German Rental Property Scams: 9 Common Scams and How To Avoid Them
Getting aware of rental scams is the first step toward its prevention — 6 other ways to avoid rental scams.
The scammer tries to earn your trust by using different methods. Once they establish trust, they ask for personal data or money.
Always visit the rental property and meet the landlord in person.
Use Kautionversicherung, Mietaval, or Mietkautionssparbuch to pay the rental security instead of cash. If that is not possible, pay via bank transfer.
Show the documents to the landlord during your visit. But, never send the documents to the landlord until you decide to rent the property.
A quick google search of the parts of the advertisement can help bust a scam.
Report the suspicious advertisement to the website administrator and local authorities.
Table of Contents
The landlord adds fictional items in the rental contract to charge more rent
Fake rental property advertisements to collect personal data
Don't pay the security deposit or rent until you see the property and sign the lease
Do not send personal documents to the landlord before visiting the rental property
4 things you can do if you found a scam or someone scammed you
9 Signs of a possible rental property scam
1. The landlord lives in another country
It is the most common rental property scam in Germany. The scammer follows the following script.
The scammer posing as a landlord claims to be living in another country. As a result, (s)he cannot show you the rental property face to face.
The scammer follows the standard procedures to gain your trust. For example, requesting documents and signing the contract.
In the end, the scammer asks you to pay the security. (S)he promises to send the keys via post once you have deposited the security.
But, in reality, they take the deposit and disappear.
2. The scammer sends you the keys to the apartment
People are getting smart and scammers even smarter. They even go to the length of sending you the keys before you transfer the security deposit.
Again, an attempt to gain your trust. Once the scammer earns your trust, they can ask you to pay the security deposit or submit your documents.
Hence, always ask yourself, if you were a landlord, would you do something like this.
Will you send the keys to your apartment to someone without any security or meeting them? I hope not.
Thus, someone else going to that length raises suspicion. Especially in a market where there are more tenants than rental houses.
Moreover, no landlord wants to do unnecessary work. But, if they are doing it, don't assume it's out of their good heart. It could also be that they have a hidden agenda.
3. The landlord does not meet you or talk to you on the phone
It is another sign of a potential rental property scam. Many scammers cannot speak good German or English. Hence, they communicate via email or chat.
Thus, stay away from supposed landlords who are shy of meeting or talking to you. If possible, visit the apartment and meet the landlord in person.
It reduces the risk of a scam tremendously but does not eliminates it.
4. The landlord shows you a property that is not theirs
It is very common with student apartments or rooms. Here, the scammer invites you to visit the supposed rental property.
You meet the scammer, show them your documents, and agree to rent the property. The scammer asks you to deposit the security. (S)he promises to give you the keys a day before you move in.
But, once you deposit the security, they disappear. They do not reply to your email or phone call.
So, you decide to visit the property scammer showed you. But, you find out that the property is already rented to someone else or locked.
In the end, the ways to earn your trust may change, but the general idea remains the same. That is to get either your personal information or money.
5. Asking money to visit an apartment
The housing shortage is a big concern in Germany. The impact of this shortage is even worse on international home seekers.
Expats are happy to get an invitation for a house visit. Thus, the scammers take advantage of this fact.
They target foreigners and ask them to pay to view the rental property. In the desperation to find a house, foreigners fall into this scam and pay.
6. The current tenant ask for a bribe to rent the apartment
Many times, the current tenant posts the rental property advertisement. They are searching for a new tenant on behalf of the landlord.
In the process, the current tenant asks for a bribe to rent you the property or forward your profile to the landlord. So it's not exactly a scam but is illegal and unethical.
7. The landlord adds fictional items in the rental contract to charge more rent
In Germany, the law regulates the maximum rent a landlord can charge. It is called Mietpresibremse in German.
But, like any other law, there are some loopholes in Mietpreisbremse. One of them is that the landlord can charge higher rent for a furnished apartment.
