South Africa

Rental agents: are your listings at risk?

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A woman pointing at a real estate listing in a window

People are using fake rental listings to trick prospective tenants into handing over money and personal details, according to warnings from Cape Town-based social housing provider Communicare.

Communicare reports that scammers are copying rental property listings and using fake application documents to extract up-front fees and pre-viewing deposits from tenants. They also request bank statements and identification from applicants, leaving them vulnerable to further attacks.

So far, the activity has only been reported in the social housing rental sector, and Communicare is aware of just four cases. That said, private rentals aren’t immune to the problem, and industry experts have previously warned of various scams in the residential rental sector.

As rents and inflation rise across South Africa, low-income tenants could get increasingly desperate for affordable properties, making them more vulnerable. The latest PayProp Rental Index found that the poorest 10% of tenants cannot afford their rent and debt repayments even before the cost of other essentials.

Rental agents can help to keep the residential rental sector safe by running reverse image searches on their listings to make sure that no-one is using them without the necessary authorisation. Agents can also make it clear when speaking to prospective tenants that they will not require a pre-application fee or charge for viewings.

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