Gardaí are advising people to be wary of rental scams following an increase of 30 per cent in accommodation fraud in 2022 compared with 2019.
Renters should be particularly careful at this time of year when students are returning to college, as the time frame between August and October shows a rise in accommodation fraud, gardaí said.
There has been a 50 per cent increase in victims of accommodation fraud aged under 25 so far this year. A median amount of €1,300 is stolen in rental scams, and some 50 per cent of incidents occur in Dublin, according to Garda figures.
A total of €291,452 was stolen in 2022 versus almost €250,000 in 2019.
Pandemic restriction years were omitted from the data comparisons.
Det Supt Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau advised prospective tenants to “only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona fida and trusted”.
“Websites can be cloned —check the URL to ensure it’s a real website and take note of the privacy and refund policy sections,” he said.
Mr Cryan advised tenants to be “very wary of social media advertisements or where a person letting the location will only communicate via messenger or Whatsapp”.
“You should push for direct answers and if responses are vague, disengage immediately,” he said.
Renters should also watch out for “unsolicited contacts” or where the contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions, “especially if there is a sense of urgency like ‘a one-time offer’”.
An Garda recommended using a credit card and advised to never transfer money directly, pay cash or pay into cryptocurrency wallets.
Warning signs include when a landlord is unable to meet up to show you the property in person or when the property is offered with no questions asked and payment demanded immediately before signing the lease.
Gardaí advised people never to agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to view it, to ensure that the keys work and proper contact details for the landlord and agent are provided.
Meanwhile, the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) warned students in particular to be “vigilant”.
“Every year around this time thousands of students will be offered places in third level educational institutions. This always commences a frantic scramble for rental accommodation,” the organisation said in a statement.
Students searching for a room should “ask their prospective landlords for confirmation of ownership for the property being rented, e.g. sight of insurance documentation or LPT receipt.”
Chair of the IPOA Mary Conway said it was “sad that such precautions need to be taken, but as with all sectors criminals are prepared to take advantage at any given chance and we must endeavour to protect our members and their tenants”.
Students new to the market should familiarise themselves with the law around the sector and “a good place to start” is on the Residential Tenancies Board website.