A maximum of 15-year imprisonment will be sought for those convicted of house rental scams, the government said Thursday, as part of efforts to crack down on a growing number of fraud crimes against tenants.
The decision was made during a government meeting presided over by Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho as the country is grappling with increasing cases of house rental scams.
Many tenants were left unable to recoup their house rental deposits in a series of "jeonse" frauds. Jeonse is the mainstream house rental arrangement in South Korea where the renter makes a lump-sum deposit instead of paying monthly rent and the money is returned at the end of the lease.
In one of many notorious cases, a real estate consultant masterminded the purchase of 628 homes in the capital area under borrowed names, leaving dozens of tenants unable to retrieve their jeonse deposits when the legal property holder died suddenly without paying back the money.
Under the tightened countermeasure plan, the Justice Ministry will seek to have prosecutors proactively demand the maximum possible prison sentence of 15 years for people convicted of jeonse scams.
The maximum imprisonment applicable to fraud convicts stands at 10 years, but the ministry said the sentence can be increased by an additional five years for aggravated fraud cases.
Police and the prosecution will also work closely with the land and other ministries to get to the bottom of house rental scams and bring scammers to justice, the justice ministry said.
In the past six months, a total of 145 people had been indicted and made to stand trial on charges related to house rental scams.
The justice ministry also plans to revise the Housing Lease Protection Act so as to better help tenants recoup jeonse deposits promptly in the event of the landlord's death. (Yonhap)