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How to find legitimate accommodation at university

Organising accommodation is among the many steps that international students have to complete before they start their studies. But how can students avoid accommodation scams?

    Grace McCabe's avatar

    Grace McCabe

    Content Writer, THE Student
    June 24 2022
    rental scam


    Finding accommodation that is safe, close to campus and affordable is a concern for all students. For international students, an added difficulty is that they often cannot see the accommodation in advance. And, unfortunately, there are those who try to take advantage of this and create accommodation scams. 

    What is an accommodation scam? 

    Accommodation scams are when the evidence of a room, apartment or home that is being advertised for students to rent while at university does not match up to the accommodation the student finds when they arrive or thought they had booked. 

    Accommodation scams come in several forms. First are fraudulent property adverts. This is when a scammer poses as a property owner and asks for a holding deposit from the student to save the accommodation for them. 

    When the student wishes to see more pictures or a video, the property owner may say they are out of the country or ill and cannot organise the additional information. Once they have received the money, they disappear and can no longer be contacted. 

    To help avoid these scams, watch out for what the advert looks like. Often pictures will be copied from real student-accommodation sites, along with details such as the property details and address. This will make the advert seem real because if you search the address, the same photos may come up.  

    A rented property scam is another version of accommodation fraud. In this case, the scam artist will rent a real property and then advertise it to prospective students. They will show the student around or send additional pictures and videos, providing more information, which makes it seem trustworthy.  

    The scam artist, posing as the property owner, asks for a deposit and first month’s rent immediately and when the student arrives to move in, they find out that their keys do not work, and the fraudster will no longer be contactable. Sometimes they will swindle several people using the same property, and they will all be left with no accommodation. 

    Other types of accommodation scams to watch out for include: adverts that use images from other places; and misleading websites that include properties that dont exist. Always double-check any accommodation you find across various sources. 

    How can I tell if it is an accommodation scam? 

    Always be cautious when looking at a property. Here are some red flags to watch out for: 

    • The room is nice but seems below average price. 
    • There is only one image for the property. 
    • All images are taken from one angle of the room. 
    • There is no information about facilities or local amenities. 
    • Multiple adverts use the same image. 
    • When you ask for details, the property owneror “agent doesn’t provide any. 
    • The property owneror “agent will send additional photos or information but will not speak on the phone or on video. 
    • The property owneror “agent encourages you to pay a holding fee or deposit quickly. 
    • The property owneror “agent asks for money as “proof” that you are interested in the property. 

    What should I do if I think it is a scam? 

    When you receive the property details, ask for a viewing in person (or via live video if you cannot be there in person). Search the address online and view it on Google Street View to verify the address. You can also search the estate agency or landlord information to check their reputation. 

    Verify as much information as possible, and never send any money after the first conversation, especially if you feel you are being rushed.  

    The best way to verify a property owner or agency’s reputation is by contacting your student union and telling them who you have been speaking to. They will be aware of scams that have happened in the past and can also provide a list of reputable contacts. It might also be a good idea to speak to other international students on how they found their accommodation and their experiences of searching for accommodation.  

    What is legitimate accommodation like in the UK? 

    Most universities in the UK offer rooms in halls of residence for anyone in their first year of their degree. Students can apply directly through their university. 

    It is common in the later years of your degree to then rent privately. Student Accommodation UK is a website that hosts accommodation all over the UK. Students can filter the information down by city, region or university, and then by the number of people looking to share together. 

    Student unions also host housing fairs throughout the year to invite local estate agencies and landlords to speak to students directly about the properties they have to offer. You can read more about finding accommodation in UK here

    What is legitimate accommodation like in the US? 

    Similar to those in the UK, universities in the US offer on-campus dormitory accommodation to first-year students. Rooms are often shared with another student. These rooms can be applied for via the student website, where students can view the available options. 

    Off-campus accommodation is often available to students who have completed their first year and know the area. Most US universities will have partner websites with their student union where all adverts are verified to avoid scams and help students secure safe and secure accommodation for their continuing years at university. Students who may not want to live alone or with housemates have the option of home stays via the American Homestay Network. 

    Read more about finding accommodation in the US here. 

    What is legitimate accommodation like in Australia?  

    Four types of accommodation are available to students in Australia: purpose-built student housing, home stay, private rentals and residential colleges.  

    In Australia, it’s common for students to live in off-campus accommodation, with 90 per cent of students choosing to rent privately or live with friends or host families. On-campus accommodation is available in some Australian universities, but it is not common, and spaces are limited. Check with your university once you have accepted your place to see what is available to you.  

    Australian Homestay Network and Global Experience are two trusted agencies through which students can apply for home-stay accommodation during their studies in Australia. Off-campus private rentals are usually advertised on student information boards and are available for singles and shared accommodation. Other ways to find private rentals is through Flatmates. 

    For more information check out our guide to student accommodation in Australia. 

    What is legitimate accommodation like in Canada? 

    Accommodation in Canada is available as on-campus dormitories, off-campus housing or home stays. Most of the Canadian universities offer dormitory rooms for first-year students. The Canada Homestay Network is one provider of home-stay accommodation.  

    The best way to search for off-campus accommodation is through local landlords. The university student union can support students to find trusted agencies and property owners to secure a safe and legitimate place to stay.  

    Some international students choose to use temporary accommodation upon arrival to allow them time to make friends and view accommodation options in person. Premiere Suites is a popular and trusted provider for these temporary accommodations. 

    For more information, check out the guide to student accommodation in Canada. 

    What is legitimate accommodation like in France? 

    Students have the option to stay in halls of residence, private rentals or home stays. 

    On-campus accommodation can be applied for via each university’s website, but it is more common to live off campus. Students can find public residence options via the regional centres for student affairs, CROUS, which is a network of 26 regional organisations to help allocate and maintain accommodation for students. Another way to apply for accommodation is via Studapart, which organises online or in-person visits and verifies every advert to ensure legitimate accommodation is offered. 

    You can read more about accommodation prices and options in our guide about the cost of studying at a university in France. 

    What is legitimate accommodation like in Germany? 

    Most German universities do not offer on-campus accommodation or have small halls of residence, so privately rented accommodation is the most popular option. If you’d prefer to stay in university accommodation, you’ll have to apply quickly. 

    Many students will wait until they are in the country to see the options available. This is because many properties come unfurnished. Many students will use temporary accommodation including hostels, hotels or bed-and-breakfasts while they search for their permanent home. 

    Students can then apply via their student union, also known as Studentenwerk, to find halls of residence or assistance with private accommodation.  

    What is legitimate accommodation like in Netherlands? 

    Several universities in the Netherlands have partnerships with local housing companies. International students can fill out an application through their university.  

    DUWO is the oldest student-housing organisation in the Netherlands and offers furnished and unfurnished rooms in Amsterdam, Delft, The Hague, Deventer and Leiden. Housing Anywhere is another option for students providing rooms worldwide. This group puts students in touch with verified local property owners to rent rooms and apartments directly. Finally, Nestpick was created by students who have been through accommodation struggles, and it offers student housing in Amsterdam, Delft, The Hague, Maastricht, Rotterdam and Utrecht. 

    You can read more about the accommodation in our guide to the cost of studying at a university in the Netherlands. 

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