Man allegedly scammed renters out of more than $60,000 in bonds for properties in Bondi and western Sydney
An advocate has called for a register of homes to protect desperate renters after more than a dozen prospective tenants were allegedly scammed out of more than $60,000.
The alleged fraud involved numerous properties across Sydney advertised on social media platforms since February 2022.
Prospective renters were enticed into paying bonds for the properties in Bondi, Parramatta, Liverpool, Wentworthville and Auburn only for contact to later cease.
Police this week pounced on the alleged fraudulent landlord, arresting the suit-wearing 35-year-old outside a Merrylands chemist.
He spent Thursday night in custody ahead of a court appearance on Friday on 34 charges including 21 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.
Rents, particularly in the largest capital cities, have risen sharply in the past 18 months while vacancy rates have dipped to record lows.
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Jordan van den Berg, whose purplepingers channel exposes poor-quality rentals, said the housing crisis had left many people taking advantage of renters in need.
“Renters are looking anywhere they can for a home and even real estate agents are starting to move to unregulated platforms like Facebook Marketplace in order to avoid paying a listing fee on (property sites),” he said.
“Rental bond scams are not new, however as renters become more desperate, the job of fraudsters becomes easier.
“This is a symptom of decades of successive government failure.”
While scams are on the rise, the Tenants’ Union of NSW is unaware of any other prosecution over a rental bond scam.
The union’s chief executive, Leo Patterson Ross, said it was important those doing the wrong thing were held accountable.
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“Renters are desperate and frankly may not be in a position to say ‘no’ to a property that comes up,” he said.
When possible, renters should be cautious about dealing with online ads that cannot be checked offline or if attempts to inspect a property are knocked back, he said.
But he called on the NSW government to seriously consider a register of rental properties.
“(Then), no matter what platform the advertisement is through, you can check if the person you are dealing with has the authority to offer you that home,” he said.
“We have registration in short-stay accommodation and in many industries in part to help prevent people, both renters and the actual owners, getting ripped off.”
A government-led review of rental laws is under way with the aim of rebalancing the market to better empower tenants.
No-grounds evictions, more pets in rentals, a portable bond scheme, a public database of rent increases and a requirement to provide a fee-free online payment method are among the policies on the table.