How to avoid being scammed when searching for an apartment

Most people have either already tried it or will do so within the near future: moving into their own, rented apartment. Denmark is a small country, where especially young people are looking towards cities such as Aarhus, Aalborg and Copenhagen, when looking to move out. This also means that the attractive apartments for rent are in very high demand - especially if you are looking for an apartment in one of the aforementioned or other big cities in Denmark. Therefore, it can be tempting to pay the deposit or prepaid rent quickly whenever an attractive apartment is available on the market. However, one should be careful of doing so, as you can easily be scammed when looking for an apartment. In a survey conducted in 2016, almost 10% of the students in Denmark had been scammed. Therefore, we have created this guide to help you avoid becoming a part of percentage.

Contents

What kind of landlords exist?

When speaking about rented apartments, two parts are involved: a renter and a tenant. When you are looking for an apartment, you act as the tenant, while the other, owning the apartment, acts as the landlord.

A landlord can both be a private person who subleases an apartment they own, which is what is referred to as a private landlord. However, there are also professional landlords. These can be companies working with property management such as Heimstaden or DEAS, it can be housing associations such as Frederiksberg Forenede Boligselskaber, but it can also be real estate companies such as EDC, Nybolig or similar. These companies often own a lot of apartments, which are then being rented to various different tenants.

Even though you may think that private landlords have more freedom, it is important to remember that private landlords commit to the same rules as professional landlords do. In other words, this means that private landlords should also oblige to the rental law, and thus cannot do as they want in regards to unfair rent, made up rules or such.

How to avoid fake landlords

As mentioned in the beginning of this guide, many people are being scammed when they are looking for an apartment for rent - especially in the big cities. Especially during the summer, when people are admitted to university and, therefore, either are looking to move out or even move to a completely new city. Each year, multiple students lose thousands of danish kroner, as it is a widespread issue and something one should pay a lot of attention to.

One of the biggest traps that you may be likely to fall into, when looking for an apartment, are fake landlords. This is a typical scam where an offer, which seems too good to be true, in fact is too good to be true. Even though most of these scams are easy to spot, some of them are skilled in scamming people, and therefore it is hard to detect that it is a fake landlord.

A fake landlord will most often ask you to transfer money before you have a contract or anything similar. This can for instance be money disguised as a “reservation” in change for saving the apartment for you. However, it can also be deposits or prepaid rents, which will often be a lot of money. Therefore, you should avoid transferring any money before you have signed the lease or received the keys. Furthermore, you should never pay your landlord with cash or online payment services, as you will not be able to get the money back. If you instead make a bank transfer, the bank will be able to help you get your money back. However, you should also avoid transferring the money to foregin bank accounts, as this also often indicates that the landlord is not real.

Another sign of danger is if the landlord is writing in a very bad language with a lot of mistakes. If you receive a text without any number and only a name, you should also be aware that this is a sign of danger, as such texts are sent via websites trying to scam people. When you receive the lease, we recommend that you have met the landlord and seen the apartments in real life, and that the landlord has signed the lease, before you do so yourself. By doing so, you minimize the risk that the landlord is fake, and that you are being scammed.

Which type of scam should you be aware of?

When you are looking for an apartment to rent, it is important to remember that you can be scammed in various different ways, some more obvious than others. Scam comes in many different forms, and it is not necessarily only when the landlord is not real, making it even harder to avoid getting scammed. It is especially new students, looking to move into their first apartment, who are exposed to being scammed when looking for an apartment.

Luckily, often it is easy to spot when an advert is fake. It will most likely be in Facebook groups where the post does not contain any good pictures of the apartment, the details are vaguely described, and the rent is suspiciously cheap. In such cases, the offer will most likely be too good to be true. Likewise, the advert will most often be posted by profiles that have just been created or under a fake name. The chances are that this apartment either does not exist, or that the persons behind the ad do not own the apartment themselves. If you contact the “landlord” anyway, you are most likely asked to transfer money, securing the rights to see the apartment, or that the landlord will reserve the apartment for you. When you have done so, the person will disappear, and you will never see your money again.

However, you should also be aware that even though the advert has a lot of pictures, details and a real profile, the landlord can still be fake. Once again, it is a major sign of danger, if you are asked to transfer any form of deposit before you have seen the apartment or received the lease.

Scam regarding deposits, where people either transfer the full amount, or, as in the aforementioned example, a smaller amount, is the type of scam that occurs most often, because it is an easy way for the scammers to get money quickly. If you are in any doubt whether or not the landlord is real, you can always look up the apartment on ois.dk and see who owns it. OIS is the public information server with information about the properties in Denmark, and you can use the database to look up who owns the apartment.

The demand for apartments in the cities with universities is very high, and there are also ways you can be scammed, even though you end up with an apartment. It can be hard to figure out what is a fair rent to pay, and, therefore, some tenants end up paying an unrealistic amount of rent for a very small room. In such scenarios, the chances are that you as a tenant pay for most of the expenses of the apartment. Furthermore, you should be aware if you are allowed to register your CPR at the apartment or not. If you are not allowed, the landlord is breaking the law, and are most likely taking advantage of you as a tenant.

