London Holiday Rental Flats, & Serviced Apartments – Spot the Scam

The Citizens Advice Bureau Logo.

Image via Wikipedia

When you are renting for a short visit you are most likely going to be renting blind, going off an internet description. Scammers take advantage of this and sadly every week a new visitor to London turns up to find that the property that they have paid for doesn’t exist.

Only the other week I received this question:

I am looking to book a holiday apartment for 9 days during August
I have found a selection of lovely apartments within our budget and just wanted some feedback seeing as the landlord/agent who we are dealing with has stated no viewings are available and they ask for 75% of total rent/deposit to be paid up front.
Here is the website

They advertise most of them on Gumtree also but this is the place to handle the booking.

My answer was as follows:

Scam Property is always a steal of a bargain, genuine property just cannot compete on price. This Studio is an absolute bargain. To give you an indication the market leader for serviced Studios in Central London is Dolphin Square who charge £185/night. We compete with them by offering a similar product at half the price – which is in itself an absolute bargain. This studio is in one of the most exclusive addresses there is and is offered at 1/3rd of our price, or 1/6th of the going rate. That screams scam, before you even look hard.

The website looks very genuine, & most impressive. However the phone number is not a landline number but an 070 number forwarding service, and the website domain was registered less than a month ago (5th July).

Personally my interest would end at this point. But you might like to dig further, especially if they are prepared to take payment by some protected service such as Credit Card.

The website was registered by:

Abraham Isaac
31 Queen Anne Street Marylebone
London, London W1G 9DL

There is actually a Doctor’s surgery at that address:

Leonard M Selby
31 Queen Anne Street

Tel: 020-7636-5250
Business Type: Doctors (General Practitioners)

Sorry to spoil your holiday.

Sadly the message was followed soon after by another reply as follows:

Sorry I have to say that this “unitrusthomeservices” has tricked us.

The past Tuesday we arrived london from Madrid (Spain). We had seen this fantastic flat on Gumtree and it liked us. We booked it for three weeks and they asked us to make the reservation with a money transfer to an account from Halifax, it was 560 pounds. Well, we arrived london and tried to contact the person that e-mail us from unitrust. No answer. We tried with the number in the website and nothing. We have gone to the police station for two days and they have said we should go to the Citizens Advice Bureau, anyway they have taken the address and the name of the person from unitrusthomeservices.
After three days walking about Police Station, hotels and agencies of lettings we have actually rent a room on a shared flat and can be relaxed.

So if you are thinking of renting a London Flat from abroad bear in mind the following points:

  • Scam Properties are a Bargain. If it seems too good to be true – it is.
  • Only deal with established businesses. Check out the address. Only deal with a working Landline Number, if there is only a mobile or number forwarding phone number move on.
  • If it’s a business it won’t be advertising using free ads on Gumtree, Craigslist, et al
  • Only pay by a reversible method (Credit Card, Paypal).
  • Enhanced by Zemanta

    If you want to Rent a Flat in London – what does BTL stand for?

    If you want to Rent a Flat in London once BTL stood for Bacon Tomato and Lettuce, but in the 90s it became Buy to Let. The concept that providing homes could be a financial investment actually saved the rental market from extinction because in 5 decades homes available to let had fallen from 90% of homes to 7%. The issue of the Nineties & Naughties was that providing homes became a financial transaction in the same mould as buying and selling Wheat, Gold, and Pigs.

    In 2004, economist Kate Barker, on behalf of the Government’s grand housing plans, called for three million new homes to be built by 2020 – about 200,000 a year. Even then housebuilders were failing to hit that target. The next financial year, though, will see the number of homes built halve from 142,000 to about 70,000, according to a forecast by the National Housing Federation last week. Excluding the Second World War, the UK will build fewer homes than at any time since 1921.

    This slump is driven by a reversion of house prices to their historical mean. In truth there is much further to go as Mortgage Loans revert to the historical Loan to Income of 2.5 which would lead to prices falling into line with the widely leaked report from financial analysts Numis Securities which says that the collapse in house prices is not ‘anywhere near over’, having fallen 21 per cent from their peak, they will slump further by up to 55 per cent if the correction in prices is as bad as in the early 1990s.

    The response of the Economy & Building Industry hardly needs highlighting. Bovis Homes, for example, had the capacity to start construction of 3,406 houses in 2007, but remodelled its business for only 1,179 the following year. The Government’s three million new homes target by 2020 is not achievable now, it’s not even dreamable, it will have a shortfall of one million homes by the end of 2010 and the UK is heading for a real housing crisis.

    Is there a solution in the form of the Continental business model of Build-To-Let? We at Pimlico Flats are trying to do that, but there are barriers in every level of society, from government legislation, through local authority planners, down to the neighbours. It simply isn’t the British way of doing things.

    So Britain sticks with the idea that our biggest financial investment is our home! If our homes are just another investment then we must accept that there are occasionally business failures. We are seeing our homes go bust, but it will be a temporary phenomenon. As outlined above, business investments are self correcting by supply and demand. There will be a shortage of housing until the shortage drives prices up to the economic level that will stimulate supply.

    Put simply – a lot of people aren’t going to be able to afford a home. Is that really what we want from our society?

    So what do YOU want BTL to stand for? We want it to stand for Build to Let. Can we be forgiven for saying that it seems that the decision makers in British Society seem to want it to stand for Bacon Tomato and Lettuce?

    Pimlico Flats want to Build and Rent Flats in London

    House & Flat Prices 2009 & Beyond

    Maybe the dinner tables of the middle-classes have been quieter during the last 6 months as house prices plummeted through the floor. I’ve shown the drama by plotting house prices for the last 57 years (click the charts to see them at full size) ………



    Flat House Prices



    But actually it’s all about how you look at things, & in particular just plotting prices isn’t the way to look at things, because a £1000 drop in price now isn’t as important as it was back in 1952.  This can work for you if you are an investor (it’s called the power of compounding), so when I read  The Money Gym I decided to do a picture to illustrate why there is no great event happening to the housing market really. To compensate for the point about the value of £1000 being less after time, one plots prices as a log thus ………


    Flat House Prices

    Thus we can see the consistency of the trend without any distortion. This gives the good news that the present price decline for flats & houses is nothing special, but also the bad news that it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see the decline continue as far again.


    It all depends upon how you look at things!

    Rental Market in Pimlico

    The Pimlico Rentals Market appears to be booming, contrary to lettings agents reports . At Pimlico Flats we have had all our vacancies snapped up before we could advertise them, & we are fully occupied for the foreseeable future. It may be that we will have vacancies in March, or more likely April.

    One Bedroom Groundfloor Flat

    This is described on our website Flats to rent in London – the photos are 3 years old, & I haven’t sorted a plan out for it yet. It’s a great flat for a professional couple, convenient groundfloor access, quite a bit of storage over the lobby & under the stairs. It’s one of our older refurbishments (the kitchen is 1996, the wooden floor 2005) but is in good condition & has just (as in last week) had an overhaul & been repainted.

    Update: This Flat is Let. We have a similar studio flat available from 16th December and 2 Flats available for short term let over Christmas & New Year.

    Blog Widget by LinkWithin

    Join The Guild of Landlords

    Guild Square Logo


    To View please phone Phil on 07788 370528

    July 2015


    1 Bed Studio Flat £1000 pcm

    2 Bed Flat £1800 pcm

    Short stays £150/Night
    The Landlords own
    1 Bed (Double) Flat


    More details of our vacancies

    Pick a Topic