29

4 others and myself are going through the motions of renting a student accomodation in the UK.

So far we have had to pay a holding fee to secure the flat. To do this we were given an account number and sort code to pay for this. We performed the transaction through bank transfers to the given numbers. I later rang their office to assure the payments had gone through okay and they had gone through fine and all 5 were taken. (5 renters)

We now are moving onto pay the first months rent as we have agreed but they have given us a different account number. (same sort-code)

When we asked about this they told us:

Please use the account number that is in the email from now on.

We change it every so often to reduce fraud.

Is this reasonable or a red flag?

Google search seemed to be obsured by fraud from a 3rd person party effectively tricking money into their account. However, I am confident that this represents a request from the estate agent and is not a fraudulent middle man.

It is not a practice I have heard of before and has given me cause for concern enough to ask here.

  • 8
    Why are you confident that this is really from the estate agent? Have you contacted them by some independent method, such as by phone? There have been cases of fraud, where the fraudster has gained access to a company's email account, then used it to sent out emails asking customers to change their payments to a different account. – Simon B Jul 24 '17 at 21:00
  • 1
    @SimonB It's easy to spoof the From field of e-mail even without "gaining access". – chrylis Jul 24 '17 at 23:19
  • @chrylis: Sure, but spoofing won't send the email to the right place (actual residents of the apartment complex in question), or allow receiving the responses. So some level of access would have been needed. – Ben Voigt Jul 25 '17 at 2:05
  • 13
    It's perfectly reasonable to take your deposit to one account and your rent payment to another. The rent payment is the working capital of the landlord business. The deposit is your money and must be held in trust. For instance if your landlord gets garnished by creditors, they can't touch your deposit. To simplify the accounting, especially in that case, it is very correct to keep deposits in a separate account. – Harper Jul 25 '17 at 2:52
  • 1
    I'm confident this is the estate agent, I eventually rang and confirmed it with the manager. This is not a deposit nor was the original payment. – Lawrence Coles Jul 25 '17 at 7:49
22

Couple of my friends went through a fraud agent who ran off with their money and the landlords were none the wiser. So it always pays to be a bit diligent.

Are they a well known letting agents nationally ?

Many agents do have different accounts to manage their properties. Yours seems a case as such probably i.e. they manage the property on behalf of the landlord so keeping their monies differentiated.

Did you sign an agreement ? If yes go through what is written in the agreement, most of it is same in all agreements but have a look anyway. Check if there is mention of deposit protection scheme.

One thing you could do is go to a bank to do the transfer, the same bank where the letting agent holds their account and confirm from them if it is really a personal account or a business account. I am not sure how possible it is, but doesn't hurt to ask. If it is a personal account, then fraud is the most possible cause. The sort code should tell you which branch and which bank.

Or the best option is to ask the estate agents to show a recent statement of the bank account, where the money is to be deposited into.

Some tips

  • 1
    Accepting your answer as the linked tips proved useful and in identifing the proffessional body these were linked to reassuring me somewhat. I eventually rang and triple checked the details. Side note: I'm aware of the DPS and this wasn't any deposit related activity. – Lawrence Coles Jul 24 '17 at 13:20
17

We change it every so often to reduce fraud.

This is idiocy. They receive regular payments. They are asking the people who pay them to regularly change where their money is being sent. This increases their exposure to fraud dramatically as each time the account is changed, there is a risk it will be changed to an account they do not control.

This is a huge red flag. Confirm that this is authentic and, if so, insist that they sign an agreement accepting all liability for the risks this crazy policy causes, otherwise, you should refuse to go through the effort of confirming new accounts and risking typing or communication errors on a regular basis.

This is definitely a "what were they thinking?!" kind of thing. If it's not fake entirely.

(This answer assumes that you were given a correct explanation, that they change it regularly believing that will reduce fraud.)

  • 1
    "...and risking typing or communication errors" - absolutely. Apart from the additional administration overhead, the chances of money being paid into the wrong account are increased dramatically. – MrWhite Jul 25 '17 at 12:56
9

To be absolutely sure you should call the agent and check

That said I have been renting accommodation through both agencies and directly through landlords for seven years (I live in London) and this is quite a common situation. It normally means that the deposit is being securely held by a third party so that it cannot be taken or depleted without the agreement of both parties. The deposit protection scheme ( https://www.depositprotection.com/ ) is one way that deposits are securely held in this manner. As a third party they will have different account details. It may be the case that the agency is protecting the deposit and you are paying rent to the landlord directly. This means that your deposit goes to the agency's account and the rent goes to the landlord's account. Obviously your landlord and agency have different accounts.

A little colour to brighten your day: I am currently paying my rent to the agency who also took the deposit but, because of the way they handle deposits versus rent, the deposit was sent to a different account held by the same agent. In my previous flat I paid the deposit to an agency and the rent directly to the landlord. This resulted in an issue one time where I got the two accounts confused and paid rent to the agency who, after giving me a small slap on the wrist, transferred it to my landlord. In the flat before that I paid rent and the deposit to my landlords' holding company. That is one of the few times that I paid rent and the deposit into the same account.

Again check with the agent that one of these situations is the case but this is absolutely normal when renting through an agency.

  • This answer makes sense, but is inconsistent with the given explanation, "We change it every so often to reduce fraud". – David Schwartz Jul 24 '17 at 17:25
  • 1
    @DavidSchwartz I realised slightly too late that I didn't actually answer the question at all but it looks like my information was useful to people so I'm not deleting it now. – MD-Tech Jul 25 '17 at 14:52
  • There's a good chance that your answer is the right one and the explanation he got was just mangled or confused. – David Schwartz Jul 25 '17 at 17:23
0

We change it every so often to reduce fraud.

If you're absolutely sure you didn't just send money to a scammer impersonating a landlord, this has nothing to do with fraud-- they're playing a game with you.

By changing the account number frequently, it makes it more likely you make a mistake in entering the payment account. When they come back to you a few days past due saying "we never received your rent," you'll eventually realize it got sent to the wrong account.

Now you owe them late fees, and there's really nothing you can do about it-- you did not in fact pay them on time; you sent it to the wrong account!

It's an easy way for them to collect an additional few thousand dollars a year.

Anytime a small business or landlord says they have to do something "weird" to reduce fraud, chances are it's a pretense to you getting hosed in some way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.