Landlord Identity Theft Increasing

Thursday, February 6, 2014
Identity Theft Is An Increasing Problem For UK Landlords

Identity Theft Is An Increasing Problem For UK Landlords

Identity Theft Is An Increasing Problem For UK Landlords

Landlords in the UK’s private rented sector are being urged to take more action to protect themselves from becoming victims of identity theft, which is on the increase, with an estimated 4 Million victims a year.

Private rental sector (PRS) landlords who choose to move out of their former main residence and proceed to rent the property out have been identified as the most at risk of identity theft because of the delay in updating records with numerous agencies, including banks, energy suppliers and service providers.

The rise in identity theft highlights the need for proper tenant referencing procedures to be carried out on all potential tenant applicants, not only to verify the applicants true identity but also to check on their past and current financial and employment status and renting history.

According to recent data, the UK’s No.1 hot spot for identity fraud is East Ham in London, with over seven times more fraudulent attempts than the national average.

Identity fraud was also highly prevalent in:

  • Romford
  • Bexleyheath
  • Woolwich
  • Cheapside
  • Stratford
  • Ilford
  • Walthamstow
  • Lewisham
  • Enfield

Outside of the nation’s capital, Altrincham in Cheshire is the UK’s worst location for identity fraud, with 13 fraud attempts for every 10,000 adults, over three times the national average.

Identity fraud can result in landlords being swindled out of rental income and can even result in landlords losing the rights to the property itself. 

In one case a tenant was jailed for selling his landlord’s house and pocketing £90,000 (GBP).

Tenant Brian Kiddell was caught committing identity fraud after his landlord spotted a For Sale sign outside his rental property by chance when driving past. The tenant had sold the property on the internet, although he was only the tenant and made off with over £90,000 (GBP). The scam had originally begun when Kiddell first rented the property in Newton Abbot, Devon, using the name Paul Stevenson, taken from a man who died in 2004. Kiddell then put the rental property up for sale under the name David Ayton.

Kiddell was eventually jailed for six years after admitting nine offences of fraud, theft and the dishonest use of a dead man’s passport. The court heard Kiddell had been jailed twice before and was involved in six sophisticated fraud cases.

This may appear to be an extreme and rare case, but there are a lot of professional fraudsters out there that want to rent a property purely to secure an address from which they can carry out sophisticated finance fraud. 

The bogus tenant may pay a few months’ rent in advance, with no intention of paying all the rent due during the course of the tenancy and use the property as a delivery point for the goods they have bought on stolen credit cards.

Landlords who rent out former main residences are at a much higher risk of having their identities stolen as mail that has not been redirected will continue to be delivered to the property, often containing sensitive material such as bank details or mortgage statements, credit card applications and so on.

Landlords need to redirect all mail to their new address and take extra care to inform all relevant agencies of their change of address, in order to minimise risks.

Identity fraudsters are smart and know they can live in a rental property for up to six months before a landlord possession order is enforced. In that time, they can run up thousands of pounds in credit card debt, rent arrears and far worse.

Professional fraudulent tenants often provide authentic looking passports and false utility bills that many landlords readily accept as being the genuine articles, however comprehensive Tenant Referencing procedures will soon identify any discrepancy in the paperwork supplied by the tenant and alert the landlord that the applicant has not been entirely honest, at which point the landlord should refuse to grant the tenancy.

Professional fraudsters can be very difficult to evict, as they appear to understand the UK legal system and will exploit any means to obstruct the landlord from reclaiming the rental property. The only way landlords can protect themselves is by carrying out comprehensive tenant referencing including ID validation checks and taking out rent guarantee insurance, which will ensure that the rent is paid should the tenant defaults on rental payments.

This was written by Mike Clarke. Posted on at 11:45 am. Filed under Referencing. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.