The festive season is upon us but for some who rented accommodation online, it’s been a bitter start. They’ve arrived at their holiday rentals only to find that they have been scammed. Here's how to avoid your holiday becoming a disaster.
It seems that there are an awful lot of con artists who have cottoned on to the fact that people are willing to part with large sums of money when booking for their breaks. They know that money will come flooding in simply by posting the odd picture and a description of a property that they don’t own and don’t have permission to rent out.
A conman operating in Plettenberg Bay has been in the news this week, after he conned youngsters attending Plett Rage out of thousands of rand in a rental scam. The scam, which has been around for a number of years, appears to be growing at a phenomenal rate and has spread to all parts of the country.
Dina Porteous, principal of Leisure Letting in Margate, says that her office was inundated with people looking for alternate accommodation in previous years, who after booking and paying online arrived to find that either the property didn’t exist at all, or it was owned by another party who had no idea that someone else had fraudulently rented it out.
It’s obviously too late for those who have already fallen victim to this type of scam. However those who are considering booking future holidays should be very aware that this type of fraud has increased dramatically, and should take every precaution to ensure that the person who is advertising a property either owns the property or has employed a qualified agent to do the job for them.
Dina recommends that anyone planning to rent out holiday accommodation should do the following if an advert is placed by a property owner:
Determine the name of the owner in whose name the property is registered.
Correspond this with the name of the banking details that are provided by the owner.
Contact the local tourism office to establish if the person is registered with EDTE (Economic Development: Tourism and Environmental Affairs). This is a legal requirement for any person who lets a property for tourism purposes.
Booking through an agent
If the person is holding himself out as an “agent” this, in terms of the definition of an agent in the Estate Agency Affairs Act, is any person who lets a property on behalf of a third party for gain.
Ensure that the person/establishment holds a valid Fidelity Fund certificate with the Estate Agency Affairs Board. This can be verified on the EAAB website.
Contact the local tourism office to establish if the agent is registered with EDTEA (Economic Development: Tourism and Environmental Affairs). This is a legal requirement for any person who runs a holiday letting establishment.
All monies paid to such person/establishment must be through a trust account registered with the EAAB and in terms of Section 32 of the Estate Agency Affairs Act. (This can be confirmed before making any payment with the bank.)
Remember that con artists are notoriously smooth and are experts at plying their illegal trade. Check the facts before falling for a couple of great-looking photographs and a few well-written words. Keep your wits about you and if you do discover that someone is attempting to commit fraud by renting out holiday accommodation that either doesn’t exist or that they have no right to rent out, report it to the publication involved as soon as possible.