Accommodation Abroad : Being Aware of Scams
Since finding accommodation abroad can be a very exciting process or feel like the first big task to tick off the list, you may be eager to enter into a housing agreement quickly and without being overly cautious in your search. With the rise in scams when renting housing abroad, it is increasingly important to be cautious and aware of scammers in your search for accommodation on your year abroad.
I personally was misled by my landlord within the first month of my year abroad which meant I had to find new accommodation at very short notice. Below I’ve compiled some tips and a list of things to be wary of when finding accommodation abroad in the hope that this doesn’t happen to other students on their year abroad as well.
How can you to confirm your landlord’s credibility?
- If this is a student subletting a room, ask to schedule a Skype/ WhatsApp video call with them to get to know them and be sure to ask questions to determine if they are who they say they are.
- Ask the landlord why the previous tenants moved out.
- Ask to look around the property in person or, if this isn’t possible, ask to see detailed documentation/videos of the property.
- Ask for a the names and contact details of previous tenants or neighbours and contact thempolitely to ask if there were any issues with this landlord or the property in the past.
How can you check your tenancy agreement for any potential red flags?
- Check the start date and end date of your tenancy.
- Make sure every tenant’s name is on the contract as well as the landlord’s.
- Read over your obligations in detail (what you can and can’t do during your time in the accommodation) and make sure you are happy with these conditions.
- Check the rent amount as well as who is responsible for paying it.
- Make sure the contract allows for general wear and tear of the property and that you are able to fill in an inventory at the start of the lease.
If a section of the tenancy agreement appears unusual or unprofessional, or you would like to correct certain sections of it, bring this up with the landlord or letting agency as soon as possible.
Be careful on Facebook and other social media as these are NOT rental platforms.
Although Facebook can be a great resource for finding housing groups and browsing flats or flat shares posted by locals, you should always be careful of any unusual demands from your prospective landlord or any unusual aspects of their online profile. Here are some red flags to look out for on Facebook and other social media platforms:
- A new or relatively inactive profile: If the landlord you’re communicating with has a new profile, or one with very few friends or activity, then this should be a red flag. Scammers are constantly creating new profiles as they can’t continue to use the same profile after scamming someone.
- Hurrying you to pay them: This applies to all accommodation websites! Scammers are insistent about payment right away instead of following the usual process and formalities of entering into a housing contract. You should be cautious of landlords requesting payment before asking you for necessary formalities like official documents or a signed contract.
- The same advertisement in several different areas or with slight changes: Some scammers on Facebook don’t waste time creating new listings but will use the same photos or description to advertise a ‘different’ property. Be sure to search online for the landlord’s name or listing to see if they are advertising the same properties with slight changes to the description or area each time.
Naturally, when you aren’t used to the housing market in a foreign country, it’s difficult to know what to expect and to identify any red flags. Above all, I’d really recommend doing research on the housing market and the usual application process for different types of accommodation in your country, e.g. by reading student blogs or watching Youtube videos made by students or locals. I would also recommend contacting any previous St Andrews students who have studied or worked abroad in your country to ask them for specific accommodation advice for the country/region.
If you’d like to be put in touch with a student who has studied or worked abroad in your study abroad country, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can hopefully put you in touch with someone who has experienced the housing market there and who can share any advice they may have.