Is this a scam?
September 7, 2015 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Is this apartment in Copenhagen too good to be true? (I know, if you have to ask, the answer is probably yes... but bear with me, details inside.)

I just saw an apartment advertised on facebook, and it seems like one I'd be happy to take. It's for a three month takeover while he is out of the country; I should note that I met the person whose apartment it is in person today, not just that we have been in contact over email.

However, I've been hearing that there are a lot of scams right now, and I want to try and do my due diligence.

The main reasons that it seems fine:

a) The name on the apartment/mailbox/buzzer matches his name, which matches the business card he gave me, and the person I met is definitely the same person who has the facebook account. In fact, he as a very consistent online persona (facebook, twitter, linkedin), all of which agree on who he is. So if he's trying to scam me, he isn't hiding very well.

b) His tour of the place seemed pretty clear that it was his place; he explained how the building's laundry worked; he has a dietary restriction and asked me to not use his dishes to prepare anything with pork (which I'm fine with). He insisted that it be non-smoking, and all of these seem like the sorts of restrictions that you would put in if it were your apartment, and not a scam, where you would try to make the apartment seem as enticing as possible.

Reasons that I'm slightly worried:

a) It seems like really short notice (he's leaving on Thursday, but just posted the apartment today?)

b) I don't like the idea of paying the full rent in advance, which is somewhat substantial. He said that he would take a bank transfer, but it may be easier to pay in cash due to my own circumstances, which I know is never a good idea.

On the balance, this doesn't look like a scam to me, and I think I'm just being paranoid. But I'd like some feedback on this from anyone in the area.
posted by vernondalhart to Travel & Transportation around Copenhagen, Denmark (12 answers total)
I have never been to Copenhagen. Since you're physically already in the area, is there a building manager you could ask about the legitimacy of the guy and the deal? If you decide to go ahead with it, get an agreement in writing, signed.
posted by jon1270 at 10:47 AM on September 7, 2015

Yes - do you have a written agreement/contract?

The short notice can be easily explained – I had precisely 24 hours notice before being transferred from Nice to Paris last year, *shrug* some companies work like that, in my case it was a major contract that needed filled ASAP and I was the only one who could do the job.

Paying one month's rent in advance as a deposit is standard practice in many Western European countries, but the full three months in advance is a little bit off, though not hugely so. It used to be that deposits could be up to three months' rent in France, for instance; laws were changed recently.

You DEFINITELY want to do a bank transfer. The extra % it costs you will be well worth it in peace of mind: in and of itself, it's a proof often used here.

Have you looked up Danish rental regulations, btw? They would also specify whether a contract would be required in this sort of case. (It very probably is required.)
posted by MarionnetteFilleDeChaussette at 10:52 AM on September 7, 2015

Best answer: Three months or more deposit is fairly common in Copenhagen so playing the whole amount upfront isn't that surprising. Maybe he'd let you pay in two lump sums, half now and half at six weeks?

The short notice also isn't surprising exactly, the market so so strong that he knows the place will rent no problem so why worry about it too far in advance? Personally I'd just ask him about that part if possible, see if he has a reasonable explanation (maybe someone else was going to take it and it fell through?).

Paying by bank transfer and getting a written contract are good ideas, definitely do those at the minimum. Talking to someone in the building would also help give you peace of mind. But it depends how much time and effort you want to spend and how much he will spend before moving on to the next tenant.
posted by shelleycat at 11:11 AM on September 7, 2015

Response by poster: I should note (I don't want to reveal his personal information) that he works for a large and well-known international organization, so I agree, the travel is pretty easily explainable.
posted by vernondalhart at 11:18 AM on September 7, 2015

Best answer: I think paying the whole rent in advance makes sense here because he will be out of the country. If you failed to pay him rent while he was gone, he'd have a lot of difficulty dealing with the situation.
posted by dcjd at 11:34 AM on September 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Three months rent in advance is normal. But get a contract! I even did that when I shared with my best friend. You can get a standard form for it, but I don't remember where.
posted by mumimor at 12:26 PM on September 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This doesn't flag up as a scam for me. The typical apartment scam (and most scams other than the highest-level sort generally) involve the conman vanishing after bilking you. That's why they use lifted pictures of apartments they don't own and don't actually have any connection with --- because even after you learn that you're not going to get to occupy that apartment, you don't have anyone to actually put legal or other pressure on, since nobody affiliated with that apartment is in on the scam. Here, you know this person has physical access to the apartment in question, which narrows them down to a pretty small list of people. They have a cohesive identity which checks out. It's likely, assuming this is not a tenement that you're renting, that the owner/property manager has a pretty good line on occupants and that they're unlikely to just vanish. The chances are pretty good that they are in fact the occupant of that apartment. Trying to scam someone in that situation would be phenomenally risky, and most scamsters are pretty risk-averse. Which is not to say this can't be a scam, but if it is, it's either so incompetent that you can probably hunt down and prosecute your scammers, or so complicated and subtle that it's hard to imagine that people this smart couldn't make more money with something easier.

That said, I would not pay in cash. Get yourself some sort of financial instrument with a paper trail, and get a contract, for your own peace of mind. It's extremely unlikely that this would all lead up to you not being permitted to occupy an apartment you've paid for, but all the same, having good solid documentation of having paid for it is good protection.
posted by jackbishop at 12:27 PM on September 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, he was the one who suggested the contract that we're supposed to sign on Wednesday, so I think that I can lay this to rest that it is not a scam.

Thanks for all the help!
posted by vernondalhart at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hi, I live in DK. You should definitely do a bank transfer, and get a contract. The official version of the danish rental agreement is v.9 which you can get here as a pdf. Its the danish version which is valid under danish rental law. Here is an english translation of version 8 (can't find a translated v.9, sorry) so you can get an idea of the contents.

according to this page (google translate to english), its version 9 which is the most current as of July 1st, 2015 - so check to see which version he is asking you to sign.

if you do get burned, then we have a Renters Protection Association (Lejerners LO) which, if you become a member, will give legal assistance with rental problems. Renters rights are quite strong and very protected in DK.

hope it all goes well.
posted by alchemist at 1:14 PM on September 7, 2015

Best answer: Doesn't sound like a scam to me. Meeting in person is not an ironclad way to determine it's not a scam, of course -- I read a newspaper article about a scammer who copied someone else's keys, showed someone else's apartment to people and then "rented" the apartment and this person had somehow managed to do it a few times before getting caught. But all the restrictions are not something a scammer would do because it could scare you away, and if you can find a record of this guy online and each profile looks real (has many friends/connections) and not recent (has existed for a long time), I'd say you're good. Sometimes people have weird extenuating circumstances. I've rented under similar setups and was very cautious and even slightly nervous, but I trusted my gut + all the evidence, and it was fine.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:50 PM on September 7, 2015

Best answer: Just chiming in to say that I once rented my apartment out for two months with a week's notice, and asked for all the money upfront because I would be out of town and wouldn't be able to do anything if they didn't pay for the second month. The reason it was last-minute was that my travel was last-minute. So I don't think either of those things are red flags on their own.
posted by lunasol at 3:51 PM on September 7, 2015

Response by poster: For what it's worth, I moved in yesterday. All a success! Paid in cash, but got a receipt and signed a contract, so it should be ok.

Thanks for all the help!
posted by vernondalhart at 12:33 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

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