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Friends lose €2,600 in rental property scam

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Amy Gibbons and two friends were delighted last week when they found a listing on a property website for a house in Galway city that looked pretty decent. It was within their price range and they were even more relieved when the landlord made contact and confirmed the house was still available to rent.

But their delight and relief turned to dismay and horror within 48 hours after they handed over more than €2,500 to secure the property only to find out they had fallen victim to an elaborate scam.

They are not the only ones to have suffered at the hands of scam artists exploiting the housing crisis and others appear to have been conned by criminals who have been advertising multiple bogus properties on legitimate websites.

The scam artists use pictures of properties pulled indiscriminately from the internet as bait and are also relying on Covid-19 restrictions to lend legitimacy to their crimes.

“The lease on our house is up so we were looking for somewhere to live for the start of June,” Gibbons says.

“We saw this house and made contact with the landlord. He told us the house was still available and suggested we talk through the details on WhatsApp and we said ‘sound’ ”.

Over WhatsApp messages they were asked for details of where they worked, proof of earnings and ID – all things which are commonly asked of prospective tenants.

“We gave all our details and that was that,” Gibbons says. “We have to move out of our house this weekend so we were very relieved to have found somewhere to live.”

The landlord identifying himself as “Lauren O’Sullivan” explained that while he owned the house in Galway, he could not show it to them in person because he was abroad and could not travel to Ireland as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“He said that to make the transaction more secure for them and us, we could carry out the transaction on Airbnb. I have done long term rentals on Airbnb before so I thought it was fine.

“The landlord sent a link through WhatsApp and gave us 24 hours to pay the deposit. They kept saying ‘you need to do it now’ but we didn’t think much of him pressing for time, properties are hard to get, so that was fine.”

It was a long way from fine.

‘Getting too messy’

Gibbons and her friends followed the link the landlord had sent and reserved the property. “I don’t know how we missed this but once we had reserved it on the site we got a booking form and details of a bank account to send the money to. We were directed off what we thought was the Airbnb site.”

The friends sent the money to the account, a total of €2,656.

“Then we got a message saying Airbnb had changed the Iban by mistake and we would need to send the money again. I said no as it was getting too messy. I said we would not resend the money until the original money was refunded. That is when the alarm bells started ringing.”

Gibbons asked to see the communication from Airbnb about the changed Iban number but that request was ignored. Instead she was sent a link by the supposed landlord to what the landlord said was an Airbnb chat function.

The link led not to Airbnb but to a bogus site which had been dressed up to look like Airbnb. “We were trying not to believe we had been scammed but the person on the chat was saying exactly the same thing as the landlord and their English wasn’t great,” she continues.

They made contact with Airbnb who confirmed almost immediately that the site they had been directed to was fake. “We were told to contact our bank. Then the bank told us to contact the guards.”

Before doing that, they decided to swing by the house they thought they had rented.

“It was in Renmore near GMIT. So we called out to see if the people in the house knew ‘Lauren O’Sullivan’. A woman answered and said she had been living there for two years and didn’t know ‘Lauren O’Sullivan’. She actually owned the house and lived there with her family. She had absolutely no idea what we were talking about.”

A Google search of the name and number used by the scam artist reveals that Gibbons and her friends are not the only people who have been duped by the individuals behind the criminal enterprise.

Exploitation

Social media platforms and forums contain multiple references to the same name and number although the locations of the supposed properties changed.

Scams involving rental properties are not new.

Typically they seek to take advantage of students and exploit the Irish housing crisis and a scarcity of properties to convince people to agree to leases online before actually viewing properties.

Money is either transferred via an electronic transfer network such as Western Union or deposited in so-called mule accounts unconnected to the criminals before being transferred to accounts overseas.

Given the cross-border nature of the activity and the anonymity of the criminals, it is very hard for law enforcement, either in this country or others to apprehend those behind the crime.

Gardaí and multiple housing bodies have repeatedly warned people never to hand over money without actually seeing a property and to always be cautious of landlords who claim to be outside the country and cannot show you the property but still request a deposit.

