UUֱ

Scammers target families looking for homes to rent

1894395892 (37117057)

“DESPERATE” Islanders whose search for a home has been made more difficult by UUֱ’s housing qualifications system are being preyed upon by scammers.

Financial investigator Faith Shalamon said that such scams, which often involved false advertisements for rental accommodation posted on social media, have had a “terrible impact” on some families looking for a place to live.

Some families have lost more than £1,000 after being tricked into parting with money to secure a viewing for a property that does not exist.

Speaking at a pop-up event about fraud and financial abuse, Ms Shalamon revealed that rental property scams had “really affected our community here in UUֱ”.

She explained: “It’s hitting the section of society where you have got young families, who possibly don’t have housing qualifications. They are struggling financially and are desperate for accommodation.”

The former head of social housing provider UUֱ Homes Trust, Michael Van Neste, last year levelled scathing criticism at the Island’s “discriminatory” housing qualifications system – through which statuses affecting Islanders’ access to property and employment are assigned.

He argued that those with the more restrictive “registered” status were limited to a dwindling pool of accommodation and were more at risk of being “ripped off”.

Reacting to Ms Shalamon’s comments, he said: “Wherever you have a lot of demand and desperation, people are more liable to being scammed.”

Ms Shalamon also said scammers were aware of the “premium” cost of local properties – something they could turn to their advantage.

She continued: “One property, if it’s a good price, you are going to get ten, 15, 20 people asking after it.

“So many people who are desperate will contact the fraudster to say they are interested in the property. The fraudster will come back almost immediately and say they have had about 20 people who are interested – and that if they [the victim] want it they will have to pay a month’s deposit.”

She revealed that she had dealt with 30 complaints relating to rental property scams across a 2½-year period.

“It’s had a terrible impact on some of these people, unfortunately.

“They might have lost £500, they might have lost £1,000 – to some people that’s not a lot of money, but to others that’s a week’s wages.”

Housing Minister David Warr said: “Clearly this is one of those things where, as a consumer, you need to be very careful – especially if you are being asked to pay upfront.”

Assistant Chief Minister Lucy Stephenson, who has political responsibility for the Control of Housing and Work Law, said earlier this year that the legislation would be reviewed to make sure it is “fit for purpose, effective and fair”.

FACT BOX

Housing qualifications

– Those who have lived in the Island for less than a decade – and who are not considered essential employees – are restricted to leasing “registered” accommodation, which primarily consists of units in guesthouses and lodging houses. However, if they have lived here for at least five consecutive years they can buy property jointly with an “entitled” or “licensed” spouse or civil partner.

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