Safety tips for room seekers

 

As with any kind of online dealing, it’s important to be careful when you’re looking for a flatshare. Here are our top tips to help you stay safe at every stage of your search:

Responding to ads

  • It might sound obvious, but never sign or pay anything before viewing the room. If you can’t see it person, try and get a friend to go on your behalf
  • Stick to using SpareRoom to message advertisers – don’t be tempted to use other contact details hidden in an ad until you can trust that they are who they say
  • If you’re worried an advertiser isn’t who they say they are, do a quick Google or have a look at their LinkedIn to see if they’re legitimate
  • When it comes to checking ID, make sure you see it in the presence of the person it belongs to. Don’t accept an emailed scan as proof
  • The golden rule? Always use and trust your common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – look out for properties that are unusually cheap for the area, or in a remarkable condition for the price. Trust your instincts and don’t let the pressure of finding something quickly cloud your judgement

Safety at viewings

  • Find out the exact address of the property before you visit. Not only does this mean you can have a nosey on streetview (and check the area out), you can also tell someone exactly where and when you’re going before the viewing
  • Try to take someone with you to the viewing – it’s handy to have a second opinion, and a good way to make yourself feel safer. If no one’s around, make sure you’ve told someone where you’re going and contact them once the viewing is finished
  • Double check that the property is secure and you’re happy with the safety of the surrounding streets. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s worth visiting at night time as well as during the day
  • Ask to meet everyone who lives/will be living at the property. This will help you get to know all of your potential flatmates, and gives you a sense of their characters. Always trust your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, don’t move in

Before handing over money

  • Always ask to see a copy of the tenancy agreement before committing to the room. This is a legal requirement, and you should never join a flatshare without one
  • Have a look at the landlord, flatmate or agent's ID (passport or driving licence) before handing over any money and note down their name. If you have any doubts you can do a Google search or check them out on LinkedIn to see if they're legitimate. They’re also legally required to see your ID (and make a copy of it) – more info on that here.
  • If you're dealing with an agent, check them out online and call their main number to make sure they’re a legitimate employee
  • Agents also have to be part of a Property Redress Scheme, so ask them which one they’re registered with and check out their registered details
  • Ask which tenancy deposit scheme the landlord or agent is using. This is a legal requirement that ensures your money is protected in a separate scheme, ready to be returned at the end of your tenancy (rather than going into your landlord’s pocket)

Never pay anything via Western Union or another anonymous money transfer system. We’ve got more info about this particular scam here.

What we do to protect you

One of the things we’re proudest of at SpareRoom is also one of the things we don’t shout about as much as we should – our moderation team.

At SpareRoom we monitor and double check every single ad posted to stop fraudsters in their tracks. We have both manual and automated systems in place that will pick up the majority of attempted scams – preventing scammers from sending messages or placing ads. As a result, most flatshares created on our site are totally legitimate – with great landlords and agents who play by the rules.

But occasionally things do slip through the net. Our users will usually let us know immediately so that we can remove the offender and warn other users of their activities.

One simple security measure we’ve introduced is telling all landlords and agents to be prepared to show you their ID before you hand over any money. The same applies to current flatmates if they’re taking the deposit from you. Don’t be afraid to ask and feel free to note their name down too.

Update October 2017:

We've introduced new guidelines for viewings. We're now asking all landlords and agents to be prepared to show you ID before you hand over any money, including a deposit. The same applies to current flatmates if they're the ones taking the deposit. We're also asking people to let you note down their name.

Ask to see some ID before you hand over any money - a driving licence or passport are the best forms of proof - and don't be afraid to ask if they don't offer.

Don't forget there's a 'report this ad' link on every ad on SpareRoom. If you're not sure about something you can ask us to have a look or contact us for help.

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