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Home REIT acquires €101m UK resi portfolio

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Home REIT plc has acquired 199 additional properties located across England for an aggregate purchase price of €101m (£85.1m). The properties have added a further 869 beds for those in need to the portfolio, bringing the portfolio total to 10,421 and further enhancing the company’s geographic diversification. The acquisitions adhered to the company’s strict investment criteria, providing much-needed accommodation for vulnerable homeless people across England. They are let on an average lease length of 25 years at low and sustainable rents, on new, unbroken, long-term, full repairing and insuring leases to specialist registered homeless charities and community interest companies (CICs), providing them with the sought-after long-term security of tenure. The leases are subject to annual upward-only rent reviews, index-linked to the Consumer Prices Index, with an annual collar and cap of 1% and 4% respectively. Each of the properties is immediately income producing and, following these transactions, the blended net initial yield of the company’s portfolio is ahead of expectations.

 

Charlotte Fletcher, Partner at Alvarium Home REIT Advisors Limited, said: “This latest tranche of acquisitions represents a significant expansion of our portfolio and allows us to scale up our support for homeless people across the UK. The expeditious deployment of the proceeds of our significantly oversubscribed Subsequent Placing in May demonstrates the Company’s impressive capacity to source attractive investment opportunities and the strength of our relationships with local stakeholders. We are excited to welcome Alex to the management team and are confident that his appointment will further bolster our ability to deliver strong returns to investors whilst also fulfilling a pressing social need.”

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Grade II listed East Sussex family home with a clock tower can be yours for £2.5million

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A striking property on the south coast with its own clock tower is currently up for grabs for £2.5million.

The Clock House is a Grade II listed building in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

It has an impressive clock tower that boasts has four clocks made by B L Vulliamy, the clockmaker to King George III.

The property has been in the same family for more than 30 years and is now being sold by M&W Sales and Lettings.

This unusual property is called the Clock House and it is a Grade II listed building in the East Sussex coastal town of St Leonards-on-Sea

This unusual property is called the Clock House and it is a Grade II listed building in the East Sussex coastal town of St Leonards-on-Sea

The Clock House has an opulent interior with arched doorways and windows framing the views of the surrounding garden

The Clock House has an opulent interior with arched doorways and windows framing the views of the surrounding garden

This living area has a large Tv sitting above a feature fireplace, colourful drape curtains and dark decorative wallpaper

This living area has a large Tv sitting above a feature fireplace, colourful drape curtains and dark decorative wallpaper 

The impressive property was constructed by the architect James Burton and his son Decimus Burton in 1827, who were behind many of the Georgian buildings in London

The impressive property was constructed by the architect James Burton and his son Decimus Burton in 1827, who were behind many of the Georgian buildings in London

The property was one of the first buildings constructed by the architect James Burton and his son Decimus Burton in 1827.

The pair were responsible for many of the historic homes along the South Coast, Tunbridge Wells and London. They were behind much of the building of Georgian London, including being responsible for large areas of Bloomsbury, as well as St John’s Wood and Clapham Common. James also collaborated with John Nash at Regent’s Park.

In 1828, he started building a new season town at St Leonards, based closely on his experiences at Regents Park.

There is a clock tower with four clocks, which were made by B L Vulliamy, the clockmaker to King George III

There is a clock tower with four clocks, which were made by B L Vulliamy, the clockmaker to King George III

There is a multi-coloured tiled floor in the entrance hallway

There are several feature windows at the Clock House

The property has plenty of interesting features, including arched windows and multi-coloured tiled floors in the hallway

This living room has some large dark sofas, a central chandelier, wooden floors and several candle holders

This living room has some large dark sofas, a central chandelier, wooden floors and several candle holders

This hallway has a colourful gold and red wallpaper with coordinating fabric on the sofa as well as dark wooden flooring

This hallway has a colourful gold and red wallpaper with coordinating fabric on the sofa as well as dark wooden flooring

This colourful bedroom has a patterned red wallpaper, red curtains, red window frames and a matching red ceiling

This colourful bedroom has a patterned red wallpaper, red curtains, red window frames and a matching red ceiling 

The Clock House retains many impressive features, including arched gothic doorways and a tiled entrance flooring.

There is an opulent interior, and a landscaped garden outside that includes a bar and dining areas.

