Agents are being urged to be on their guard as sub-letting scams appear to be on the rise, with prospective tenants producing bogus documents and managing to pass checks by referencing companies.
One central London agent has called in police after a prospective tenant passed by a referencing company was subsequently found to have produced bogus payslips.
The agent claims that the same tenant went on to be passed by another letting agent’s referencing company, and is now renting a flat with an annual rental of over £50,000 a year.
News of the incident has emerged after the Fair Fees Forum this week called for the accreditation of referencing companies.
The agent in central London said that the prospective tenant had her offer accepted by the landlord and so the agent proceeded with the reference check.
He claims that the referencing firm it uses promptly sent confirmation that this applicant passed their checks.
He said: “In this area we need to be extremely vigilant as sub-letting is really common.
“I had a gut feeling and decided to do additional checks on my own. After googling the name of the applicant I discovered worrying facts.
“I then decided to contact the company where she was apparently employed.
“It was just one phone call and I was connected to HR where a gentleman told me this person was never on the payroll and he never heard of her and payslips are not genuine.
“Therefore we nearly let a £52,000 pa flat to someone who shouldn’t be even considered as a tenant.”
He also alleged that the tenant was passed by a second referencing agency, acting for another agent, and is now renting a property with a rental income of £50,000 a year.
He said: “Something has to be done. We rely on those companies. All the agents should be alerted.”
He added: “We have involved the police as we believe it’s a scam on a large scale.”
Lucy Morton, former ARLA president and director of JLL, said: “Agents should be on their guard, and it is essential that referencing is really thorough.
“There have always been instances where prospective tenants have produced false information for as long as I have been in the business, but sub-letting is definitely on the rise.”
At the Fair Fees Forum meeting this week, agents including Countrywide, Spicerhaart, Winkworth and Connells, together with industry bodies, agreed the need for the accreditation of referencing companies.
The meeting also discussed regulation of the lettings industry, and agreed to write to new housing minister Alok Sharma.