SINGAPORE: A female employee of a grocery store reported that she and her friend paid nearly S$2000 as a deposit to rent a house.
However, they later discovered that the previous tenants had no intention of moving out, which led them to suspect that they had been deceived and scammed.
As a result, they decided to report the incident to the police.
The victim, Miss Cheng, aged 34 and working at the grocery store, shared her story with Singapore’s Chinese media outlet, Shin Ming Daily News.
The incident occurred at the end of June this year when a regular customer recommended his own house for rent.
Miss Cheng explained, “I asked the customer if he knew of any available rooms for rent, and he said he had a house for rent and asked if I was interested.”
“The room he offered was located at Block 243 Tampines Street 21, close to my workplace, and more convenient than my previous residence. It seemed like a good deal.”
Following that, Miss Cheng made an appointment with her friend to visit the house.
However, what puzzled Miss Cheng was that when they viewed the house, there were already two tenants inside.
“The landlord told us that the tenants would move out before our move-in date, which made us feel at ease.”
As the landlord had made the promise, they were satisfied and proceeded to negotiate with the landlord to reserve it for moving in on the 8th of this month.
Subsequently, Miss Cheng and her friend separately paid the landlord a deposit of S$800 and S$1050 to rent two rooms.
Previous tenants still reside there
On 8th July, when they arrived at the house, they were shocked to find the two previous tenants still there.
“The tenants informed us that they had only moved in two months ago and had no plans to leave, and that’s when we realized we had been deceived.”
Miss Cheng stated that they were unable to move in as planned, and when they contacted the landlord, they found out that he had no intention of refunding their money.
“We realized we were fooled by the landlord,” Cheng stated, expressing her disappointment, and decided to lodge a police report.
She explained that they had only received partial refunds of $400 and $800, respectively.
“He has not responded to our messages,” Cheng added, indicating the lack of communication from the landlord.
“We were really unlucky, but fortunately, another friend had vacant rooms in their house. So my friend and I went to stay there,” Cheng said.
The police confirmed that they have received the report when asked about the matter.
Home rental scams increased fivefold in 2022
In May of this year, Sun Xueling, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, confirmed a concerning rise in home rental scams through online platforms in Singapore.
The number of reported cases increased significantly to 979 cases in 2022, compared to 192 cases in the previous year, 2021.
To address this alarming trend, the police are actively working with online platforms to identify and remove suspicious accounts and ads that may be associated with rental scams.
Additionally, they are collaborating with the Council for Estate Agencies to issue rental scam advisories on social media platforms, aiming to raise awareness and caution among potential renters.
There was another rental scam case reported in May. In this instance, a landlord is alleged to have collected rent and deposits from over 30 different groups of people since 2019.
However, the landlord failed to fulfill their end of the agreement and provided various excuses to avoid renting out the property as promised.