RESIDENTS fall victim to RENTALSCAM

A GROUP of residents from the South Coast have fallen prey to a rental scam by a fraudster couple who allegedly disappeared with tens of thousands of rands after they attempted to let out an apartment they did not own.

The pair, who previously resided at Lawrence Rock in Ramsgate, placed an online advertisement for a flat they were in the process of being evicted from, showing it to possible tenants and thereafter requesting a deposit to secure the flat for occupation on July 2.

The promise was a fully furnished one bedroom apartment with a “big open plan kitchen and lounge area” and separate bathroom and toilet at R2200 per month. Tenants were also promised parking for two and a “neat braai area”.

However, when the hoaxed tenants arrived to move in on the day, they found the flat vacant and locked with the contact number for the supposed leaser disconnected.

One of those defrauded is Samantha Sweetman from Margate, who said she was left stranded by the ordeal.

She said she reported the matter at the police station and was told that eight other couples had fallen victim to the scam.

“The real owner said the pair were given notice to evict after failing to pay rent for three months. Also, after posting on Facebook to try to warn residents about them, we learned that they had scammed several people in various other ways,” said Sweetman.

Police confirmed that the owner had opened a case against the alleged scammers.

Margate SAPS spokesperson Captain Gerald Mfeka said the 69- year-old female received a call from someone stating that they have paid a deposit for a flat and they needed the keys in order to move in.

“According to the complainant, she said that she had a lease with the suspect who allegedly was subletting her flat and also taking cash from three other persons,” said Mfeka.

Margate detectives are investigating a case of fraud. No arrests have yet been made.

Rental expert with Rawson Properties in Uvongo Friedhold Redinger said rental scams occur more frequently than most people realise, and they happen to both tenants and property owners.

He said, when it comes to rentals, the most important aspect was paperwork. Both potential tenants and landlords have to make sure that the other one has all the necessary documentation, including IDs, proof of residence and, if possible, traceable references, said Redinger.

He said incidents such as the one in Lawrence Rock could have been prevented had the tenants requested valid paperwork from the supposed landlord before giving them a deposit. Additionally, it is possible to check whether a property was listed through the supposed landlord through a rental agency prior to signing a lease agreement or paying a deposit.

“Before any monies are swapped, make sure the necessary paperwork is done. This is why it is much easier to find or lease a property through a leasing agent because the agencies already do the checks for you,” said Redinger.