Do you remember my struggle on my flat hunting in Munich in 2015 ? At the end, I decided to drop that idea of moving to Germany and left to backpack with a friend of mine in the country. It became the beginning of a long journey.
Well, it appears that might have been the beginning of my project here too: to help the expats to have reliable accommodation’s advertisements, and therefore, less scam.
During my study through this survey, I surprisingly discovered that Munich is not the only town to be affected by those fake advertisements. Why would I be surprise ? This can happen everywhere, to anybody.
Someone described a scammer on the form, providing me the name of Sveta Suprun. I could find the lady only on Facebook. I contacted her and I have to say, it did sound dodgy. My first question was simple: to get in touch with landlord of the latest flat advertised. I’ve got as an answer “I work for the owner, feel free to ask”. I insisted, until I received a “Sorry, not interested”. Then I looked again deeper into the form: the score is very low with an average of 1 to 5.
There is a big difference with what I used to face in Munich though: I got scammed with a place that didn’t exist, before to see it (never pay in advance, lesson learnt!). In this case, in Czech Republic, the place seems to exist. The landlord’s assistant is taking cash money, which is also another dodgy sign. So how to avoid any more swindles ?
Well, you can start taking a look at those signs:
- The “owner” requests you to pay prior to the visit. Never sign nor pay without seeing it, at least ask a friend to look at it for you.
- Someone already has been reporting the flat owner online. Quickly do a Google search with his name and using brackets “”.
- The contract states a bank account outside of the country where you are renting. Then most probably it is a fraud.
- The lease agreement doesn’t show the owner’s data. Request them, double check if they are correct, you can ask for your owner’s passport to compare. It has to be the owner or the estate agency, not an assistant.
- The contract/The owner asks you to pay by cash only. Bank transfer is better as you can keep a proof of your payments.
- The landlord shows you the contract and leaves. He must be physically there to give you the keys at the same time when you sign it.
- The contract states the owner can show up anytime. WRONG. In Czech Republic, it is forbidden to show up without 24h notice.
- You struggle to request changes, then probably the landlord is trying to avoid some kind of legislation. It means also you wouldn’t be safe living there.
In lack of answers from Suprun’s ‘manager’, and still a lot of advertisements on Facebook, this project has to dig out those scams too. I didn’t expect this to be part of the work. I am thankful for the answer that bring me direction I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise.
If you have a flat story on your own, please fill in the form, the survey is still going on !
Photo: Flickr / Alexandre Prévot