Protecting owners from rental fraud: Emma Mills, I-PRAC

ShortTermRentalz spoke to I-PRAC managing director Emma Mills at the Short Stay Show about the company’s verification platform for owners and agents operating short-term rentals as well as the way forward for regulating the industry more efficiently.

  • What did you hope to achieve with I-PRAC at the Short Stay Show, given that you were a sponsor of the event?

Since the launch of I-PRAC in 2016, we have gone from strength to strength. The main reason for attending the show as an exhibitor and a sponsor was to create industry awareness to the problem of rental fraud and to create additional brand awareness for the I-PRAC brand and our platform, as well as  to showcase our new members profile feature.

  • How does your verification platform protect property owners and agencies from rental fraud? How significant is the threat of such issues?

I-PRAC protects clients and travellers, more so than the actual owners and agencies. The client and traveller can book in complete confidence that they are making a booking with a legitimate owner.

However, through the ‘Register Booking’ feature, owners and agents are informed by email when a booking has been made with their properties along with the client and I-PRAC, which stops owners and agents’ properties and identities from being hacked.

The main focus of the I-PRAC platform is to protect the client from rental fraud by allowing them to verify a member through their I-PRAC online profile ( see links below for reference).

Profile link agency: www.i-prac.com/member/ip18-15579/

Profile link owner: www.i-prac.com/member/ip19-51654/

Each I-PRAC member has their own unique logo and ID inserted into the logo. When the ID number is typed into the I-PRAC search facility, it goes directly to the member’s profile and full list of credentials.

Once they have verified the member’s details, they can book and pay directly, before registering the booking with the I-PRAC site to guarantee their rental payments.

  • Are there any specific challenges or opportunities emerging that platforms like I-PRAC are currently facing up to in the short-term rental space?

Since the launch of I-PRAC, the main challenge is educating the industry about the magnitude of the problem, as many people don’t want to accept it exists or prefer to minimise the fact the problem exists.

So many people think they are too savvy or won’t be caught out for them to fall victim, so we feel education is the biggest challenge.

In terms of opportunities, as a sole platform in the verification sector of the industry, we see the opportunity to remove fraud from the industry. Our mission is to do this by providing a platform to protect clients and to offer a platform for legitimate operators to showcase themselves as I-PRAC approved.

We have the opportunity to change the way bookings are made.

  •  Are there any tech trends which you think will be prevalent this year in ensuring users trust platforms and are not vulnerable to fraudsters?

Verification technology is certainly a factor, although the current technology available is limited and does not exist for so many key components that require verification such as:

1.) Bank accounts verification
2.) Proof of property ownership
3.) Proof of rental address
4.) Proof of owner address

The key factor to verification is data collection and data analysis, and to verify a property as well as its owner or agency correctly, there is a huge amount of data and supporting documents required. Although there is technology that can verify certain data, 70 per cent of the verification process is manual and completed by a fully-trained approval manager which can take anywhere between two and three weeks.

We know booking platforms are not able to introduce this service to their listing procedure and most booking platforms will look to use a third party verification company. They then provide a space on the host listing for the I-PRAC logo to be visible for that host.

The sole verification platform to date is I-PRAC so we strongly believe it will be the platform that will be a trend for the industry in seriously tackling rental fraud. This will make the industry of booking short-term rentals safer. We are looking to partner with booking platforms and channel managers in the near future.

  • How do you think the industry can be more efficiently regulated, both online and the rentals themselves?

The short-term rental industry is one of the largest unregulated growing industries, and for the industry to grow in a positive way, it’s important there is more regulation across the board. It should be made law that to rent your property for profit, you need to have specific verification certificates.

1. Proof of ownership
2. Fire and health and safety certified
3. Electrical and gas certification
4. Guest liability insurance
( All yearly or six monthly renewables)

These are the four main areas:
(I-PRAC are currently working on introducing point two, three or four to our application and approval status to create what will end up becoming a super host)

  • If you are I-PRAC approved, you are at the top end of the product scale in the eyes of a potential client.
  • It is important that a traveller who books a rental property online, either directly or through a booking platform, knows that they are not going to be a victim of fraud and the property is certified to be safe and fit for purpose.
  • Gone will be the days when you can just add your property photos and description and price to a booking platform for free and start renting for profit.
  • If the short term rental industry wants to over take hotels for preferred choice for accommodation, confidence / security is what needs to be addressed first.