English translation of: https://www.gelderlander.nl/wonen/oplichters-verhuren-nepwoningen-een-gezin-nam-zelfs-al-intrek-omdat-crimineel-sleutel-wist-te-stelen~afa55e40/ with some notes of the editor (RentReturn)
“CAUTION Criminals are sophisticated in responding to the ‘craziness’ in the current housing market. In Dordrecht, scammers have already rented out six vacant homes belonging to housing associations for thousands of euros.
Five of the six rental attempts between June 4 and July 8 were successful. In one case, the overjoyed tenants had even lived in the property for several days when they found out it was illegal to do so because the ‘landlord’ had stolen the key from the key box at the entrance. They had not only transferred deposits for hundreds of euros to criminals but also imagined themselves the proud new residents of the rental property in Dordrecht.
It is precisely this emotional damage that makes the latest way of fraud on the housing market so wry, says police officer Dirk Lakerveld of the Dordrecht police. “Scammers are taking advantage of the pressure on the housing market. They offer the houses just below the price, and the property is available quickly; many people like that. But it’s often too good to be true.”
Housing association Trivire, the largest in the Dordrecht region, is also concerned about the rogue landlords. “People are willing to pay bizarre amounts just to get a home,” said spokeswoman Daphne de Borst.
We want to prevent this problem from growing to a size where we need an entire national investigation team– Dirk Lakerveld, Police
With the arrest of three men (17, 21 and 24 years old) from Dordrecht and a 31-year-old woman from Rotterdam, the police think they have eradicated the new phenomenon. Still, Lakerveld wants to warn against misleading advertisements on Facebook, among others. “Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often, but we want to prevent this problem at all costs from growing to a size where we need an entire national investigation team. That’s what happened with WhatsApp scams; Hundreds of thousands of euros are thus stolen.”
Housing associations also have a new problem thanks to the scammers. Namely: housing the gullible tenants who have been scammed. “We can’t just put those people on the street,” says De Borst. They try to offer them shelter via agencies such as Villex and Ad Hoc, which temporarily rent out squats, among other things. “We wish these people all the best, but they are often not on the waiting list for a rental home. Giving them priority over the people who do insist on it is not fair.”
When looking for a rental property, limit yourself to the well-known websites– Daphne de Borst, Spokeswoman for housing association Trivire
Trivire wants to arm itself against this new form of fraud by providing employees with additional training. Contractors who work for the corporation, among others, should pay more attention to any shady matters. At Trivire already one employee works as an expert in this field.
The Trivire spokeswoman states that all housing associations – since the six incidents have taken place – do indeed check the lockers in which the keys are kept more often. “Unfortunately, something like this can happen anywhere especially because the scammers who do this are becoming more and more inventive. We try to detect all of this as quickly and effectively as possible but ask potential tenants to be alert. Do you see an ad for a property on Facebook? Then pay attention. And even better: when looking for a rental home, limit yourself to the well-known websites for the housing distribution system, in our case Woonkous.
When the landlord asked the couple to pay a small 1000 euros deposit, no alarm bells went off. They were so happy
A young couple from the city could have prevented a lot of misery that way. After a handful of rejections and failed attempts to move into a rental house in the city, the house seekers did not hesitate for a second when an apartment was offered for rent via Facebook for 800 euros per month. They quickly contacted the landlord. When he asked them to pay a small 1000 euros in deposit, no alarm bells went off. The residents of Dordrecht were so happy that they had managed to get their own place in the overcrowded housing market.
Dreamhouse becomes a nightmare.
However, a few days later, they fell like a comet from the sky and were soberer than ever with both feet on the ground. The apartment they so desperately wanted to make their own turned out not to be theirs at all. Their landlord was a criminal who himself was not even in possession of the property. This was in the name of housing association Trivire, which, after a short inspection and possible renovation, wanted to quickly award the vacant property to the next candidate on the bulging list of waiting tenants.
Agent Lakerveld also sees that the criminals’ working method entails a lot of misery. “They are taking advantage of the pressure on the housing market. Their target group is huge because everyone wants a home and is willing to pay for it. Some people are even willing to get in the car with their future landlord – in this case, the criminal – to withdraw money for him. Home seekers are easier to scam than ten years ago when the market was not so overloaded.”
The police hope that this form of crime has been nipped in the bud after the arrest of the four main suspects. “Our goal now is to warn about this so that it becomes less interesting for scammers to use this trick.”
Because payment is made with cash, you miss a concrete trail, something that digital payments do leave behind– Dirk Lakerveld, Police
DI’ll be caught on the street later. During that investigation, however, they were still able to strike a few times, the police admit. “The difficult thing with these types of investigations is that payment is made with cash. Then you miss a concrete trail, something that digital payments do leave behind”, says Lakerveld.
It presented the officers with a dilemma. ,,We already had these four in our sights, but also wanted to collect as much evidence as possible. They worked in varying compositions, so we couldn’t keep all four of them for all six facts. We had to figure that out completely. When we had enough evidence, we went to them.”
Illegal in the Netherlands
The police cannot say with certainty whether this has taken the sting out of the rogue rental practice. Perhaps more than six attempts were made by the foursome. “Of course there is also a target group that may be illegal in the Netherlands, because they do not (yet) have a residence status. Those people are also looking for shelter. They will not quickly report to the police if they have been defrauded,” said Lakerveld. “However, we believe that it will end there.”
Stay cautious, even if the offer seems legit. Be 100% sure before making any financial transfers, and avoid cash payments at all times. Consider a Housing Check and make sure to upload your signed contract to see if you are aware of your tenant rights.