It is spread across three floors and is on Maze Hill, overlooking St Leonards Gardens, with views to the sea.

The property has been in the same family for more than 30 years and M&W Sales and Lettings is handling the sale

The property has been in the same family for more than 30 years and M&W Sales and Lettings is handling the sale

The property has an asking price of £2.5million and is only a short walk from the centre of the town of St Leonards-on-Sea

The property has an asking price of £2.5million and is only a short walk from the centre of the town of St Leonards-on-Sea

The property has five bedrooms, with this one including a fireplace and an arched window that includes some stained glass

The property has five bedrooms, with this one including a fireplace and an arched window that includes some stained glass

The property has some ornate features including on the walls of this double bedroom that have been decorated with candles

The property has some ornate features including on the walls of this double bedroom that have been decorated with candles

This bathroom has green and gold wallpaper, white tiles on the floor, a life size statue and an appealing roll top bath

This bathroom has green and gold wallpaper, white tiles on the floor, a life size statue and an appealing roll top bath

The property is only a short walk away is St Leonards town centre, which boasts bars, restaurants, independent galleries and shops on Norman and Kings Road.

The towns’ gardens provide a tranquil setting with a range of plants, trees and wildlife, with the star of the show being a central ornamental pond.

The area has several schools including Battle Abbey School, Claremont, Vinehall and Buckswood.

Outside, there is plenty of space to entertain family and friends, including an outdoor dining area and a large lawn

Outside, there is plenty of space to entertain family and friends, including an outdoor dining area and a large lawn

The outdoor entertaining area includes a firepit and outdoor lights so that gatherings can continue into the evening

The outdoor entertaining area includes a firepit and outdoor lights so that gatherings can continue into the evening

The kitchen has cream wall and base units along with a central island that is tiled and it contains some useful storage

The kitchen has cream wall and base units along with a central island that is tiled and it contains some useful storage

This large double bedroom has monochrome wallpaper, a dark wooden flooring and some furnishings providing a pink accent

This large double bedroom has monochrome wallpaper, a dark wooden flooring and some furnishings providing a pink accent

The average price of a price sold in St Leonards during the past year is £291,265, which is just under the £312,201 average for the country as a whole, according to Zoopla.

Helen Whiteley, of property website OnTheMarket, said: ‘Properties like this don’t come to the market too often, so when they do it’s an opportunity to own something really special.

‘As well as a magnificent history dating back almost 200 years, with its original charm and unique interior, this clock house has a level of grandeur that remains as impressive today as it would have been when first constructed.’

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Greige is the new hot colour for your home – here’s how to follow the trend

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Neither beige, nor grey — it’s ‘greige’. And you may have noticed the colour is gracing walls, floors and furnishings this year.

The combination of warmth and elegance offered by the tone can create a soothing yet dynamic space and is now a go-to neutral.

The key is to use it as an anchoring palette — a springboard for other, confident colours within your scheme.

Boldly neutral: A bathroom painted in greige tones from Little Greene. Greige can ground a space and counter potential garishness

Boldly neutral: A bathroom painted in greige tones from Little Greene. Greige can ground a space and counter potential garishness

‘Greige is often used as a safe colour, layered with other neutrals, but I like to use it to provide balance,’ says interior designer Rachel Niddrie. 

‘Try it as a backdrop or woven into a scheme to showcase bold textures, pattern and colour — on vibrant rugs, artwork and accessories.’

Combined with contrasting materials, greige can ground a space and counter potential garishness.

‘It works beautifully with dusky pinks as well as royal blues, teals, lime green and navy,’ says Rachel.

‘One of my favourite fabrics is No. 9 Thompson’s Ninfea Mania in Blush or Royal. Featuring painterly lilies on a loose weave, it can be used for curtains, sofas and chairs. The Blush has a greenish-grey in the pattern and a pearl oyster background that perfectly tones with greige.’

Add glamour

The shade is versatile, too, offering several decorative directions. ‘Monochrome accents add eye-catching detail, while metallic accessories will introduce understated glamour and bring warmth to the overall look,’ says Amanda Huber, founder of The Dining Chair Co.

