Tips for renting private sector housing
The second term has begun and, as per usual, Royal Holloway is being inundated with adverts from landlords and letting agencies. First-time renters will undoubtedly feel the rising panic as they are told to arrange viewings quickly or else miss out on a place to live. But this is a myth. Pressure is created, in fact, by the increasing competition between landlords and estate agents in the student-rented sector. Students are warned not to rush their choice of housing, and also to be weary of scams that lure tenants into paying holding deposits on houses that simply do not exist.
The National Union of Students (NUS) revealed that an increasing number of students are falling victim to these scams in which fake landlords demand deposits from individuals who, upon paying, see their money disappear without a trace. Adverts on unaffiliated web pages convince students to undertake a contract that demands an up-front payment to secure the property, or otherwise to prove their financial viability.
The NUS stated: “Students are more frequently turning to the web to find properties to rent during their study, but some fall prey to fraudulent adverts which, when students enquire about property, they are asked for proof they can afford rent.”
As well as scams involving houses that do not exist, many lose money to landlords who refuse to repay their deposit. Deposits may be retained by landlords upon breach of contract by the tenant, but there are cases of some who keep money with no proof of wrongdoing, and do so with no resistance. Once lettings have been viewed and contracts signed, it is important for students to secure their deposit payments in a deposit-protection scheme.
Students are targeted for fraud because of their relative inexperience in dealing with private housing. Most universities provide lists of accredited landlords and their properties for the respective year of letting. Advice and information provided by the Student Housing Bureau can be found on the Royal Holloway website. On 10th January the university launched the new official student accommodation search engine, ‘housesearch’, with the added feature of registration for email updates. It allows students to view properties in Egham, Englefield Green and the surrounding area with specific criteria. It is recommended that students make use of this facility to ensure that they commit to legitimate contracts.