Scam alert! Check your empty units, everyone

These days, things happen very fast. A rental advertisement can be posted in a few minutes, and a deposit for the unit collected within the next hour. This one easy scam which has been reported.

Here’s how it goes… Someone advertises a rental rate which is way below the market. Some people call the “owner” believing they are getting a great deal, quickly pay up, only to learn later that the “owner” was actually just someone who rented that unit via AirBnB for a few days…

This type of scam is mostly applicable to those with empty units.

Just be aware that these empty units may be rented out without our knowledge. The reason? Sometimes people fail to check on the empty units they own.

They may have felt that the rental is too low versus the mortgage and thus not worth renting it out. However, others may not share the same view.

Scammers have no mortgage to pay and whatever “rental” money they get will be clean profit.

One such case was highlighted in TheStar.com.my. A businessman’s shop apartment was rented out to 14 people without his knowledge. He had not checked on the empty unit for a few months.

He said, “The locks I used earlier were changed. There were 14 people, comprising 12 Bangladeshi men, a Malaysian man and an Indonesian woman living in my unit.”

He was giving his side of the story at a press conference organised by MCA Public Services and Comp­laints Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong.

In 2018, 18 such cases were reported to Chong’s office. He was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “There could be syndicates that look for unoccupied units. They will cut the locks and rent these units to foreign or illegal workers.”

In some countries, homes left empty are taxed. In Malaysia, there was a rumour that vacancy tax could be introduced. Let’s understand that no fire has ever started without smoke.

The vacancy tax has NOT been imposed on property owners yet, but that does not mean it won’t in the future.

The tax is good because sometimes too many wealthy individuals own too many units and leave it empty while waiting for prices to rise. This is not beneficial to those who really need a home.

Of course, the vacancy tax MUST be used to help these people own a home and not for any other purpose.

This article first appeared in kopiandproperty.com

Charles Tan blogs at property investment site kopiandproperty. He dislikes property speculators and disagrees that renting is better than buying. He thinks it’s either property or poverty. He is presently the CEO of an auction house auctioning assets beyond just properties.