As with any form of online dealing, it's always important to be careful and safety conscious when renting or letting a room. Here are our top tips to help you stay safe, plus answers to some of the most regularly asked questions about what we do to keep you safe on Student.SpareRoom.co.uk.
- Find out the exact address of the property, and tell someone where (and when) you're going before a viewing
- Ask to see a copy of the tenancy agreement before committing to a room
- Ask to see the landlord, flatmate or agent's ID (passport or driving licence) before you hand 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
- Get a work or other landline number to call them on
- If you're dealing with an agent check out the agency online and call their main number to make sure the person is a legitimate employee
- Ask for the name of the Property Redress Scheme they're registered with (all agencies have to be registered with one) and check out their registered details
- Ask which tenancy deposit scheme the landlord or agent is using
- Use a free online sort-code checker before making payments by bank transfer (this will show you which financial institution the account is registered with). You should never make any payments to a pre-paid card issuer.
- If you want to check someone is the legal owner of a property you can run a quick check on the Land Registry for £3
- Be vigilant, and use your common sense
- Don't trust adverts that seem too good to be true - i.e. if a property is unusually cheap for the area, or in very good condition for a low price
- Never sign or pay anything before viewing the room
- Never pay anything via Western Union, Moneygram or any other anonymous money transfer system (even if you're asked to send money to a friend first and show the receipt as proof you have the money - the receipt is all someone needs to claim the cash)
- Don't pay anything without seeing a tenancy agreement
- Never feel pressurised to take something if it feels wrong - there will be other rooms available
- Don't accept an emailed scan of ID from someone you haven't met. You need to see the actual ID in the presence of the person whose ID it is
- Don't use any contact details hidden in ad descriptions or images. Stick to the Student.SpareRoom.co.uk messaging system till you're confident who you're dealing with.
Do you pre check advertisers?
Student.SpareRoom.co.uk is a classified listings site rather than a letting agency. We provide an advertising space that lets users quickly place and view ads and it would not be possible to reference check every single advertiser on the site.
We do, however, prioritise the safety of our users with our own set of strict measures and tools to stop scammers from advertising on the site or contacting other users.
What we do to protect you
We have both manual and automated systems in place that pick up on the majority of attempted scams - preventing scammers from sending messages or placing adverts. We invest a lot of resources into maintaining this level of protection, and can proudly say that the SpareRoom network is the only flatshare service that protect users in this way.
Although the odd scam does slip through the net this is very rare. Our users will usually bring it to our attention immediately so that we can remove the offender and warn other users of their activities.
Only registered users are able to contact you through Student.SpareRoom.co.uk, so everyone is subject to our various checks.
Although it is important to remember that the vast majority of people are honest, you should always be aware of your personal safety when dealing with anyone online and take normal precautions when going to view properties on your own.
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 - just remember you should never take a photo of anyone's ID.
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.
For further information on staying safe while finding a room see our book The Essential Guide to Flatsharing