Tips on avoiding housing scams
19 maart 2015 - If you are looking to rent an apartment in Amsterdam, or in the rest of the Netherlands, here are some safety tips you might want to keep in mind.
Of course there are many legitimate letting agents around, but unfortunately there are also quite a few unpleasant characters who especially target expat tenants. In general it is safer to rent through members of established realtors’ organisations like the MVA or the NVM than through un-attached agencies. If you live in Amsterdam and have any other questions about housing rentals you can contact the Wijksteunpunt Wonen in your area. Our advice is confidential and free of charge.
Here are some tips on avoiding scams in the Dutch rental market:
- Does the offer sound too good to be true? Then it probably is. Cheap rental accommodation on a canal in the city centre is extremely rare. Be extra alert if you are being offered an apparently amazing deal. If you feel uncomfortable, if things don’t seem quite right, pay attention to that feeling and be extra cautious.
- Don’t do business with landlords who only offer an email address, a mobile phone number and/or a facebook page. Ask for more information to establish who you are dealing with, such as an actual business address or residential address. Ask for proof of ID, check it, do an internet search about this person or company. Be aware that ID copies sent via email can be fakes. This often occurs in combination with requests to transfer money via Western Union.
- Check who owns the apartment via the Kadaster property register. If you live in Amsterdam and need assistance with this the Meldpunt Ongewenst Verhuurgedrag can help. If the owner and the prospective landlord are not the same ask for an explanation, and if necessary ask for a written authorisation confirming that the landlord and/or agency are acting on the owner’s behalf.
- Be extra careful about renting an apartment you haven’t seen. If you’re not in the country yet, can you ask someone to inspect the apartment for you? A colleague, friend, classmate, etc.?
- Before you hand over large sums of money, check the keys and make sure they work. If you can’t do this yourself, again: perhaps you can ask friends, colleagues etc. to check the apartment. Be aware that even this is not a guarantee, but it definitely improves your chances.
- If possible, talk to the neighbours. Do they know the apartment? Do they know who lives there? Any extra information can help you assess whether the person offering the apartment can be trusted.
- Apartment ads on websites like facebook, marktplaats.nl, craigslist, or other advertising websites aren’t always reliable. There are many illegal sublets on offer. You could end up paying lots of money but still being evicted or even fined.
- Ask if you can register with the council at the address (“inschrijven”). If the answer is no, that’s a red flag. It might be an illegal sublet, or a tax scam, or who knows what is going on.
- Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. Scammers are often in a hurry. They will push you to quickly sign the lease (because supposedly there are many other interested parties, or because they need to leave the country to go visit their sick relative, or whatever). Demand enough time to properly assess the situation, the apartment and the contract.
- Scammers sometimes ask for various kinds of fees, as well as a deposit. Deposits are legal, but often many other fees such as agency fees, disproportionally high administration fees, contract fees, etc. are not. Recently many expat tenants have successfully had their agency fees refunded. If you live in Amsterdam the Wijksteunpunt Wonen or the Meldpunt Ongewenst Verhuurgedrag can help you reclaim such unjust fees.
- Preferably pay via bank transfer. Demands for other types of payment, such as transfers via companies like Western Union or cash payments (especially payments without receipts), are another red flag. If you have to pay cash, make sure you get a signed receipt. Have witnesses present when you make cash payments. Send confirmation emails to the landlord or the agency. Use your phone to record the conversation during your cash payment. In this conversation try to clearly mention the amount, the reason you are paying (like “this is September’s rent”), name the apartment’s address, and the recipient. In general: build a file. Keep print-screens of the apartment’s advertisement, and keep all emails.
- If you still got scammed, immediately contact the police and press charges.
We hope you will find yourself a nice place to live, good luck!