So, the landlords take advantage of this fact. They add false information to the rental contract.
For example, they draft a rental agreement for a furnished apartment, but there is no furniture in reality.
It's not exactly a scam but illegal practice. You can take the help of a Mieterverein or a lawyer in this situation.
8. Fake rental property advertisements to collect personal data
Many scammers are creating fake apartment listings to steal personal data. They will ask you to submit documents like passport, salary slips, etc., before your property visit.
The scammers then use the data shared by you for identity theft.
9. The rental property is too good to be true
It's the oldest trick in the book of scammers. Post an advertisement so enticing that it grabs everyone's attention.
As a result, many people apply for a visit. Hence, increasing the odds of scammers pulling a scam.
Ultimately, they ask you for your documents or money or redirect you to referral websites to earn a commission.
6 tips to avoid rental property scams
<draw image of 6 ways to avoid scams>
1. Visit the property and meet the landlord in person
Visiting the property and meeting the landlord in person reduces the chances of getting scammed. But, there might be situations when you cannot meet the landlord in person.
In such a situation, you can try the following.
Send someone on your behalf to visit the property.
Arrange a video call with the landlord and get a virtual property tour.
If that is not possible, book a temporary accommodation on websites like Airbnb, HousingAnywhere, etc. Then, move to the temporary housing and keep looking for a rental property.
2. Don't pay the security deposit or rent until you see the property and sign the lease
You do not have to pay anything before visiting the property and signing the lease. Ideally, you should pay the deposit on the day you move in.
But, it is not always possible, especially when looking for a student apartment or room. In this case, you can use ways other than cash to pay the rental security.
It could be possible that the landlord refuses to accept one of these ways. So, use your wisdom to evaluate the situation.
3. Use ways other than cash to pay the security deposit
Cash is not the only way to pay the rental security. Here are some more ways to do it.
Kautionversicherung: You do not pay the landlord anything. Instead, the insurance company guarantees the rental security <draw image similar to 4>
Mietaval: Mietaval is like Kautionversicherung. In this case, the bank guarantees the rental security. <draw image - you do not have lump sum money but have good income, and banks give you the guarantee>
Mietkautionssparbuch: Again, you do not pay anything to the landlord. Instead, you open a savings account in a bank and pledge it to the landlord. When the rental agreement ends, the saving account comes back to you. <draw a image eg: https://cdn.sparkonto.org/mietkautionssparbuch.png>
Thus, use the ways described above to protect yourself from potential rental scams.
4. Pay the rental security via bank transfer only
The landlord does not accept any other way to pay the rental security. So, you have to pay it in cash.
But, to protect yourself, pay the deposit via bank transfer only. Avoid paying in cash, via Western Union, or other similar services.
Suppose you do not have an account in Germany. Then, you can use your home country's bank account to transfer the money.
5. Do not send personal documents to the landlord before visiting the rental property
Show your documents to the landlord during your apartment visit. You do not have to submit a copy to the landlord for visiting the property.
The landlord needs your document once you decide to apply. I generally submit the documents after apartment reservation confirmation from the landlord.
On top of it, I recommend you redact/censor the information the landlord should not see.
6. Do a quick Google search to bust a scam
Scammers usually use the same ad or similar language to pull a scam. So, when in doubt, search the text or images from the post.
You can search the landlord's name, IBAN, email, or the post heading to look for the warning signs.
Here are some of the red flags you should be aware of:
First, someone already marked the post as a scam on other websites.
Second, the scammer posted the same ad under different names.
Third, the advertisement is too good to be true. For example, the average rent in an area is 500 €, but the post says 300 €.
Images of the property are the same on various websites, but the description is different.
4 things you can do if you found a scam or someone scammed you
<draw image showing 4 points>
Report the suspicious scam to the local authorities.
Inform the website administrators of the potential scam.
Comment on the post to warn other home seekers.
File a complaint in your local police station if someone scammed you.