When the moratorium on tenancy agreements ended on March 28, 2021 rental vacancies across WA dwindled.
With so few rentals to choose from many have jumped at the first house they've found online.
While the majority of people online are genuine, scammers are taking advantage of the desperate market by faking rental availabilities.
A Gumtree spokesperson encouraged its users to be vigilant when looking at rentals online.
"At Gumtree, we encourage our users to always maintain a vigilant, critical eye over online interactions and be aware of the signs of a scammer," the spokesperson said.
"We also encourage our community to report any suspicious listings so we can investigate and remove ads that are unlawful as part of our report and takedown process."
When looking for a rental property online look out for the common signs in potential rental scammers:
- The seller avoids arrangements to meet in person. A legitimate landlord would likely take the time to meet prospective tenants face-to-face at the rental property available.
- The seller does not allow you to see the rental property. We highly recommend viewing properties in person before signing a lease agreement and if possible, take a friend or family member with you. You can also check the legitimacy of a rental listing by searching the address on maps, doing internet research to ensure no duplicate listings, and through reverse image searches to ensure property photos are legitimate and haven't been taken from elsewhere.
- The seller publishes a price that is too good to be true. Many scammers deliberately list rental prices well below market value to lure vulnerable victims. Doing research on the average market price for the size and location of the rental property you're after is critical.
- The seller publishes a rental listing with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Also, keep an eye out for fake URLs, broken internet links or odd characters within a listing.
- The seller places an unnecessary sense of urgency or pressure for a user to move in or make payments immediately without a chance to visit the rental property.
- The seller requests payments before signing the rental lease agreement. Any pressure to hand over a large sum of money before a legal contract is agreed upon in writing should be seen as suspicious.
- The seller's listing includes unusual rental property locations and strange contact requests such as moving conversations to email, SMS, or WhatsApp.
- The seller does not complete a proper screening process. A legitimate landlord would likely ask for reference letters and have a formal application to select quality tenants for renting.
- The seller provides a vague or incomplete lease. Upon receiving a lease document, be sure to check for strange blank spaces, vague writing, or incomplete sentences, and be sure to seek independent legal advice if you have any concerns with the lease document. Also, keep an eye out for any agreements that suggest the availability of buyer protection or payment programs offered via or by Gumtree. Our platform doesn't offer this, so any mentions of this are likely a tell-tale sign of a scam. If you receive any emails promoting these types of services, please report it to us.
- The seller asks for a suspicious form of payment. Asstated above, always ensure you first view the rental property and have read and understood any lease documentation that the landlord has provided (and obtained independent legal advice where required), before making any payments. Always use secure and safe payment methods when transferring any money to landlords, and never agree to any unusual or suspicious methods of payment.
If you notice any suspicious behaviours or receive any strange messages on Gumtree, report it.