Lastly, there are various different examples of landlords demanding an extremely high amount of money for damages, meaning you end up getting nothing of your deposit back. Most often, tenants pay a deposit corresponding to three months worth of rent, and thus you can end up paying a lot of money in deposit, which you will never get back, if the landlord is scamming you. Furthermore, you can end up paying for damages that were already there, when you moved in. Therefore, it is extremely important that you document everything, when you move in. Documentation and the importance of this will also be explained in a later paragraph, so you know what to do when you have found the perfect apartment to rent.

How to avoid getting scammed

See the apartment in real life

When you are looking to lease an apartment it is nice to know what you are moving into. Not only that, it is also super important that you see the apartment in real life before you move in, making sure that the apartment actually exists, as one of the most common types of scams is offering an apartment for rent that does not exist. Therefore, it is also a big sign of danger if the landlord does not let you view the apartment before signing the lease or transferring the money. Besides risking that the apartment does not exist, you can also risk that the landlord do not even own the apartment themself. Therefore, you should always look up the apartment at ois.dk, so you can see who owns the apartment.

Another important reason why you should always see the apartment before paying or signing the lease is that you do not risk renting an apartment that is damaged, dirty or in lack of being refurbished. If the apartment is newly built and owned by big housing associations or companies working with property management, such as Heimstaden, you can be more comfortable by moving into the apartment, without having seen it beforehand. In these situations, you will often get the opportunity to see another apartment similar to the one you want to rent, such that you have an idea of what you are renting.

Do not be pressured

When you are viewing an apartment with the landlord, it is important that you do not let yourself be pressured to, for example, signing the lease on the spot. Use your common sense and consider why the landlord wants you to sign the lease so fast. You should never be pressured into signing a lease, og if the landlord tries to, or if the terms regarding the apartment seem a bit too good to be true, this risk of you being scammed is very high.

Like you should not be pressured to sign anything, you must also avoid being talked into paying for anything the landlord convinces you he or she is reserving for you. It is an easy way for scammers to trick you out of money, as they get you while you are very desperate. In such scenarios, when you have transferred the money, you will most likely never hear from the scammer again. Therefore, even though it may be tempting to reserve an apartment, you should only do so if you are certain that the landlord is not scamming you.

Is the rent realistic?

It is no secret that apartments in the big cities in Denmark - and especially the cities where most people want to study - are in extremely high demand. Each year, more than 65.000 people are admitted into university, and thus for many this means that they are moving out form their parents and into their own apartment. The high demand also means that people on the hunt for an apartment become desperate come study start, as people want to be settled before the studies start. However, this is not a favorable position to be in, as you can quickly jump the gun and accept the first thing you are offered, without thinking about it.

Therefore, when you are looking for an apartment, you should know what a fair rent is, and what you are capable of paying. Contrary, you should also be aware if the rent is suspiciously low. If this is the case, it is probably too good to be true, and you should reconsider if it is actually an apartment you can rent, or if you are being scammed.

If you find out that you have been paying too much rent, you can file a case with Huslejenævnet, and if you win the case, you can be compensated and paid back. You can either choose to run the case yourself, or you can get help from professional companies, which will then take a percentage of what you are being compensated. However, you should be aware that with apartments built or renovated after 1991, there are less rules for landlords about the rent, and as such they are more free to charge what they wish. Please see: https://www.lejeloven.dk/udlejer/husleje

File a list of defects

When you have finally found the apartment you wish to move into, you have received the keys and signed the lease, you are more than ready to move into the apartment. However, even though moving in is the only thing you want, it is extremely important that you fill out the list of defects, before you move your furniture and other stuff into the apartment. This list is important, as it ensures you do not end up paying for damages or defects that were there when you moved in. In this list, you should take note of all the defects and damages that exist, when you move in. It is important that you are very thorough, as you will otherwise end up paying for the damages, which will be very costly. Therefore, you should take your time and ensure that you go through everything in the apartment.

When you move into the apartment, you have 14 dages to fill out the list and send it to the landlord. In order for you to document that the damages and defects were there when you moved in, it is important that you take photos and videos of everything. By doing so, the landlord cannot charge you for the damages and repairment, and thus more of your deposit will be returned to you. Furthermore, if you notice the damages and defects early on, you may be able to have it fixed.

General documentation

In continuation of the paragraph above the list of defects, it is generally a good idea to make sure that you document everything throughout the process. For example, you should never pay your landlord with cash - neither when you are moving in or paying the monthly rent. You should not do this, as you are not able to document this transaction, and, thus, you are never able to prove that you have in fact paid what you should.

Just as you should have documentation for your payments, you should also always get agreement in writing, ensuring that you both agree to what the deal includes. Even though there are no rules that the lease should be written, you should always make sure you have one. It is a very bad sign, if your landlord does not want to give you a written agreement, and in such scenarios you should consider if the landlord is trying to scam you.

