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Safe Online Housing Hunting: Best Practices to Avoid Scams

Safe Online Housing Hunting: Best Practices to Avoid Scams

The process of hunting for the perfect house online can indeed feel like a daunting task, particularly when you have to sidestep numerous housing scams. In cities like DC, the challenge may feel even more pronounced due to things like DC housing scams on Craigslist. However, this guide will provide you with a roadmap on how to avoid rental scams and offer insightful knowledge on common rental scams. With this knowledge, your online housing search will be much more secure.

Understanding Housing Scams

Housing scams are fraudulent schemes orchestrated by dishonest people aiming to swindle unsuspecting potential renters. In a typical rental scam, a scammer might advertise a property they neither own nor even exists, in an attempt to extract a deposit or rent from the unwary victim. Sometimes, discerning how to tell if a rental is a scam might prove difficult. Red flags could include the landlord requesting an unusually high deposit, refusing to meet in person, or exerting pressure on you to make a swift decision. Always stay cautious and skeptical about deals that seem extraordinarily attractive.

Best Practices To Avoid Scams

Here are some best practices to help you avoid falling victim to rental scams:

  1. Conduct Extensive Research: Utilize online tools to verify the property’s details and ownership. Cross-check the information provided by the landlord with publicly available records. This includes checking local property tax records or using Google Maps to confirm the property’s existence and appearance.
  2. Avoid Upfront Payments: Never remit money to anyone before signing a lease or confirming the property’s legitimacy. Scammers often disappear after receiving these funds. Any requests for wired money or payment through non-traceable methods should be seen as a red flag.
  3. Insist on In-Person Visits: Always insist on viewing the property in person before making any commitments. If a physical visit isn’t possible—perhaps because you’re relocating from a different city or country—enlist the help of a trusted friend or use a verified third-party service.
  4. Review All Documentation Thoroughly: Before signing, carefully review the rental agreement. Look for inconsistencies, unrealistic clauses, or anything that doesn’t align with your discussions. If in doubt, consult a legal expert.
  5. Use Certified Agents or Platforms: Rent through certified real estate agents or reputable platforms. They perform their due diligence, reducing the chances of listing a scam.
  6. Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it probably is. If the landlord seems overly eager, refuses to answer specific questions, or communicates solely via email, take these as potential warning signs.
  7. Report Suspicious Activity: If you suspect you’ve encountered a scam, report it to your local authorities and to the platform where the listing was found.

Be extra cautious of apartment rental scams and room rental scams, as these can often appear to be legitimate at first glance but carry significant risks.

Staying vigilant, informed, and cautious can greatly increase your chances of steering clear of scams. The perfect home is out there—just make sure you approach the hunt safely!

Searching for a Safe Place to Live in DC

When searching for housing, prioritize finding a safe and supportive environment. Community living options can offer a sense of security and companionship. Especially in DC, co-living has gained popularity for its affordability and community feel. There are plenty of reasons to consider community living options, including security, affordability, and a sense of belonging.

Staying safe during your housing hunt is crucial. By understanding the landscape of rental scams, how to recognize them, and what practices to adopt, you’ll be well on your way to finding your ideal home securely. Happy house hunting!
Thompson-Markward Hall (TMH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the academic and professional success of young women. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, TMH offers safe, affordable, and convenient housing for women working, attending school, or interning in our nation’s capital. Included in the room and board rates are utilities, free high-speed Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, and a diverse, welcoming community. Visit our website to learn more about our accommodations or to submit an application today to start enjoying all of the benefits of living at TMH!

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Thompson-Markward Hall’s Impact

Thompson-Markward Hall (TMH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the academic and professional success of young women. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, TMH offers safe, affordable, and convenient housing for women working, attending school, or interning in our nation’s capital. Included in the room and board rates are utilities, free high-speed Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, and a diverse, welcoming community.

In addition to offering a wonderful place to call home in DC, we provide useful information to residents and prospective applicants as a resource to help them become familiar with DC and be successful in all of their endeavors. Whether you’re currently looking for a place to stay in DC, planning for a potential future here, or simply looking to learn more about the DC area, TMH is here to help!

Learn more about our accommodations or to submit an application today to start enjoying all of the benefits of living at TMH! You can also make a donation to support the crucial work we do!

Resident Resources

Room and board is due on the first of every month. TMH does not issue payment notices. A $20.00 late fee is charged everyday beginning at 9:00 pm on the 5th day of the month until the room and board payment is received. If you are unable to make your monthly payment for any reason, please speak to management immediately.

Room and board includes the first day of the month until the morning of the last day of the month or until the morning of the day of check-out, whichever day comes first.

In the event that a resident does not stay the entire month, rent will be prorated within the same month. To view the pro-rated fee schedule and a list of other fees—click here: TMH Pro-Rated Fee Schedule 6-1-2022

Rules

Each resident is asked to abide by the TMH House Rules and Regulations stipulated here: House Rules and ProceduresRule-packet-Emergency-Procedures-Updated-12-2019. Please read this document to become familiar with TMH policies and procedures such as guest policies, meal times, smoking areas, printer and copier use, Internet and telephone use, damage charges, and much more.

Monday-Friday hours / breakfast 7:00am-9:30am dinner 5:45pm – 8:00pm sat hours / breakfast 8:00 – 11:00am sun hours / brunch 8:00 – 11:00am dinner 5:00pm-7:00pm

Weekly Menu

Commuting: Metro stops within walking distance are Union Station, Capitol South, and Eastern Market. Refillable SMARTRIP cards are available for purchase at all metro stops. For more information on public transportation visit WMATA.

Parking: TMH does not offer parking and street parking is limited. Most areas offer 2 hour parking from 7:00am-8:30pm and unlimited overnight parking without a permit. However, if you do not have a Residential Parking Permit and your car is seen in the area repeatedly within a 30-day period you may be ticketed for not obtaining proper tags.

Union Station is the nearest public parking garage. There is generally a wait list for obtaining a parking space. Click here to visit their website to obtain up-to-date information.

Temporary Parking Permits: DC offers Reciprocity Parking Permits in special situations. Click here to see if you qualify. If you meet the requirements, you can obtain a Proof of Residency form from the front office.

Registering Your Vehicle in DC: If you do not meet the requirements for a temporary parking permit, you may choose to register your vehicle in DC. Click here for specific instructions.

Other Transportation Information:

  • Voting: To become a registered voter in the DC area, visit the Board of Elections & Ethics. Please note that you must unregister from your current voting state in order to register as a voter in DC.
  • DC One Card: DC has a new initiative to incorporate multiple cards into one all-inclusive card. The DCOne Card is a library card, Metro card, and can grant access to Public Parks programs. Click here to register or get more information.
  • DC Plastic Bag Policy: Washington DC’s Skip the Bag, Save the River Initiative requires a $0.05 fee per bag from businesses selling food and alcohol. Be sure to take reusable bags with you to the grocery store to avoid the fee.
  • DC Emergency Alerts: The DC Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Response has an alert system to notify residents of severe weather, police activity, road closures, and school and government closings. Notifications can be received via email or text message and can be specified to neighborhoods or work areas. For text alerts sign up here.
  • DC Metropolitan Police Resources: DC Metro PD offers several resources as well as an anonymous tip line for security concerns. You can find the tip line number as well as other important emergency phone numbers here.