A new type of scam came up recently in Budapest (probably this is practised all over the world) which is affecting all people looking for an apartment to rent. Imagine you find a nice apartment in Budapest on one of the major real estate websites and agree on an appointment with the supposed owner. The apartment looks nice, the rental is fair (attention here often very cheap prices are offered) and everything seems to be perfect. The supposed owner takes out a document which appears to be a rental contract which you will sign and so does your counterpart. It is stamped and all looks legit. You are now supposed to pay the deposit which usually is equivalent to 2 months rental fee. So you pay as you signed the contract, saw the apartment and are happy to move in. But once you want to move in the apartment the supposed owner is not reachable anymore, you don’t have a key and you have no clue how to get into “your” rented apartment. The supposed owner is gone and so is your deposit of maybe something like 600-800€ (2 monthly rental fees)
So what has happened? What is the Scam here? How does it work?
What happened is the following: The scammer has rented an apartment via Airbnb which is fully equipped, very nice and in a nice central area for a few days. He advertises the apartment for a few days or a week and collects possible tentants and shows them the apartment. With each and every one of them he plays the same game. Signing of a rental contract and collecting the deposit upfront. Once all this is done his Airbnb rental is over and he does the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to bring up some bad thoughts but lets say the scammer collects 500€ from each possible tentant and does that with 5 in each apartment and that week by week. You don’t need to be a mathamathician to know that at the end of the month he has collected 10.000€ from various people and left back some very angry Airbnb apartment owners as well.
How can I protect myself against this scam?
Firs of all if you do not know the city well and maybe just came here as a student or expat I strongly suggest to get a short term rental e.g. an Airbnb apartment to explore the real estate market, the districts of Budapest and so on. Once you found an appealing apartment ask the renter to show you a proof that this is his property and he is obliged to rent it out. Also request the keys once you have paid the deposit! If he does not want to show you anything you should get curious and maybe contact the local administration office.
Don’t let this scam pull you down and keep on searching. You will find the right place for you!
Any questions? Any experiences you have made yourself? Drop me a mail or leave a comment!