and how they can protect renters from online rent scams.
3. Too good to be true
Are the terms, prices or conditions simply too good to be true? Is your landlord offering you below market rental prices? Is the application process extremely easy? Scrutinise carefully if you think it’s too good to be true and trust your instincts. Remember that it’s an extremely competitive rental market in Ireland at present from a renter’s perspective so it’s potentially a red flag if a landlord appears too eager to finalise a deal. We at Secureprop.com review market pricing data to detect pricing outliers.
We’ve reviewed a lot of rent scams and a common theme tends to be elaborate or convoluted landlord storylines. Just remind yourself that renting a property is very simple – the landlord has a property that you wish to rent from them. You apply for the property; a viewing is arranged if feasible and the details are finalised. It’s a relatively straightforward process so beware of complications and obfuscations.
5. Address verification
Request the exact address of the property and check Google maps to verify its existence. Check the Eircode (Ireland’s version of Zipcodes) of the property on www.eircode.ie to see if the details match. The Google map exterior photos of the house may not match with the style of the interior photos listed.
6. Spelling or Grammar errors
Grammar or spelling errors contained within the advertisement or text conversations could indicate that the landlord is not who they say they are. This is not necessarily a red flag however it could indicate that the person you are conversing with is based in another country. Use your common sense in this regard.
7. WhatsApp or Social Media conversations
Setting up fake social media accounts is relatively easy and it’s a typical hunting ground for rent scammers. It’s also much easier to remain anonymous via whatsapp and social media. Scammers may wish to change platforms from a property listing platform to whatsapp as it allows them to obtain your phone number and it’s also more private.
8. Absent landlords
Most rent scams involve fake landlords or fake property listings – this of course means that there can be no physical property viewing or landlord meeting. Rent scammers will typically make up an excuse as to why they can’t meet you to show you the property – if this occurs (especially more than once), we advise exercising a higher degree of caution before proceeding. Rent scammers may initially appear open and willing to meet only to cancel or reschedule at short notice.
9. Property photo anomalies
Take a close look at the property and check for anomalies in the photos. Pay close attention to detail to determine if there is something in the photos that don’t quite fit the style, architecture, surrounds or expected characteristics of the house. Pay particular attention during an online or remote video viewing and it’s always worth asking the landlord shows you the façade of the house (this may not be feasible if it’s an apartment). This can be very hard to spot but it is worth scrutinising closer if you’re concerned that it’s a rent scam.
10. Unreversible payment method request
Rent scammers don’t like payment methods that can be reversed (eg credit card payments). Try not to transfer money using methods that can’t be reversed such as cryptocurrency, PayPal, cash, wire services such as Western Union, and iTunes gift cards. Escrow account payments are preferred if you plan to pay via bank transfer. Rent scammers also tend to be overly specific with payment instructions and tend not to offer much flexibility in this regard.
11. Time pressure
Time pressure can lead to a lack of renter scrutiny and poor renter decision making – rent scammers know this and will often pressure renters to transfer funds as soon as possible. Their focus tends to be on the transfer as opposed to the details of the letting agreement. Scammers will try multiple tactics such as fake competing offers and even rent discounts for early payments. Renters must of course act without delay in a very competitive Irish rental market however it’s important to be conscious of landlords who are applying excessive time pressure or appear to be overly pushy.
12. You’re contacted regarding a property you didn’t apply for directly
Beware of emails, messages, calls etc. from somebody offering you a property which you didn’t apply for. Renters by default share their contact details and other information with a lot of prospective landlords/agents when applying for properties online. Fraudulent landlords can create fake property listings and use the contact information of those who apply to target them separately. For example, if you apply for property A (which is a fake listing), scammers can use your contact information to contact you directly regarding another property. This leaves it harder to determine which property listings are actually fake and scammers can continue to operate on the platform.
13. Letting agent without a licence
If using the services of Letting Agents in Ireland, we would recommend that you check their license against the PSRA registry (Property Services Regulatory Authority). You can see this licence on the prsa’s website . Letting agents should only contact you from their business email address – never from a personal email address.
14. Overselling credentials
Remember that landlords typically ask for renter credentials – not the other way around. We’ve seen instances of rent scammers being overly zealous when it comes to proving their own credentials – often offering identification etc. before a renter even requests them. Trust your instincts if your interactions just don’t feel right.
15. Watch out for clones
This is a rent scam on the rise and one rental website close can lead to significant numbers of scams. Purpose student accommodation (PBSA) options are professionally run residences and are historically much less risky versus the private market. There has however been an increase in cloned PBSA residences which appear to be legitimate but are in fact copycat illegitimate websites which were created to steal your money. We recommend that you work with a trusted purpose-built student accommodation agent like Studenthouse.com who offer a free service for students and only deal with reputable and verified purpose-built student accommodation providers.
We don’t advocate for excessive or slow due diligence which could jeopardise your chances of securing your desired property however we do advise that you exercise a reasonable degree of caution and implement as many practical security measures as possible. If you’re not sure or something doesn’t feel right, always pause and consult a friend, colleague or family member. Feel free of course to contact us at Secureprop.com and we would be glad to advise.
Need additional support?
Are you or your organisation attempting to eradicate online rental scams in your community? If so, contact us today to learn how we can help. We offer a suite of services, tailored to our partners’ needs and designed specifically to eradicate scams and secure online platforms – see some of our services below:
- Red flag detection – Our systems detect a range of red flags listed above.
- Landlord and renter identity verification – we can verify landlord and renter identity using a blend of biometric, document & database checks.
- Secure payments – we secure payments for landlords and renters as well as holding pre let rental payments and deposits in Escrow.