‘If you are more daring, why not complement a neutral backdrop with beautiful printed linen upholstery on sofas or dining chairs? You can pick accent colours from the print and introduce them elsewhere to add energy to the scheme.’

Getting just the right shade of greige requires a considered eye.

‘As with any neutral or white, whether it is warm or cool, depends on underlying hints of warm pink or cool blue,’ says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown. ‘Red tones elsewhere in your scheme can be complemented with a warm grey-beige, while cooler blues, deep greys and greens work with a cooler grey.’

Also, the light in the UK can seem flat, which affects our perception of colour.

‘Natural light can be limited in homes, making us crave something warmer than a straightforward grey,’ says Helen Shaw of Benjamin Moore. ‘Our Revere-Pewter (HC-172) is a classic warm grey that co-ordinates with more natural greys like steel, concrete, glass, pebbles, driftwood — even cloudy skies.’

There are many ways to make this classic tone contemporary. ‘One of my top tips is to pair greige with raw plastered walls,’ says Space Shack’s Omar Bhatti. ‘This produces a lovely combination of soft colour and contrasting texture, which adds character.’

Mix it up

‘Don’t be afraid to mix materials,’ says Collection Noir’s Samantha Wilson. ‘Timber looks beautiful when accompanied with limewashed walls, occasional metal details, soft linens and textured ceramics.’

All these elements are a softly modern way to work a classic greige. Bear in mind some of the most beautifully balanced and welcoming interiors are based on a subtle palette of beiges and greys.

Texture: Sofa.com’s Ginger armchairs in Champagne luxe boucle costs £1,045

Texture: Sofa.com’s Ginger armchairs in Champagne luxe boucle costs £1,045

‘The key is to layer and to remember that ‘neutral’ extends far beyond creams and sandy hues,’ advises King Living’s design studio. ‘It also incorporates olive, earth tones, red-based hues and deeper browns — all of which pair with a beige-grey base to create a timeless scheme.’

Avoid a flat finish, instead opt for unexpected texture. Try sofa.com’s Ginger armchairs in Champagne luxe boucle (pictured), £1,045.

Pooky’s Empire gathered lampshades in Flashman printed cotton, £56, add elegance.

Bring greige walls to life with Carpetright’s Mardi Gras 576 Estrella Vinyl. The encaustic tile-style flooring works beautifully in otherwise neutral utility rooms. 

A graphic rug such as H&M Home’s Patterned Pile rug, £149.99 peps up a greige sitting room, too.

Calming vibe

The desire for warm, zen-like spaces is growing, making greige both a lifestyle and design choice.

Omar Bhatti has painted his apartment in Little Greene’s Mushroom. ‘I used it on wall, doors, architraves and skirting and combined it with deep blue kitchen cabinetry,’ he says. ‘It is very calming.’

Combined with natural fibres, timbers and earthy colours, it creates a sense of balance and understated luxury.

‘The look is easily achieved,’ says Samantha Wilson. ‘Whether you accessorise with woven planters or linen cushions, throws, tablecloths, or jute and flatweave rugs.’

Versatility is key to this — it works just as well with earthy tones as jewel hues, but it always contributes to a timeless, cocooning interior. Just what many of us crave.

Savings of the week! Leaning mirror

Light on the wallet: Dunelm offers the Moroccan mirror for £105

Light on the wallet: Dunelm offers the Moroccan mirror for £105

A long, leaning mirror has several key benefits. It makes any room look larger, optimises the light and requires no DIY skills: you simply prop it against the wall. Do so carefully and you will look slimmer and more lissom.

Snapping up a bargain will enhance your feeling of wellbeing. At Dunelm, there are styles for every decor, reduced by 30 per cent, including the gilt-framed Midi (£42), the Moroccan (£105) and the Apartment (£91), which has a loft-living vibe.

The Range also has a wide selection, such as the Regency whose price has been cut by 20 per cent to £87.99; its ornate gilt frame is very Bridgerton.

Cotswold Company offers an arched mirror in a moody black frame, down from £179 to £149.

Rose & Grey has a large black Art Deco mirror, reduced from £595 to £505.75, which would look good in a 1930s house, and a black paned mirror that’s now £191.25, down from £225, which could be deployed in the garden.

Anne Ashworth 

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