I read the article slightly amused at how people will pay for something that they have not seen. I had been house-hunting recently, and I know that there’s no way I am going to pay deposit for some place that I have not seen. There’s too much risk involved – like whether there’s going to be da er long banging on my door (look out for traces or drops of red paint, or if the place has been newly painted), or whether there’s going to be leaky pipes (look out for fresh paint too), or if it’s going to be noisy (go there a few times at different times of the day). Of course, that’s a little exaggerated, but hey, I’m going to be staying here for quite a while, won’t I?

In short, don’t go for rushed deals, no matter how genuine (or how pissed) the person looks. Looks can be deceiving at many times and you may end up losing more than you gain. I should know it better now. Anyway, here’s something that you should look out for, courtesy of Mr Eric Cheng, Executive Director of HSR Property Group:

THINKING of renting a flat? To avoid falling prey to a rental scam, Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of HSR property group, suggests that tenants:

  • View the flat first to ensure it is in good condition.
  • Check that the landlord is the rightful owner by asking to see the conservancy charges bill.
  • Pay the deposit with a cheque and only after collecting the key personally. It will be easier to prove that payment was made.
  • Move in as soon as possible.
  • Engage a housing agent. Most established agencies refund deposits if anything goes wrong.
  • Of course, it’s entirely up to you if you’d like to hire a housing agent – since it usually entails a commission. However, do weigh the pros and cons and determine which is better for you. Oh, bring a friend along so that you can get a second opinion – and perhaps work on a back-out plan if the landlord or agent gets too pushy. =)

    WITHOUT viewing the flat to be rented, 11 people handed over hundreds of dollars each in cash deposits to the owner of a Commonwealth Drive HDB flat, in exchange for a set of keys.

    But when they turned up at the three-room flat, they found it locked. None of the keys worked and the landlord could no longer be contacted.

    The 11 victims, six of whom are foreigners, lost $8,250 in total.

    On Tuesday evening, police arrested a 46-year-old unemployed man. If found guilty of cheating, he could be jailed up to seven years and fined.

    Police believe the first tenant was cheated in March, and that there are more victims who have not come forward.

    Housing agents and prospective tenants would respond to newspaper advertisements offering the suspect’s flat for rent.

     He would meet the potential tenant, usually at a shopping centre, and hand over photocopies of documents including his identification card, as well as a set of two keys.

    Making an excuse that he was in a rush, he would suggest that the tenant view the unit himself. Just before leaving, he would ask for a cash deposit ranging from $150 to $3,000.

    Interior designer Rainer Lew, 36, was one of the 11 who handed over his money. He had met the man on Monday, a day before the suspect was nabbed.

    ‘I gave him $300 as a deposit. He didn’t strike me as suspicious. He even showed me his identity card which had an address that matched the unit he was renting out,’ said Mr Lew.

    But when he visited the flat later, the gate was chained and padlocked. The door, which was unlocked, opened to show an unfurnished flat.

    Police believe the man had an accomplice as he would sometimes meet his victims accompanied by another man whom he referred to as his brother.

    They said they are closing in on this second man, and urged prospective tenants to be careful before putting down a deposit.

    Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 12th June 2008

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