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.