SRC Legal Service has received several cases concerning an accommodation scam.
In a typical scenario, the scam targets international students or those who are too busy or unable to have a look at the advertised accommodation in person before renting. These students were usually asked to pay a ‘holding fee’ or a ‘deposit’ in order to secure the property before they even get to meet the landlord or see the place for rent. In the end, the unlucky ones usually discovered that the scammer just disappeared completely after the payment has been received.
How to avoid this situation if you are really unable to see the place before you have to move?
Do not transfer money by Western Union if you were asked to pay a holding fee. This is because money transferred through Western Union is not recoverable.
Try to arrange a friend or someone you can trust to meet with the landlord and also check out the property for you. Get this person to ask to see the landlord’s proper ID and record the landlord’s details as much as possible such as full name, contact address, driver’s licence number etc. This is to ensure that you know exactly the identity of the person you are dealing with, so that if this person later disappeared, you may contact the police for help with this information.
Please also make sure that you obtain a written receipt immediately for all money paid to the landlord and that you should only be required to pay a holding fee which is equivalent to one week’s rent.
You can also find an accommodation renting check list and a template of residential tenancy lease on the SRC website at www.src.usyd.edu.au.
If you have any questions or have come over any issues in relation to renting a place, you are welcome to come speak to our solicitor at the SRC Legal Service by contacting 9660 5222 to make an appointment.