A few years ago my brother David was the victim of a rental scam. It was this experience that led us to research the scale of the problem and start to think about ways to raise awareness and maybe even prevent this kind of fraud from happening in the first place.
We realised there is a compromise when seeking a rental today: either go through a letting agent which may charge excessive fees, or use a listings site where there's a chance of being scammed. It wasn't difficult to find fake listings on websites. Renters told us they were daunted by paying out thousands to a landlord (who is a stranger) but did so as they had little choice.
As the cost of renting and demand has increased the problem of fraud has become worse. Last year there was a 44% increase in reported online rental scams and the UK government estimates that over £1m is lost each week to fake landlords. In our own research we found that 4% of active private renters in the UK have been the victim of a fake landlord scam. Awareness is greater than ever (thanks in part to TV shows) but the advice available doesn't always prevent bad experiences.
That's why David and I set up RentProfile, which launched this week. As a first for the industry RentProfile can verify a landlord’s credentials, preventing fake landlord fraud and providing some peace of mind before transferring a large sum of money. The verification includes identity, rental property ownership, history of housing prosecutions and reports from other renters. Currently earlybird landlords can sign up for free and create a landlord profile which can be shared with prospective tenants.
Landlords benefit from being alerted when somebody attempts to impersonate them or when a property is being advertised without their permission. They are also given a unique reference number that can be used in listings. By signing up you're also doing your bit to make it that much harder for the minority rogue landlords and scammers to operate. If you know a great landlord please invite them here.
The early feedback we've had so far has been positive - please take a look and let us know what you think!