While you’re busy searching for your new house - somewhere which is big enough to cram 30 people in for pre-drinks, yet cosy enough to keep warm on your limited heating budget, it’s important to remember that students are an easy target when it comes to dodgy ‘landlords’.

My experience with landlords started out well. Thankfully, the first two houses I paid money towards ended up as a legitimate place for me to stay with no problems (well, other than the pet rat we had in the kitchen for a while, and the broken toilet, and the damp, but we won’t dwell on that).

It wasn’t until my final term of university that my experiences turned sour. I was in a rush to find somewhere to live with my boyfriend, as the contract on our house was soon to be up.

We probably weren’t being as diligent as we should have been, due to our positive experiences in the past, as well as the fact we had less than a couple of weeks to find a new home.

“ We probably weren’t being as diligent as we should have been, due to our positive experiences in the past, as well as the fact we had less than a couple of weeks to find a new home. ”

We were so pleased when we found a two bedroom flat for just £500 a month online. This was great, we thought. I mean, who wouldn’t? A private flat with a nice new kitchen, and two bedrooms!

In hindsight, we were being totally naive. This was Manchester after all, and it’s not the cheapest. It would be incredible to find a two bedroom flat for that amount of money. But that’s exactly what it was - just a bit too amazing.

Anyway, off we went to view it, and it was just as great as it looked in the photos. As much as we both loved sharing throughout university, we couldn’t wait to have a more chilled out, cleaner place to live in where we could cook, relax, and have all to ourselves.

“I’ve got more people coming to view the flat later. They seem really keen. It’s going to be first come first serve, I’m afraid” the landlord said. And then again “like I said, I have a lot of interest”, and again “I think the flat will be gone by tonight”.

Looking back, it was clear what he was trying to do, and the manipulation worked. We were so scared we would miss out on this perfect flat, that we went back within the hour to sign the contract and pay up.

We paid £500 into his account, and signed a professional looking contract, which we also got a copy of. He claimed the deposit would go into a DPS (deposit protection service) scheme, which we thought sounded legitimate. We agreed to pay another £500, for the first months rent, on the morning we would move in.

“ I’ve got more people coming to view the flat later. They seem really keen. It’s going to be first come first serve, I’m afraid. ”

When move in day came along, after transferring £500 directly into his account, we were flooded with excuses of why he couldn’t meet us to give us the keys.

Firstly, “I’m so sorry - I’m stuck in Leeds! Won’t be back in time” then, “Are you texting me? Don’t think my phones working. Not getting anything from you!” and then the penultimate “My Grandpa has died. I’m with my family. I won’t be able to give you the keys just yet. I’m sorry.”.

We offered to come and pick the keys up from him, or meet a friend of his somewhere, to collect them. We felt sympathetic, that his Grandpa had passed away - and had patience for a while. Finally, after lots of nagging on our part, he offered to meet us at 4pm outside the flat. And that’s when it all came to a head.

He never turned up, and outside the flat, were two girls in a car filled with bedding, suitcases, and boxes. They asked us who were were, and we explained we were just waiting to move into a flat in the building. “That’s funny, so are we. We’ve been trying to get in for a few days now. All our stuff is in our car.

At that moment we knew we had been scammed, and after confirming names and details, it turned out they had been promised the same flat as us, by the same guy.

“ We’ve been trying to get in for a few days now. All our stuff is in our car. ”

After a couple of hours investigating the matter for ourselves, and talking to the actual landlord of the flats, it all became clear. The ‘landlord’ had just been renting the flat himself, and had taken money from 4 different parties, promising them the flat.

He was nowhere to be seen, of course, and actually owed thousands of pounds in rent himself. He was a total conman, who rented a flat, pretended it was his, and took money from innocent people who just needed a place to stay.

He picked his targets carefully - we were all under 24, innocent and excited to have a fancy new flat to live in. Leaving us out of pocket, he managed to walk away with thousands of pounds.

“ He was a total conman, who rented a flat, pretended it was his, and took money from innocent people who just needed a place to stay. ”

So what can we take from this? It’s important to be diligent when you’re looking for your next house or flat. Here are the key things you need to remember.

  • Take time in finding accommodation. A genuine landlord won’t pressure you into signing a contract or paying any money. Pressure can suggest something isn’t quite as it seems.
  • It’s probably best to go through an estate agent or agency. This way, you know you are protected and are getting a tried and tested landlord. Online websites can be a quick way to find a room, and are genuine more often than not, but are also a scammer’s dream platform.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Look around and see if the price you’re paying is normal for what you’re getting. If it’s super cheap, but still amazing, it’s probably a trick to lure you into parting with cash.
  • If possible, don’t cough up your rent until you are physically handed the keys.

Now that you’ve heard my story, I hope you’ll think a little deeper before handing over any cash or signing the contract for your next student house. It can happen to anybody, and scammers are out there looking for their next victim. Don’t let it be you!

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Written by Alice Lang, 9 months ago
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