Advice from Gumtree.com and the National Union of Students on how to rent safelyThursday 22 September 2011, by The Media Team
If you’re moving into a new pad at university, make sure you rent safely and avoid potential scams during the September rental rush. With the combination of thousands of students facing the last-minute scramble for accommodation, and the rise in people looking for new homes in September, we’d like to warn all potential tenants to be vigilant.
Our security experts are offering advice highlighting potential ways in which scammers could operate.
Property does not exist
Scammers may advertise luxury properties for rent, in very desirable locations – but for an unusually low rent. The ‘owner’ may claim they are unable to meet would-be tenants in person to show them the property, perhaps because they ‘live overseas’. They could then ask for a deposit using a money transfer service, and the would-be tenants may be unable to contact the advertiser and the property may not even exist.
Property is not owned by the ‘landlord’
It is possible for a scammer to gain access to a house illegally, when an owner is on holiday or away for a long period of time. They could then advertise it for rent and secure a deposit from tenants. In this scenario tenants who try to move in would find the home owners have returned – and the rental agreement revealed as a scam. The ‘landlord’ may have disappeared and the tenants would not be able to reclaim their deposit.
Fake escrow sites
A prospective ‘landlord’ could suggest using an escrow service to complete a rental transaction. Fake escrow websites often look official, but are run by fraudsters that could take deposit money and then close down shortly afterwards with no way to contact them again.
Top tips from Gumtree.com on how to avoid the scammers
- View properties in person before paying any money. Even if they claim to be overseas, people who are not willing to show you their property or meet with you before accepting you as their tenant aren’t likely to be legitimate
- For your own safety, always have someone with you
- Ask lots of questions about the property and the area. Any genuine landlord or agent should know the answers and give them
- For extra piece of mind you may want to consider only renting from a landlord or agent that is a member of a professional accreditation scheme (e.g. ARLA, NALs, NLA etc)
- If dealing with a landlord directly, ask to see their proof of ownership for the property before handing over any money
- Never provide your personal identity or banking information to others over the internet e.g. details or photocopies of your passport, driving licence or your credit card number. Only give this information to a landlord or agency once you’ve met them in person, viewed the property and decided to proceed with a rental arrangement. You should always view requests for personal information by someone you haven’t met with extreme caution
- Use common sense. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Visit www.nus.org.uk for more information on how students can rent safely.