The cost of renting in Mandurah is increasing, but what does this mean for those unable to secure properties?
Many felt compelled to use alternative methods of finding rentals, such as searching on websites like Gumtree or eBay, or in local Facebook groups.
Tannika Davies and her partner, both Mandurah locals and with a newborn on the way, learnt the hard way that the internet is rife with scammers attempting to profit off others' desperation.
When the couple weren't able to renew their lease due to price increases in the local property market, they were at a loss as to what to do next.
"I've been living with my sister for about nine months. It was only supposed to be a short-lived thing until we found a place, but unfortunately the rental market is just awful at the moment," Ms Davies said.
A property advertised on a local Facebook group at $350 per week seemed like the perfect home for Ms Davies' growing family.
"This lady private messaged with photos of the house, saying she had to leave the property and is now in Auckland. So, we couldn't view the house with her. She told us to go and look at it from the outside. It looked completely empty," Ms Davies said.
Asking $1,400 in bond and with little options left, Ms Davies decided to trust this Facebook stranger.
"Unfortunately I didn't realise or get any red flags until after I paid them. She seemed like a lovely person and she seemed to care for me but obviously that's not the case. That was pretty much all the money my partner and I had to put towards a bond, and now it's just gone.
"I only spoke to them over Facebook messenger. I tried my hardest to call them, but she just kept saying she was busy every time. She said, 'I'm busy working as a doctor, I can't be on my phone much'," Ms Davies said.
She said the woman's claim to be a doctor made her seem more trustworthy.
"I'm just so desperate to get my own house for my family. I want to set up a nursery, be independent, and have somewhere nice for my partner to come home to after work," Ms Davies said.
"I'm just so desperate to get my own house for my family. I want to set up a nursery, be independent, and have somewhere nice for my partner to come home to after work."
Unfortunately, this type of online rental scam is becoming more common.
In 2021, WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection received 48 reports of rental scams with 18 people reporting total losses of $32,320, the single biggest loss being $3,600.
The Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe, provided comments to the Mail on how these online scammers often work.
"The scammers will say that they are overseas or interstate so they can't physically meet or show them the property, but will leave the keys hidden outside for them to gain access after a bond and rent in advance are paid.
"These heartless scammers are exploiting the desperation of tenants who may face being homeless unless they can secure a rental and the victims can least afford to lose money to fraudsters," Mr Newcombe said.
Ms Davies now faces the tough road to reclaiming her lost bond, and continuing to look for a home in an inflated property market.
"I have been in contact with the bank so I'm praying I do get the money back. I also reported them to Facebook and the police. The police said they would do their best, but unfortunately they think that her identity has been stolen by someone else.
"Something needs to be done, I'm not okay with what's happened to me, I had a few ladies reach out to me who had the same lady message them and try to offer the same house. It's just not right," Ms Davies said.
Ms Davies' story reveals the heartbreaking reality of Mandurah's increasingly expensive rental market, with high demand yet little supply leaving locals forced to try their luck with suspicious landlords online.
WA ScamNet has provided the Mail with advice on what to look out for when searching for rentals online.
TIPS TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED:
- Be suspicious of properties being rented for well below the current rental value.
- Never solely rely on photos provided to you. Do a reverse image search.
- Search the address online to see if the property exists or if it is listed by a different agency.
- Only deal with landlords you can meet face-to-face, or go through a licensed real estate agent.
- Always inspect the property inside and out prior to signing a lease agreement or paying money.
- Ensure you receive the keys and a copy of the signed lease agreement in exchange for any funds you have agreed to pay.
- Be careful if asked to pay funds via direct bank transfer unless you are sure the payment is to a licensed real estate agent.
- If in doubt - contact WA ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54.