Real Life

Student scam

Should you hand money over to a landlord before you sign a lease?
Student scam

My daughter is just starting university. When she was looking for a flat online she found what looked like an excellent one with very reasonable rent. She emailed the landlord who told her demand was huge. So that applicants didn’t have to wait in long queues, he was asking for the first two weeks rent to be paid upfront prior to being shown the property. He admitted this might seem unusual but it was the only way he could single out those who “really wanted the flat”.

The money would be returned to unsuccessful applicants. My daughter paid $600 and weeks later had never heard from the man again. Not only that, there is no flat in the area that looks remotely like the exterior picture. We’ve searched everywhere. What should she do?

Seems your daughter has been stung by an increasingly common flatting scam. Report this to the police and to the website the advertisement was on. The rule of thumb is never pay any money to a landlord until you have seen the flat and been offered a contract. Also never pay cash. And if the rent looks too good to be true, be suspicious. There will be some readers who will think your daughter has been extremely naïve. But they don’t know the terrible stress and pressure young people are under to find a decent, affordable flat in a new town. I feel sorry for her and you. It’s a lesson hard learned.

Do you have a consumer question for Kevin? Email [[email protected]](mailto: [email protected]), or post to Weekly Consumer, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

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