One step ahead of fraudsters
What students should watch out for when looking for accommodation
Demand for accommodation is steadily on the rise, which seems to be leading to a corresponding rise in the number of untrustworthy advertisements for accommodation. Apartments for rent at a price which seems almost too good to be true, odd requests made of potential new tenants – students should be aware of warning signals such as these and take a closer look at their potential future landlord. This article gives you some tips on what you should watch out for and whom to contact if you have any questions.
“We have unfortunately noticed a rise in the number of fraudulent accommodation advertisements. I do believe this is linked to the strained situation on the housing market, those looking for accommodation are being taken advantage of,” explains Agnes Koch-Weiß from FAU’s Accommodation Center.
Fraudsters advertise apartments that are not actually available, or place untrustworthy advertisements for a genuine apartment but on dubious terms. Before you start looking to rent a private apartment, it is worth applying for a place in student accommodation. You can apply via the online portal of Student Services Nürnberg-Erlangen. Student Services assess the needs of the various applicants and inform those who are successful in applying for a place.
Questions to consider if you suspect a rental scam
If that is not an option for you, or there are no places available, you should take the following into account:
- Is enough information given on the accommodation and the relevant points of contact?
- Are there certain house rules you have to comply with? Do they seem normal, or rather unusual?
- Can the person renting the apartment speak good German? Untrustworthy landlords are often based abroad. International students can ask a native German speaker to help.
- Does the e-mail address seem trustworthy? Long combinations of letters or numbers that don’t make any sense may indicate a fake domain.
- Does the contact person refuse to speak to you on the phone or view the apartment with you in person?
- Is the rent realistic? Compare it to average rents in the region.
- Are you expected to make payments in advance (such as a deposit or an advance rental payment)? These are not usually required before signing the contract.
Suspicious advertisements for accommodation
If you are unsure about an advertisement for accommodation, it can also be worthwhile checking pictures of the building (for instance using the Google image search), as well as the address and name of the person renting out the property. It is often the case the existing advertisements are uploaded again or advertisements are published for apartments that don’t actually exist. If you are unsure about anything, international students are welcome to contact the International Office and the Welcome Center.
Apartment exists, but you still feel unsure
If there is nothing to suggest that the advertisement is a fake, that does not necessarily mean that everything is above board. It is worth trusting your own gut feeling. You should take a closer look at landlords who are explicitly looking for female tenants or who impose dubious house rules and report them if necessary.
Various points of contact are available to help you find accommodation
International students and researchers can contact the following addresses:
- FAU Welcome Center
- FAU International Office
- Free legal advice from Student Services Erlangen-Nürnberg (advice available in English)
- Free legal advice from Mietverein (rental association) in the Kulturzentrum E-Werk (advice exclusively in German)
If there are specific factors indicating a crime (including being threatened by the landlord), contact the police directly and file criminal charges.