How to Not Get Scammed When Looking for Accommodation in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is suffering from a devastating housing crisis. Prices for buyers are at an all-time high. There is a shortage of rental properties, and the waiting list for social housing is getting longer. Currently, 17.4 million people live in the Netherlands and only 7.9 million homes. Last year the population grew by 68,359 immigrants, according to Statistica. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of this desperate situation. Expats looking to rent apartments or single rooms are targeted the most. Identifying red flags during the rental process will help you avoid accommodation scams in the Netherlands.
Who Gets Scammed?
Being an expat makes you particularly vulnerable to fraud, especially if you need to secure accommodations for yourself before you visit the country. Students have been especially burdened this year by the housing crisis. At the University of Groningen alone, 550 students identify as homeless, according to People’s Dispatch. People working in the Netherlands are not safe from accommodation scams either. Scammers prefer to exploit people with less knowledge of the country and potentially no support system. This means expats of all kinds, from migrant workers to corporate workers, are at risk. All renters must be vigilant in their search for a new home.
How to Identify Accommodation Scams in the Netherlands
When you manage to find an affordable apartment, it’s natural to want to sign a contract as soon as possible. But even during a housing crisis, it’s crucial to do your due diligence. If your instincts tell you something is awry, it’s always worth investigating. These tips will help you to recognize a shady situation.
Keep an Eye on the Market
Compare the price of the accommodation to others on the market. Keep in mind that anything dramatically below the standard neighborhood price is cause for alarm. In Amsterdam, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment will vary between €1,200 to €1,600 depending on location. Countrywide, that range drops between €800 and €1,100.
Do Your Homework
Check out the listing for free offers that sound out of the ordinary. Extra perks can be a telltale sign of a con. An example would be a listing that promises to paint the walls any color of your choice for free. Pay attention to the text on the advertisement. Remember that if the landlord is professional, they will be presenting the property in its best light. This makes typos and awkward grammar suspicious. You should also verify the content of the listing. Use Google to calculate the distance between the address and any landmarks mentioned.
Get to Know the Landlord
The housing market has many imposters because nearly every rental process begins online. This makes verifying your landlord’s identity difficult but not impossible. If they communicate with you from a non-Dutch number, you may be dealing with a fraudster. The same goes if a landlord conjures up an excuse as to why they are not available for a walkthrough, but their friend will show you around. Either way, do a deep dive to see if they have profiles on social media platforms. Do not send them a copy of your passport, but you can ask them for a copy of theirs. To prove ownership of the apartment, ask to see a utility bill in their name.
Scope Out the Property
If you correspond with the landlord virtually, do some digging on the property. Watch out for watermarked photos. You can do a reverse image search to see if the advertisement pictures are being used elsewhere on the internet. Use Google Street View to compare the facade to the landlord’s photos. Always verify that both the property and the landlord are what they appear with a video call walkthrough. Of course, if you are in the Netherlands already, request to meet the property manager at the apartment.
If the space is real, there should be no reason why the landlord cannot supply you with references. Ask for the contact details of two or three past tenants. Talk with them over the phone if possible. Inquire about what they paid for utilities and how much of the security deposit they got back. It’s wise to ask when they rented the property and compare answers for overlap. This is also a good time to ask personal questions about the landlord and compile a character reference.
Watch Out for Attitude
Do not tolerate an evasive attitude or agitation under any circumstance. Scammers are acutely aware of the housing crisis, and they will use it to their advantage. So, if you feel you are being pressured to give out money or personal information, you probably are. No matter how demanding they become, you can cut off contact at any time. Especially if they begin to call you outside of business hours, remind yourself that even if this is a real property, people are usually on their best behavior during first impressions. If the landlord disrespects you this early in the process, you won’t want to deal with them on a regular basis.
Ask About Registration
Make sure you will be able to register at the property. When you move to the Netherlands, the city hall needs to register you at an address. Often when a single room is up for rent, you cannot register at the apartment. Being upfront about this from the beginning can save you a lot of time in the end. If this is possible, ask that they send you a contract. Compare it to past rental agreements you have signed to double-check nothing sounds predatory.
Consider Using an Agency
If you have the means, approach a vetted rental agency in the Netherlands to help you find a home. Agencies with fancy websites can still be a scam, so search for reviews in online forums. Agencies have plenty of benefits, especially if you have never been to this country before. They can advise you on neighborhoods and schools. If you are pressed for time, agents do the networking and narrowing down for you. They also ensure that you will be legally protected and never left to sign a questionable contract.
Never Send Personal Information or Money Prematurely
Until you have taken all the necessary precautions, do not send money or personal information to the landlord. This includes your BSN number and passport photo because identity theft and real estate scams go hand in hand. Keep in mind that an experienced landlord would never ask for money without first obtaining your background details. So, if they ask for a deposit immediately, you can guarantee they are a scammer. When it is the appropriate time to pay them, use a legitimate traceable source that makes you feel comfortable. Never exchange money through a wire transfer or cashier’s check.
People deserve protection against accommodation scams in the Netherlands now more than ever. The items on this list are some of the most useful tools at your disposal to engage in a legitimate rental process. Combine our tips with your common sense and intuition for an iron-clad action plan against scammers during the housing crisis.