An important question that all flat searchers in London need to ask themselves is “is Gumtree safe?”. The short answer is “yes”… but you have to exercise a little caution.
Gumtree.com is arguably the best place to look for affordable rental accommodation in London. There are a huge number of properties advertised on the site from both agencies and from private landlords at all price levels and in all areas of the city. The problem is that due to it’s success and popularity as the place to search for accommodation it has also attracted a good number of fraudsters who are basically looking to steal from unsuspecting flat hunters.
That is the bad news, the good news is that it is actually very easy to spot the criminals and to avoid getting ripped off. Just follow our Top 5 tips for staying safe on Gumtree below and you should be fine:
- If the ad looks too good to be true… it probably is! Most of the ads posted by fraudsters offer very nice looking properties at very cheap prices. They use photos of very smart flats in great locations at bargain prices to lure you in. Always research other similar properties in the area. If the price looks ridiculous it is probably a scam.
- You must always view a property before renting it. If you reply to an ad and the landlord responds asking for anything (money, documents etc.) before you actually see the place- walk away. You should be able to see a place without paying anything up front.
- You must meet the landlord or agent in person. This seems to be a favourite ploy of the fraudsters- you email from the ad, they reply saying that they are overseas and just want to rent the flat quickly, but can’t be there to show you. They say they want to be sure you can afford it, so ask for a bank statement or for you to pay something up front. This is a scam (also see rule 2)! You must meet the landlord or agent in person before renting anything.
- Western Union & Money Gram are dodgy ways to pay. There is no reason why a landlord or agency should ask for payment by this method. You must meet the landlord or agent in person and you should be able to pay in cash, by cheque, by bank transfer or on card.
- Do some research and ask questions. If you are seeing a property with an agent or a private landlord you should ask questions about who they are, and the ownership of the property and make sure the answers add up. The internet is a great tool for checking out individuals and companies too!
Gumtree themselves also have some very useful pages on staying safe here, and they are very keen for users to repost any suspicious activity.
So if you follow these Top 5 tips you should have no problems staying safe on Gumtree and should have no problems finding your perfect place.