’Letting agent’ scams would-be tenants

2016-10-13 06:00

IMAGINE arriving at the home you will be renting for the holiday, your swimsuit and holiday apparel packed, only to discover that someone else had already booked the same property some months ago.

You soon realise that the person to whom you paid the deposit is not a renting agent, but a crook.

This almost happened to a Gauteng-family who lost over R5 000 when they realised the holiday home they ‘booked’ at Diaz Road in Jeffreys Bay was already fully booked for the December holiday season. The rightful owner had never heard of them before.

Philippa Harvey Luis, the distraught holiday-maker, says she posted on Facebook that she was looking for a holiday home to rent over December.

Soon after, she was contacted by a well-known Jeffreys Bay resident, who is currently out on parole, claiming to be a part time estate agent.

“On July 23 she contacted me with the perfect holiday home lined-up for us. We had to pay a deposit as soon as possible to secure the property, as other people were also interested in renting it,” says Luis.

“She sent us the address and photos of the property. We loved the look and location of the place and paid the deposit of R5 366.”

Three days later she received a very strange Whatsapp and Facebook message from the “estate agent”, asking her for more money to cover some personal expenses.

The message read: “I am sorry to bother, and I probably sound a bit unpro, but I wanted to ask a favour. I didn’t charge you guys a finders/admin fee of any sort, and now I seem to be running way short on everything . . . So I thought I could just ask you, I am sure you will understand where I am coming from, if it would be possible, and if you would be happy with paying a type of commission/ contract fee . . . I usually add a standard 10% . . . But because I sort of stripped my nut at the lady for forgetting/ ignoring you like she did, after I referred you, I just did it to keep the booking swift and uncomplicated. I don’t expect a full commission, just some revenue to cover expenses, internet data, airtime, some fuel, travel, printing, stationery or so. I will do an invoice for you of course . . .”

According to Luis, she told her that she could not give her more money. “It was then that I became very suspicious of her,” she says.

“We had a friend that was going to Port Elizabeth in August and we asked him to go past the house we supposedly booked. He went there only to find out that the owner knew nothing about our booking. In fact, he is already fully-booked and does not have any record of me or my husband.”

Luis says she confronted the woman, who vehemently denied that it was all a scam.

“She started crying and giving me all sort of excuses, including her children being sick or having been in a car accident.”

A charge was laid against the woman at the police station in Pretoria.

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