When you wish to terminate the lease, and you are looking to move out, you should also communicate this to the landlord via text. It is also important that you receive a confirmation, as you should be able to prove that the landlord received your termination.

If you have made an agreement with the landlord orally, it is always a good idea to write an e-mail or text, where you write about the agreement. This way, you make sure that you also have the agreement in text. Furthermore, it ensures that the landlord cannot scam you, but also that you both agree on what you have agreed.

Use your common sense

Even though the majority of the landlords are people renting their apartment out, it is important to stay cool and not take the first thing that is offered to you. Among the many landlords, sadly some are trying to scam you for your money, so you should be on the lookout and be careful - otherwise it can be very costly for you. To avoid being scammed when searching for an apartment, it is good to remember the saying: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Apartments in Denmark are in very high demand, so make sure you know who the landlord is, before you transfer any money. Make sure to meet with the landlord - or a representative - and see the apartment in real life, before you transfer any money to a potential landlord. Be aware of danger signals such as landlords not letting you see the apartment before, or if they ask you to transfer the money to a foreign account. If you avoid these types, you are well on your way in the search for an apartment, and the likelihood of avoiding being scammed is even bigger.

Our tips when looking for an apartment

Expand your search

Even though most people prefer to live close to the city, there are many more options to choose from when searching outside of the city. Take a look at the bus- and train connections, and figure out if you are able to find something outside the city - even if it is just for a brief period. By doing so, you can search for an apartment closer to the city without any rush, and you are not forced to accept the first offer you get.

Search outside peak season

The biggest cities in regards to studying often offer various kollegiums or youth apartments. For some of the apartments, the waiting list can be as short as just a few months. In fact, many of the big cities have guarantee of housing students, which means you get to skip the queue to student housing. Social housing often has a longer waiting list but you can be lucky, if you have been signed up for the waiting list in advance.

Consider kollegium or social housing

The biggest cities in regards to studying often offer various kollegiums or youth apartments. For some of the apartments, the waiting list can be as short as just a few months. In fact, many of the big cities have guarantee of housing students, which means you get to skip the queue to student housing. Social housing often has a longer waiting list but you can be lucky, if you have been signed up for the waiting list in advance.

Housing guarantee

If you are moving to a new city because of your studies, a lot of the big cities offer you a housing guarantee. This means that when you move to one of these cities, you are guaranteed a place to live in that city. The way it works is that you get on a waiting list, which you will then skip to the front of. The housing guarantee includes kollegium and youth apartments. The housing guarantee is an offer for everyone starting their studies in the city. You can stay in the housing for as long as you study, but you should be aware that if you decline an offer, you will lose your housing guarantee. Furthermore, you should be aware that the housing guarantee is not offered in all big cities in Denmark.

It is important that you remember that you have to sign up for these waiting lists yourself. In most of the cities, the apartments are offered on a first come, first served basis. This means that the sooner you get on the waiting list, the sooner you are offered a place to live.

You can read more about housing guarantee in Aarhus here:
https://www.baaa.dk/media/lzmhdjgp/housing-guarantee-aarhus.pdf

You can read more about housing guarantee in Aalborg here:
http://www.studyaalborg.com/news/housing-guarantee/

You can read more about housing guarantee in Kolding here:
https://www.studentkolding.dk/om-studentkolding/vilk%C3%A5r-boliggaranti

You can read more about housing guarantee in Esbjerg here:
https://www.businessesbjerg.com/en/study/study-in-esbjerg/studieboliggaranti/

You can read more about housing guarantee in Viborg here:
https://karrierebyviborg.dk/en/housing-student-life/housing-guarantee-for-students/

Guarantee to have a roof over your head

In many of the cities in Jutland the local authorities offer a housing guarantee for new students beginning their studies in the cities. In Copenhagen and Odense the local authorities offer something called “tag-over-hovedet garanti”, which translates to “roof-over-your-head guarantee”. However, it varies a bit from city to city what it is called, as in Odense it is called “Absolute Assurance for Accommodation”, while Aarhus calls it “Startup Housing”. WIth this, the local authorities have installed emergency housing that can be offered for new students moving to the cities. With this guarantee, students are guaranteed a place to live for at least three months while searching for another place to live.

With housing guarantee you are offered a one-room apartment, but with this tag-over-hovedet garanti, you are offered a place to live which can both be a hostel, closed kindergarten or sharing an apartment with others.

You can read more about the guarantee in Odense here:
https://english.odense.dk/living-in-odense/studying-in-odense/absolute-assurance-for-accommodation

You can read more about the guarantee in Aalborg here:
http://www.studyaalborg.com/news/housing-guarantee/

Du kan læse mere om tag-over-hovedet-garanti i København her:
https://via.ritzau.dk/pressemeddelelse/kobenhavns-kommune-indforer-akutboliger-til-nye-studerende?publisherId=13559194&releaseId=13616205