Property for Rent in Lagos - Tricks and Turns of Dubious Estate Agents
Property for rent in Lagos scams is common for this simple reason: demand for housing in Nigeria outstrips supply by the millions. The national housing deficit has been estimated at up to 17 million and it is believed to be growing at annual rate of 20 percent. Housing supply in the formal sector ranges from a modest estimate of 100,000 per year to an optimistic 200,000 per year. Housing demand vary by state with the situation in Lagos posing near extreme challenges to the over 20 million inhabitants. According to Lagos State Government there is a shortfall of 2.5 million houses in the state. This situation continues to create a mix of opportunistic “winners” and nearly helpless “losers”, making property for rent in Lagos scams a daily occurrence. The main players are the notoriously dubious estate agents in Lagos. To not discredit honest and ethical estate agents in Lagos who has built up their reputation in the real estate industry over the years, it is time to call out the bad ones by shining light on their fraudulent methods of operation. More so, many of the so called estate agents are not genuine members of this profession but are opportunistic players that are solely out to take advantage of helpless members of the public. Below are the tricks used by estate agents in Lagos to defraud prospective tenants.
Falsely Collecting Rent Charges on Behalf of Property Owner: this type of property for rent in Lagos scam occur when an estate agent collect rental charges from prospective tenants without the authority of the landlady or landlord, and as result absconds without remitting the funds to the property-owner. Victims of this type of fraud would discover they have been tricked out of their funds after moving their personal properties into the apartment but with owner ordering them out of the apartment because he or she has not received fund from the estate agent. In most instances this type of property fraud occurs in cases where an estate agent still has keys to an apartment he or she is no more responsible for.
One way to guard against this type of fraud is to request to meet with the property-owner at the same property aside from ensuring that a receipt of payment is issued to you at the point of payment.
Estate Agent Connive with a Fake Landlord or Landlady: this type of property for rent in Lagos scam is slightly more elaborate because it involves more than one principal player. In a version of this scheme the culprits places an advert in a public place with phone numbers for prospective tenants to call. The main player is either the fake estate agent or an individual that claim to be the landlord or landlady when you place a call to the phone number on the advert. Then, arrangements would be made for you to visit the property in company of the estate agent who ensures your access to the respective property with the aid of a dubious insider that has access to keys to gain entry into the property. The latter could be a security guard that is positioned by the genuine property owner who may not be aware of the fraudulent scheme. In order to gain your confidence, the estate agent may offer to assist you, during rental charges negotiation, to discuss with the landlord or landlady for downward review of rent. The alleged owner would even sound helpful by accepting a lower rent in order to ensure quick transfer of funds from you into their bank account. It’s typical for victims to found out they have been schemed of their fund when they go to the same property they had visited few times before, only to be stopped by a security guard or an individual at the gate.
A recent example of this scheme included a meeting between the victims and a fake elderly landlord whom the agent took the victim to meet at a Catholic church with the alleged landlord walking out of the church on their arrival, uttering “Are you the lucky tenant”? This shows that property for rent in Lagos fraudsters will go to any extent to gain your trust in order to make you part as quickly as possible with your rental funds.
The best way to avoid this type of property fraud is to ensure you are dealing with a genuine estate agent or landlord. You can’t trust apartment- or property-for-rent ads you see in public places, including those you see on banners that are placed along the streets or highways. A genuine agent would have completed several real estate transactions and one should be able to find their names or phone numbers in public listings. When an agent takes you to vacant or unoccupied properties, carefully look around to see if there is an apartment for rent notice placed on the property. You should observe if the agent simply walk with you into the property without using a key and if someone is expecting both of you at the gate. You should visit the property on your own to see what is different from your last visit. Look around for an ad banner and phone numbers. Do not hesitate to ask questions if you see any individual around the property.
If you are a fresh victim of this type of fraud, don’t panic or raise alarm by calling the suspects on phone. You should get a friend to call the same number pretending to be a new prospective tenant. Then, inform the police about the incident and take them along on the next appointment the culprits have scheduled for your friend, their next target.
Paying for an Apartment that is Already Rented Out or Does not Exist: this is an “old-school’ property for rent in Lagos scam and it appear to be the most common type of property frauds in Nigeria. It is known to have the highest number of victims per individual case. The Amounts lost by prospective tenants to these fraudsters vary from tens of thousands to several tens of millions of Naira. The suspect could be an agent working alone or sometime he or she could be working as an accomplice with a developer who is also in on the scheme. There are cases where the whole scheme is perpetrated with a developer that is also a self-acclaimed estate agent. The amounts of victims we’ve come across per cases vary from one to over hundred prospective tenants. The suspects who are often serial fraudsters over considerable period of time starts by showing vacant apartments to multiple prospective tenants who are anxious and desperate to secure an habitable living space, unknown to them that the suspects have already collected rents from other individuals. The suspects would collect funds, issue receipts, and also give victims keys with a date to take possession of the apartment. The victims would often discover that they have been duped at the point of taking possession of apartments that are already occupied by other tenants. In other cases multiple victims are taken at different times to vacant apartments or apartments that are still undergoing renovation. These victims, without the knowledge that there are several other prospective tenants like them, are eventually issued keys for the same apartments leading to dispute over who has rights of possession.
Some fraudulent estate agents in Lagos often promise to help prospective tenants find accommodation by collecting funds from them for apartments or self-contain rooms that does not exist. These estate agents would simply abscond once rental charges are released to them.
This type of property for rent in Lagos scam occurs very often. It is widespread across major Nigerian cities but it seems to occur at a very grand scale in Lagos. In one example, over 100 individuals lost more than ₦50 million to the antics of two property developers. To avoid falling victim to this type of fraud, only make rent payment for an apartment when you are ready to move into almost immediately. While this may pose some challenges, it is possible not to fall victim to the antics of these unscrupulous individuals. You should avoid making payments for apartments that are still undergoing renovation. Do not release fund to an estate agent or developer, as well as a landlord, if the key to the apartment cannot be released to you right away or if they give reasons why you cannot move into the apartment right after you make the necessary payments.
It is obvious that there are more ethical estate agents in Lagos than there are dubious ones. It is the responsibility of prospective tenants not to fall victim to the antics of the bad eggs among members of this profession. Prospective tenants are advised not to part with their funds if the rental charges are too good to be true. If a landlord accepts an offer that is much lower than the expected rental charges for the location of the property, it should be obvious that there is a 50/50 chance that this is a property for rent in Lagos scam.