Criminals are taking advantage of the housing crisis in Cape Town by scamming residents looking for affordable houses in the city, says social housing non-profit, Communicare.
The organisation provides rental housing to a wide range of tenants, including a large portfolio of social rentals.
According to Communicare, scammers are creating fake online profiles using pictures of Communicare rental accommodation.
“They pose as representatives of Communicare and promote properties on social media. Applicants are asked to pay application fees or deposits before viewing the rental units.”
The group said that it is aware of four cases in the last two weeks.
The scammers target residents in the social housing market. Social housing units seem to be the main targets of the scammers.
The scammers are professional, the group said. Apart from fake profiles, they also create their own application forms and request three months’ bank statements and identity documents.
Communicare said they also ask for authorisation to conduct credit checks.
“It all appears authentic until they secure an application fee or a deposit and then disappear.”
Cases have been reported to the police for further investigation. Communicare is working with the police to ensure those responsible for abusing innocent people seeking affordable housing are brought to book.
Makhosi Kubheka, COO at Communicare said that the group would never ask for a deposit or any upfront payment when applying for a rental unit.
“All viewings are by appointment only, and keys are only handed over once the applicant is successful, and they have signed a lease agreement.”
“We are also doing all we can to assist those who have come forward and admitted to being scammed,” said Kubheka.
Demand for property in Cape Town has been at all-time highs for a handful of years now and shows no sign of slowing down. Increased demand has also resulted in affordable housing being hard to come by.
“Since August 2014, price increases in Cape Town have been consistently higher than in other metros. After remaining relatively flat in 2018 and 2019, prices surged further,” reported Statistics South Africa in April.
According to the statistics agency, property prices in the country have, since 2010, on average increased by 98%; however, the City of Cape Town has seen the most significant surge at 141%.