Students can be the victims of numerous different scams when searching for and trying to secure accommodation. We’ve put together some safety tips to be aware of for some of the most common scams out there.
We recommend reading through these and working through the How to avoid scams section in our Looking for Housing online module when searching for a new home.
Specific scam: Red Lion House Accommodation Scam
A group of scammers under the company name ‘Red Lion House Ltd’ have been advertising fake student accommodation on their webpages to International students, and have asked students to pay a large deposit upfront to secure their accommodation for the upcoming academic year. Please do not book or pay for accommodation with this company.
If you are unsure or worried that you’ve been affected by this scam, please contact the Money & Housing Advice Team or University of London Housing Service to speak to a Housing Adviser who can help you with the process.
Never hand over any money if you have not seen the property
- Criminals posing as landlords might ask you to transfer money (to them or to yourself) as a means of proving that you can afford a property or to show that you’re not a 'timewaster’. This is a scam which is prevalent on internet message-boards. It should be reported to the website administrator or the police.
- Services such as Western Union or Moneygram should never be used to transfer money to people that you do not know.
Does this person have the right to let the property?
- You can perform a Land Registry search online if you have the full address of a property. This costs £3.
- The name of the owner will be under the ‘Proprietorship Register’ (SECTION B).
- You can verify the full address of a property using the Post Office website.
Be cautious of contact details
If the landlord or agent don’t have a UK-based phone number or only want to converse through email or Whatsapp messages, you should be very careful. This can be a sign they are not legitimate.
Use letting agents who are signed up to a professional body or code of practice
For example Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and the University of London Housing Services Code of Good Practice. Others include SafeAgent, RICS and TPO.
Important to know: Letting agents must be a member of a redress scheme, a member of a client money protection scheme, display their fees and memberships clearly on their website, and have a complaints procedure.
For more information about Letting Agents, please check out our article What are letting agents?
If an advert seems too good to be true...
Exercise extra caution where you see a property advertised at an exceptionally low rent compared with other properties in the area.
To get a sense of rent pricing per area in London and what to expect, use London Rents Map.
For further guidance and tips when looking for housing, please read I need help finding somewhere to live.
Support & information if you’re targeted by a scam or fraud
If you think you have been targeted by a scam or fraud and need information, advice or support, please don’t hesitate to contact the Money & Housing Advice team.
We also recommend reading
Please also contact Action Fraud to help prevent this happening to others
Some further resources to help you:
- Our Money Mentors also have a blog with articles and tips on avoiding scams; in particular their post about scams.
- The Money Helper - Help with scams
- Videos about financial wellbeing & scams