Renting? Here’s a few ways to stay safeMonday 18 March 2013, by The Media Team
Every year Gumtree helps millions of users find a place to live, a flatmate or tenant.
And if you’re in that group, above all, we want you to be safe before making any decisions. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If the price of rent is unusually low, there might be a catch! Check other similar properties in the same area to get a good idea of what you should expect to pay.
Visit the property
It sounds obvious, but you should always visit a property before handing over any money to a landlord. People who are not willing to show you their property or meet with you before accepting you as their tenant might not be legitimate.
Know who you are dealing with
You should always find out who you are dealing with. Research a company online, and ask to meet the landlord or letting agent. You should always ask to see proof of ownership and the contract for the property – if you are still unsure after seeing a contract then seek legal advice from a solicitor, Citizens Advice or other legal body.
Ask questions and speak to the current tenants
When visiting the property, ask plenty of questions of the landlord or letting agent. They should know the important details about the property and surrounding area. And if there are any current tenants, ask them questions too – you may learn something you didn’t know!
Never part with large sums of cash without doing the proper checks, and we always recommend that you exchange funds in a safe, public environment with witnesses and a contract agreement. Never use Western Union, MoneyGram or money transfer services to send cash or payments to another party. These services are not designed for these forms of transaction.
Never provide personal information and documents over the internet. Only provide this information once you have met the person you are sending them to, have agreed to proceed with a rental arrangement. Requests for personal information by someone you haven’t met should be met with caution.
You should also never conduct business with anyone who claims that Gumtree is involved in the rental or transaction. Gumtree works like an online noticeboard and is never involved in financial transactions, contracts and the handling of keys.
Protect your deposit
When you’ve found the property of your dreams it can be tempting to seal the deal as quickly as possible but it’s important to ensure that you are fully protected before you hand over any money.
Most landlords will require a deposit to be paid before you move in. This provides security against damage to the property and financial loss in the event that rent isn’t paid. This is standard practice and is typically equal to 6 weeks rent, although this does vary. Since April 6 2007 landlords have been legally obliged to join a government approved tenancy deposit scheme. This means that your deposit will be protected and you are assured of getting it back providing you are entitled to it (i.e. you haven’t damaged the property or failed to pay rent). This can be extremely important, especially if you need the full repayment to fund the deposit on your next property.
It’s vital to know your rights when paying a deposit. You should ask which deposit scheme your landlord is using and request a copy of the deposit protection certificate. The three approved schemes are:
Each of these schemes offers an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service that will help to resolve any disputes between you and your landlord and avoid the need to go to court.
Typically an inventory will be drawn up by the landlord detailing the property’s state of repair when you moved in, this will itemise everything in the property and the condition it was in when your tenancy commenced. It’s important that you take the time to verify the accuracy of the inventory before you sign a tenancy agreement.
Common Signs of Fraud
Look out for these key indicators of suspect behaviour:
- A landlord that mentions money transfer services such as Western Union, MoneyGram or escrow services
- You’re not allowed direct contact with landlord – for instance that they live are abroad
- You’re not allowed to visit the property before handing over payment or proof of funds
- You’re put under undue pressure to complete the transaction