London prime estate agency Benham & Reeves says fraudulent attempts to rent houses using fake documents are on the rise in the capital as criminals attempt to defraud Airbnb, run temporary brothels and set up drug distribution dens.
The trend has emerged from the company’s tenant referencing agency, LetRef, which has seen the number of tenancy applications using fake identity documents surge in recent months.
Benham & Reeves blames the rise in criminality on the tenant fees ban, which prevents letting agents from charging tenants for referencing, and says the problem is going to get worse.
The 16-branch London estate agency says criminals have been emboldened by the fees ban, which means they can submit multiple applications for different properties in the knowledge it won’t cost them a penny, and that the landlord will foot the bill for referencing.
The company says the fake documents it has been receiving include ‘extremely good’ bank statements as well as passports, and that fraudsters are becoming skilled in creating documentation that will pass AML checks.
“This surge in fake applications is a very worrying statistic for a rental market that is already straining under the current requirements of a ‘Generation Rent’ and this increase 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 Marc von Grundherr of Benham & Reeves.
“Unfortunately, the majority of referencing companies do not even collect ID and proof of address and conduct referencing as a sideline, in order to up-sell other services and earn commission.”