The vast majority of people who will contact you in response to your ad will be genuine people looking for a room. However, we do get asked by users if there are any steps they can take to help them stay safe (and, just as importantly, feel safe) while conducting viewings.
The following tips were kindly prepared for us by The Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
- Once you've swapped numbers and receive a call from an applicant, chat on the phone for a while and trust your instincts. If you don't like the sound of them, say you will need to phone them back with a suggested time and then call to say the place is no longer available. Where possible, give them a mobile number, as landline numbers can be traced to an address.
- When you set up a time for someone to visit, try and make sure that you are not in the house alone; ask another flat mate or friend to stay in with you
- If you do have to carry out a viewing alone, then 'check the viewer in'. You can do this simply by making a call to a friend or relative as soon as they arrive saying - "Mr X has just arrived for the viewing. We should be finished in X time and I'll call you back then." The viewer then knows they have been 'registered' as having arrived and that someone is watching out for you
- You can also arrange a code word with your friend/relative so that if a viewer makes you feel uneasy for any reason, you can make an excuse to call them and say something simple that includes the code word. This will warn your friend that you feel unsafe but the viewer will have no idea you have done this. If your friend/relative hears the code word, they should either make their way round - or send someone - to your property as soon as possible
- Alternatively, if your feel threatened or uneasy during a viewing, make an excuse that you need to get something from your car and get out of the house. You could then go to a neighbour and ask them to return to the house with you until the viewer leaves. By leaving the viewer in the property alone, you may put your valuables at risk but that's better than putting yourself at risk
- Always check who will be coming to the viewing. If they say it will just be one person and more people turn up, do not let them into the property
- If you agree to take someone on, don't let them move in until you have received a positive reference from their previous landlord. You should also ask for a landline number eg. a work number and then check that it is correct and that they are who they say they are
- When conducting the viewing stay alert, be friendly but professional and avoid giving out too much personal information. Try to look confident and in control at all times
- Remember - always trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel quite right, act right away to remove yourself from the situation