Using Accommodation for Students Safely
It is important to take some precautions when you are using Accommodation for Students, particularly if you are trying to book a room in a property without viewing it.
Accommodation for Students has been around since 2000 and during this time we have helped millions of students find a place to live. Because our website is so successful we do occasionally find that some people who are not genuine landlords create fake adverts to try and encourage students send them money. This is often known as a ‘scam’ or ‘scamming’.
Most of the time our admin team spot these adverts and remove them before this can happen, but every now and again they get through. To protect yourself here are our top tips for using AFS safely.
Spotting a fake advert
A fake advert will generally be a very attractive property in a desirable student area, with a low price. This is designed to tempt a large number of students to enquire and contact the individual. Therefore, be careful of properties which do not seem to fit in with similar properties in similar areas.
A fake advert is less likely to have testimonials from previous student tenants on it, which is also a good way of identifying properties which are attractive and well managed.
Where possible always view the property
Our number one piece of advice is to always view the property before signing the tenancy agreement and paying a deposit or rent. A viewing will ensure that you choose a property which is suitable for you, but also means you are not sending money to somebody that you have not met. If you are not able to visit the property the next best option is to send someone that you know and trust to view the property and meet the landlord or agent on your behalf.
If you can’t view a property our advice is to think carefully about booking it and if you decide to do so take the following precautions.
Check with our Live Help team
AFS has a help team who can provide you with a bit more information about a property and a landlord or letting agent. In particular, they will be able to tell you how long the landlord or agent has been advertising with AFS. The longer the landlord has been advertising with Accommodation for Students the safer it will be to book the property. In addition the team will be able to check any concerns they have and relay that information to you. You can chat live with the team or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Review the landlord and agent details
Genuine adverts are likely to include more details of the letting agent and landlord. These are in the bottom left hand corner of the advert and should include the name and address. These are particularly useful for letting agents, as you will be able to cross check the office address through a simple google search.
In addition, letting agents or landlords that advertise multiple properties on Accommodation For Students are much more likely to be genuine, as ‘scammers’ rarely take the trouble to create more than one advert at a time.
Check for accreditation
Reputable landlords and agents will be members of relevant industry bodies and also local accreditation schemes. Examples include ARLA which is the membership body for letting agents in the UK or National Landlord Association (NRLA).
In addition there are a number of accreditation schemes, which operate across the UK. These landlords and properties are usually checked and validated and probably the highest profile one is run by Unipol and you can check to see if a particular landlord is accredited here https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code
If you can’t view the property speak to the landlord
If you are unable to view the property you should speak to the landlord at least once. This will help you check that they have provided genuine contact details and also give you a better idea of what the landlord or letting agent is like.
Check the documentation
Before you send any money you should receive a tenancy agreement. You can find information about the different types of tenancy agreement in the UK here https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/private_renting/types_of_renting_agreement . Sometimes you may be asked to pay a holding deposit before you sign the agreement. In this case it is important to be aware that, by law, the maximum holding deposit that can be requested is one weeks rent. Therefore anyone asking for more than this should be avoided.
Be wary of sending money by wire transfer
Be cautious of landlords or agents who request that you send money by wire transfer. Services like Western Union are reputable, but once the money has been transferred and the individual has left the Western Union office there is no way to reverse the transaction. A bank transfer and in particular a credit card payment offer more protection to consumers.
Private Halls are a safe option
Private Halls of residence are generally a safe option for booking a room without viewing the property Private Halls . All of the Private Halls adverts on the website are validated by a member of the AFS team and have more information on them about the room. They will typically take a small booking fee to secure the room and are operated by larger companies that are easier to validate.
Please note, this does not mean we believe they are more suitable accommodation than houseshares, simply that they are generally safer to book without a viewing.
Move in and enjoy your accommodation
Finding and selecting your accommodation on AFS should be safe, easy and secure. It is important to understand that sometimes people take advantage of our success by creating fake adverts. This is quite rare, but it is important to take suitable precautions so that you can move in and enjoy your accommodation safely.