New York: Vaction Rental 1-bedroom in the East Village (NY-11155 Photo New York: Vaction Rental 1-bedroom in the East Village (NY-11155 Photo

So, you’ve read all your travel guides on how to survive on $40 a day, packed your entire vanity into 3oz bottles and a quart sized Ziploc bag, found an apartment rental on the Internet and even managed to survive the cross-Atlantic flight existing solely on the one complimentary bag of airline peanuts. Magnifique! However, when you arrive at the location of that très chic, too-good-to-be-true vacation rental you found on the Internet, you find out the address you were given to your dream apartment is actually a Starbucks cafe. Mon ami, you have found a rental scam!

It pains us to see our fellow globetrotting travelers end up in this predicament. So, as you ponder how this could possibly have happened to a très savvy travel aficionado like yourself, let us pass along some advice on how to spot various apartment rental scams so you don’t end up sleepless in Seattle (New York, London, Paris, or anywhere else in the world).

Obviously there is some hesitation involved in renting an apartment in a distant place. However, apartment rental scams happen everyday to people right in their own cities as well. As avid travelers, we all know that the thrill of travel is the quest for adventure; paired with adventure is both risk and reward. Just make it a calculated risk and do your research before you rent that furnished apartment or roommate share apartment, otherwise you might have booked yourself a one-way ticket to trouble.

New York Habitat thinks that a great way to help clients determine which apartment is right for them is to let them see what previous clients have said about our apartments. You can take a look at reviews that previous clients have sent us for each apartment in New York, London, Paris and the South of France directly on our website. Fantastique! We encourage you to ask for apartment suggestions from our knowledgeable agents as well. They have visited many of these apartments themselves and know many of the owners personally.

Before the Rental:

1. Deal with a reputable real estate company or licensed real estate broker: They should have credentials, a record of accomplishment, and a reputation to uphold.

2. Go online and research the company you are dealing with: If you cannot find the company, chances are it might not exist. Do they have a website? Do a reverse look up of their phone number or address and make sure it matches the company name you were given and the information on their website.

3. See if the company you are dealing with holds local or international affiliations or accreditations: Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau (which documents complaints for US companies) or REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York)? In France many realtors are members of associations such as Conseil Immobilier Agréé (SNPI). In England, you can check if a company is registered with the government by going to Companies House Website and search the company name. In addition, many travel agents are registered with ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) or IATAN (International Airlines Travel Agent Network).

4. Call them up and speak to a live person: See if your agent/broker is knowledgeable. Test the waters, ask questions; legitimate agents or brokers should know their inventory well and be able to provide answers to any questions you have.

5. If you are dealing with a real estate agent or broker, ask where they are licensed: In New York, for example, you can look up licensed agents and brokers by name through the New York Dept. of State website.

Paris Accommodation: Studio in Montmartre (PA-3596) photo Paris Accommodation: Studio in Montmartre (PA-3596) photo

6. Last but not least, see what people are saying about the company online in forums and travel review sites. These are your fellow travelers, they are very vocal about what they think when it comes to travel and accommodations, and they are quick to warn others about the troubles they have encountered along their way. What can we say? Travelers are compassionate people and we look out for each other. If you see a pattern of bad reviews or complaints, you should heed the warning.

Hopefully these tips will help you spot and avoid being the victim of a rental scam. Check back next week for advice on a few red flags of a rental scam to look out for and steps to take if you find out you’ve become the victim of a rental scam.

Do you have a rental scam story you want to share and warn others about? Let us know in the comments section below.

Related apartment rental posts from New York Habitat:
  1. How to Spot an Apartment Rental Scam
  2. More Tips on Avoiding Apartment Rental Scams
  3. Apartment Rental Tips: Hear From the Pro’s
  4. Saint Tropez, a cultural and festival spot on the French Riviera
  5. The New York Mets battle for a spot in the World Series


11 Responses to “How to Spot a Rental Scam from 4,000 miles away”

  1. Julie Says:

    My parents and my sister went to New York City for 1 week about 10 days ago and they got scammed. Thanks God they had a guide with them and they saw New York Habitat address and they had everything figured it out with one of their NY Short term Rental agent.

  2. Melissa Says:

    I know that I came very close to being scammed last year when I was searching for an apartment. I didn’t quite realize it until they were almost forcing me to pay for the apartment, even before viewing it. I did the Internet search to see if the company was real, but I was not able to find any information on them at all. I cut off all communication after that!

  3. Todd Says:

    This is very much appreciated. I have heard about so many people getting scammed or almost getting scammed lately for apartments in New York, so this information is very useful to anybody.

  4. Belinda Says:

    Wow this is a scary story to read. I hope this will never happen to me. Scams can really happen anywhere in the world but in New York at least you can find a solution easily with the various types of lodging available.

  5. Noelle Says:

    I’ve seen people get scammed before its really a shame but sometimes a company like NY Habitat can help them find a new place to stay at a discounted rate!

  6. Linda - NY Habitat Legal Department Says:

    Thank you for the link to the rental scam quiz. It’s a useful way for potential renters to compare some of the tips we mentioned with their circumstances and see what the probability is that they are dealing with a rental scam.

  7. John Beck Tax Foreclosure Says:

    Hey there! Great post! I was finding such material for a long time. Your post led me to gain some more attention regarding foreclosure, as I am in this business and looking around for potential properties.

  8. Dalisia Says:

    I’ve gota rental scam story myself. I’m 20 yrs old and I had needed a room, the living situation I had in was not permanant. After a long search, one guy told me he was going to help me and that I’d soon be in my lovely newly built room. Instead I ended up paying for the supplies he used to build a wall down the middle of the living room in his apartment. He avoided my phone calls when I attempted to get my refund for the amount I did pay. He was nasty and rude over the phone when he finally did pick up. I hate that he got away with my money and efforts and I felt I was being used because of my age. I want justice and have no idea how to attain it…Advise anyone??

  9. Linda- New York Habitat Legal Department Says:


    Sorry to hear of your experience. We will reply with some advice as soon as we can.

    Legal Department

  10. Linda R. - New York Habitat Legal Department Says:


    Although you didn’t mention the details of where you found this landlord/roommate or what questions you asked this person, the “newly built room” comment would have sparked more questions from me. Why would a room need to be “built”? The best thing to do is ask as many detailed questions as possible to avoid making assumptions, especially if you haven’t physically seen the accommodation yourself beforehand or met with this potential landlord/roommate. Many times what you assume would be standard in an apartment or room is not the same as someone else’s idea. Its best to ask all the questions you have so that you are both on the same page and there are no surprises later on.

    If you feel you’ve been ripped off, and assuming you have this landlord/roommate’s name and address, filing in small claims court is always an option for disputes over smaller money amounts where you can’t resolve the conflict between yourselves.


  11. Jane Cudworth Says:

    Wanted to post a warning about renting apartments from the site: We recently stayed there and the service was appalling. There was no-one to meet us at the apartment or answer our calls for the first 3 hours in NYC, there was no laundry (then when it arrived 2 days late we had to put on bed sheets ourselves), the owner was extremely rude and never answered his phone and now we are home they are refusing to return our deposit!!

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