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(Don’t) snap it up: how to protect yourself from apartment swindlers

"Everybody lies," said Hugh Laurie's character in the television series House, M.D., and he was right. Lies are not limited to harmless words, they transform and grow into swindles.

Apartment rental swindles have many schemes. The Page has examined the most common and has compiled information on how not to fall for a scam.

Prepayment before inspection

"There are a lot of people interested in this apartment, in order to "hold" the apartment for you, an advance payment is required"— this is the most common method of apartment rental swindle. Before inspection, swindlers can call and say that they had an emergency situation, for example, a car stalled. In order to still get there and show the potential tenant the premises, the swindler will ask you to transfer money to the card. Ostensibly in order to quickly solve their problem and make it on time.

Any request to send money to a stranger’s card when looking for housing is a threat of swindle. A person will not get either money or an apartment. The same applies to realtors—if they ask for advance money, it is better to refuse their services.

Incredibly cheap

An offer about the apartment renting looks like a fairy tale: an apartment with a brand new renovation and an ideal location. The incredibly low price adds ideality. "A good option, let’s snap it up," the potential tenant will think, and will be categorically wrong.

In order to check the price adequacy, you need to monitor the prices for renting apartments in the same house/area. An excessively low price indicates a fake offer.

According to OLX, swindlers became more active during the pandemic, offering premium apartments at a low price. The price was justified by a pandemic. Further, the classic scheme was used: a request to transfer a small amount to a bank card for the prompt inspection of the apartment that was supposedly supposed to be used for paying off the fine for violating the self-isolation regime. After paying, the tenant figured out that such apartments simply did not exist or that the addresses were not real.

Perfect photos

Of course, the landlord tries to take high-quality photos of the apartment. But sometimes swindlers are hiding under too beautiful photos. It is quite simple to verify the authenticity of the photo—you can use the image search service from Google. If the apartment in the photo is supposedly located in Kyiv, and the image search shows results in other cities—the offer was posted by a swindler.

Fake address

Inspecting the apartment is going well, nothing arouses suspicion. The landlord offers to sign a contract. The deal goes well, and everything seems fine until one thing is cleared up. The address in the lease contract is completely different.

If this happened, it will be very difficult to get the truth, since the contract is signed by the tenant. To prevent this, you need to read the contract very carefully.

Another similar scheme is when the tenant enters into a contract, pays the rent and then finds out that the apartment is not being leased, and its real owners haven’t heard about any realtors. In this case, the swindler shows a copy of the owners' documents.

There's a scratch on the closet

Another common scheme is the early termination of the lease due to some kind of scratch on the furniture, torn wallpaper, etc. The negative is not only in the urgent eviction and the search for new housing, but also in the fact that the landlord will not return the deposit.

To prevent this from happening, when entering into a contract, it is necessary to carefully note down the condition of the apartment, furniture, and equipment in it. It is also necessary to note down the conditions under which the deposit may not be returned.

How not to fall for a scam

In order to rent an apartment without any problems, you need to find out as many details as possible about it. We are talking about the exact address, amenities around, new photos of the apartment, documents that confirm the identity of the owner, and housing documents. You can also ask for household bills.

The trading platform OLX advises to check the data:

  • Information about the owner can be checked on the website for verifying the documents of the state register http://rrpdoc.informjust.ua/.
  • Passport can be checked in the verifying database of invalid documents https://nd.dmsu.gov.ua/.
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