Letting agents are being urged to be vigilant and use only bonafide reference companies as new data reveals fake or fraudulent rental applications have risen by 117% in the past 12 months.
According to research commissioned by London letting agency Benham and Reeves using data from referencing firm LetRef, the number of fraudulent applications, using either fake bank statements and fake or cloned employers, has increased to an average of 13 cases per month in 2019, up from six a month in 2018.
The number of fake passports has also increased significantly, according to Beham and Reeves. The agency said they had dealt with 11 cases of fake passports in 2019, already more than double the five cases they came up against in 2018.
Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves, said the findings showed it was vital that letting agents used only reputable referencing firms. He said it was the “professional duty of all agents” to properly validate the tenants, and that failing to do so “with the utmost vigour” wasn’t “acceptable.”
“This surge in fake applications demonstrates the importance of using a bonafide referencing company, where staff have been given specialist training from the National Crime Agency on recognising fraudulent documents,” says von Grundherr said.
“Unfortunately, the majority of referencing companies do not even collect ID and proof of address and conduct referencing as a side-line, in order to up-sell other services and earn commission.”
“Letting agents using one of these companies or making checks themselves are highly likely to end up with these fraudulent chancers flying in under the radar and into a rental property,” he said.