Top 3 housing scam warning signs and how to avoid them!

4 December 2020

Unfortunately, housing scams exist - but with the help of this article, you'll be able to spot one a mile off and will know how to avoid them.

housing scams

In an ideal world, this is a topic we wouldn’t need to write about. Although rare, sadly we usually see several students per year who have come across an online scammer. Fortunately, most of these managed to avoid losing money, so we hope these tips will help you too.

How do you know what’s genuine and what’s a scam? A telltale sign of a fraudulent advertisement is often the price; scammers will usually advertise a great sounding deal at a way-too-good-to-be-true price in order to lure tenants in. We recently heard from a student who had found a two bedroom flat in Covent Garden advertised at £650 per month – that’s a quarter of the price of anything else in the area! Luckily they sought our advice before transferring any money.

Another giveaway sign is that the scammer is asking you to use money transfer services such as Western Union or Moneygram to make payments. While these services can be useful when used properly, often the money is untraceable once you’ve paid it.

Even before you’re asked to send any money, warning signs can appear. Often the person posing as a landlord will try to convince you that they live abroad, or have been let down before, so need you to prove that you’re serious by paying a deposit before viewing. They might also start asking for your identity documents before you’ve even met. These could be used to carry out more serious identity fraud.

Often the flats that are advertised don’t exist, or belong to an unaware property owner. We strongly advise against paying or signing anything before viewing a property. This is partly so that you don’t arrive to your new home to find any unexpected surprises, but also in order that you can check that the property really exists. A quick Land Registry search will cost you £3 and will tell you who owns the property.

If you’re ever unsure about whether an advertisement is a scam, contact one of our Housing Advisors who will be able to help.

Top Scam Warning Signs

  1. Very low rent
  2. Deposit before viewing
  3. Money transfer services

Top Tips

  1. Make sure the price is realistic
  2. Don’t pay anything before viewing
  3. Check with a Housing Adviser if you’re unsure

Last revised: 8 September 2021

James Sewell, Housing Adviser, Private Housing and Advice Team, University of London Housing Services