‘I felt humiliated after being the victim of a rent scam’

Sophie Taylor (19) paid deposit in desperation despite her suspicions about Facebook ad

The current rental market is "terrible" for anyone on a low income, says Sophie Taylor (19), a student searching for accommodation in Dublin.

She works part time two days a week in a bar in Dublin, and her family home is in Westmeath. She is looking for accommodation ahead of her second year in college studying songwriting at the British and Irish Modern Music (Bimm) Institute.

“Everything is out of my price range” in the city, she said. “I viewed a property the other day, a single room, quite small, for €1,500 a month – €500 a month would be the best I could do,” she said.

She was recently the victim of a rental scam, and lost €600 to a fake landlord she thought she was paying a security deposit to online.


"I had found this advert on Facebook from a woman looking for a housemate. I was originally suspicious but thought I may as well ask just in case," she said.

“While talking to the woman it started off strong, me laying down the dates for the viewing and asking for photos and more information. I was passed on to the supposed landlord via email who wrote out a lease that looked authentic,” she said.

After she received the apparent lease, Ms Taylor was pressured to pay a security deposit of €600 on the property before viewing it, or else it would be given to another tenant.

After initially refusing she decided to transfer the money, as the room was within her price range. Upon arriving at the property, 50 Middle Abbey Street, for the viewing she was told by the actual owner that she had fallen for a scam.

“I was angry, not so much that I lost that amount of money, more that I just felt humiliated,” she said.

Every month

The actual owner of the property, Kevin Gilroy, lets the accommodation to tourists holidaying in the city centre. He said every month or so someone will show up at the property for a viewing only for him to have to tell them they have been scammed.

He informed An Garda Síochána about the scam, which was using his property's address, but to his knowledge gardaí are limited in pursuing the scammer as they operate online.

“It targets people that are the most vulnerable, and that are really struggling to find accommodation,” he said. “My main piece of advice is to never pay money over the internet until you meet the person and are shown the property,” he said.

Ms Taylor is currently sleeping on a friend’s couch while looking for accommodation for September, but has had no luck finding a room she can afford so far.

Gardaí issued advice to students searching for accommodation this autumn to help avoid rental scams. Students should pay a security deposit only after they have been shown inside the property by the landlord, and should avoid paying in cash.

Tenant rights agency Threshold also issued advice to students and other renters on how to avoid common rental scams. In some cases a landlord will show someone the property, take a deposit and hand over a set of keys, but the keys do not work when the tenant is supposed to move in. Threshold advises renters to always test the keys they are given in the doors before they leave.

The Residential Tenancy Board provides dispute resolution between landlords and tenants, but it only has jurisdiction over official tenancy agreements. So if a lease has not yet been signed, a tenant or prospective tenant has nobody to appeal to if a landlord takes their security deposit without renting them the property.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times