Chief Editor May 10 2023

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Home rental scams jump to 979 cases in 2022 as tenants lose their deposits

Home rental scams jumped five folds from 192 cases in 2021 to 979 cases in 2022 as many tenants fall prey to scammers who posed as landlords or property agents. 

Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Home Affairs, revealed this in Parliament on Tuesday (May 9), in reply to a parliamentary question from Ms Yeo Wan Ling, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Ms Yeo said that a resident in her constituency was a homeowner whose house had been listed online without her knowledge in this rental scam. As a result, several victims turned up the homeowner's doorstep over a few months with their belongings, ready to move into the house.

Ms Sun assured homeowners that they would not be penalised, unless they were involved in perpetuating the scams.

How did home rental scam happen?

Generally, the scammer will impersonate as property agents or landlords and they will post photos of the house for rent at online platforms.

Victims who chanced upon these rental listings would call or text the phone numbers on the listings, thinking that they are applying for a legitimate rental unit.

The scammer will send the business card of a property agent as well as the house video tour to convince the victim.

As the rental market was booming last year due to high demand and low supply.

Many victims were lured into paying a deposit in order to secure a viewing or reserve the unit for rent. 

After the victims transfer the deposits, the scammers will no longer be contactable.

How do I avoid a rental scam?

Mr Chia JT, Managing Director of Propertyforsale Pte Ltd, shared various tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim in a rental scam. 

  1. Do not deal directly with a landlord or someone who claim to know the landlord. There must be a middleman such as a property agent to broker this rental deal. 
  2. Do not pay until you have visited the house physically. 
  3. Request for ownership proof.
  4. Cross check the mobile number of the property agent against the CEA public register. If he/she is a licensed property agent, it will be listed.

Ms Sun advised the public not to use online platforms such as Facebook or Carousell to search for residential properties because their main business is not in the property rental space.