There’s no denying that the issue of female safety has been put back in the spotlight recently – and rightly so, as no woman (or person) should suffer in silence when it comes to harassment, assault and general dodgy behaviour towards them.
Even though at SpareRoom we pride ourselves on putting our users safety and security first, with a team of real people checking every ad to catch and stop scams and dodgy advertisers in their tracks, we acknowledge that there is always going to be some level of worry when it comes to flat hunting. Remember, in essence, you are meeting a stranger – so you should take the same precautions as you normally would.
Almost all interactions we see on the site are respectful (or caught by our moderation team), but there are times when someone has overstepped the line and we’ve needed to take action. Unfortunately in the majority of these cases, it’s been a male who has done so.
At SpareRoom, we believe that as an advertiser on our site it starts with you to make potential new flatmates feel safe viewing, and maybe even eventually living in your flatshare. Here are a few things that might scare new tenants – especially females – and some ways you can make them feel more comfortable.
1. Be flexible with viewing times
We get it, of course it’s easier to hold viewings at night time – we all have busy lives and the period after work is usually the most convenient for everyone. But be aware that with darker nights drawing in, people coming to view properties alone may feel vulnerable. If it’s possible to arrange a daytime viewing first, do.
Also, be willing to provide address details before the viewing. Offering to meet them at a different location or pick them up from home to drive them to the property are both things we’ve unfortunately seen before, and will always make you look creepy. If you can’t and won’t provide address details for the room you’re offering, don’t offer it.
2. Be ready to explain yourself
News flash: if you’re a male and you’ve advertised your room with the line “female flatmates preferred” this WILL make you look creepy. If there’s a genuine reason for this (cleanliness, balancing out the genders in a bigger flatshare, or you just get on better with women), explain yourself and your reasons in the advert. If there isn’t a reason, just don’t do it.
3. Don’t be creepy at viewings
If the person viewing your flat wants to bring a friend along or take photos and videos of the place, let them. Try not to be overbearing and ask lots of personal questions – your nosiness into someone’s romantic life could easily be misinterpreted as an advance, and showing dominating body language (standing in front of doorways etc) can make people feel uneasy.
Offering to walk someone to the nearest train station if it’s dark outside (even if intended honourably) could also be misinterpreted as a way to hit on them, or get them alone.
4. Don’t try and bargain
When it comes to negotiating rent, the discussion should never go outside of pounds and pence. Offering reduced rent in exchange for ‘adult arrangements’, ‘alternative methods of payment’ or ‘because they’re so pretty’ is unacceptable, and when we spot this behaviour (which we will) we’ll investigate the issue and remove your account.
5. Don’t contact someone via their SpareRoom ad to ask them out
It might sound pretty obvious, but unfortunately it still happens and it’s never OK. If it does happen, SpareRoom will remove your account. If you want a date, there are different apps for that. Don’t use your position as an advertiser to harass people who are already likely to be feeling quite vulnerable and stressed by their house hunt.
6. Know the consequences
At SpareRoom, we pride ourselves on our tight system for reporting and responding to abuse. We have a procedure for users to report dodgy behaviour, and we’ll investigate every single one we receive without question or judgement.
We also take action based on off-site behaviour too – for example, if someone has sent another user an inappropriate photo or message on WhatsApp and it gets reported to us (which, again, has happened), we will take action on this user. If you want to file a report, you can do so here.
You can read more about our safety tips for room seekers here.