Some hints and tips for detecting scams in housing
Every year some students fall victim to accommodation “scams” after responding to online adverts.
Rental fraud occurs when a person is tricked into paying an up-front fee for a property which in reality may not exist, or not be owned by the person to whom the fee has been paid to.
Here are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to a scam tenancy:
- Look out for offers that are too good to be true: the rental price is below the market average and the offer looks much better than anything else for the same price in the area.
- Be wary of both very detailed ads which promise a lot, and vague ads with few details.
- Avoid pursuing ads where the landlord is abroad and cannot meet with you or show the property.
- Until you’ve viewed the property and met the landlord, do not disclose personal information such as bank details, your e-mail addresse, phone number, your home address, or provide personal documents such as ID cards, passport, pay slips or bank statements.
- Avoid signing a formal agreement or paying a deposit before physically viewing the accommodation. Don't send money as a deposit to the advertiser without having viewed the property. Check the Land Registry to verify ownership of a property, and for reassurance if you are not confident that the advertiser is the owner of the property.
- Ask for safety certificates such as Gas, Electricity or HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Licenses to help verify ownership of the property.
- Be aware that although you have signed a Tenancy Agreement, if the landlord as written on the agreement is not the legal owner of the property, you will have no right to take up the tenancy, irrespective of paying a deposit.
- Do not agree to sending money using Western Union or Moneygram at any point. Once money is sent by these means it cannot be retrieved. Fraudsters may ask you to send money to yourself or to friends or relatives via a money sending service on the understanding that you are doing so to prove that you have funds. However, fraudsters often set up fake IDs with your name (or that of your friend or relative) with the intention of picking up the money without your knowing, using the tracking information you give them. Obtaining a receipt from Western Union will not guarantee that you are able to get the money back should you not be able to take up the room.
If you’ve found a property and have a Tenancy Agreement, the Advice Service offers Housing Advice, along with a Tenancy Agreement Checking Service.