The current rental housing situation in Amsterdam is dire. There are more people looking for apartments and the rise of AirBnb has meant that landlords are now able to ask for crazy prices in return for tiny rooms. There was an article in the Guardian about an apartment with a kitchen that you aren’t allowed to cook in and I think it really illustrates what people are up against.
Of course, because of the high demand there are scammers out there who are looking to make a fast buck and if you don’t know what you’re up against or what to look for with a scammer, then it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Expats are usually their targets. This is because many Expats try to secure an apartment before they arrive so it can be difficult to check the legitimacy of an agent or someone posting a listing. Even for people in Amsterdam, scammers can sometimes be hard to spot.
If you are looking for a room in any one of the facebook groups there are a number of steps that you can take to try and avoid being scammed. The first step is to check what time the post goes live (if you have notificatons switched on this is easier). If it’s a really weird time of day it doesn’t bode well for you as sometimes the scammers are located in entirely different countries.
Your best weapon against a scammer is google and facebook search. If you search for the name of the person in facebook and add the word apartment you will be able to see if they are advertising apartments in multiple cities. In the example below the same apartment is being advertised in two different countries.
The second step is to click on a person’s profile to make sure that it looks legitimate. If they have no friends, and no pictures (or only a couple of pictures), it’s probably no bueno.
If this isn’t enough evidence for you (you are WAY too trusting or they have their securoty settings set so high that you can’t really see much of their profile), and you want to take it one step further you can also do a google image search as often they will use a picture of a famous person as their profile pic – screenshot their profile and use google image search to find out if this person is who they say they are. Just click on the camera to upload the pic. It pulls up some interesting results. Our friend Harry from the picture above is using a picture from famous Pakistani actor Mikaal Zulfiqar.
Of course, many scammers are more sophisticated than this, so if you see an apartment being advertised on the Prinsengracht for 300 a month it’s probably too good to be true.
If you’re going via an agency you should check to make sure that it’s a member of an established estate agents organisation like the MVA or the NVM and if a landlord only provides you with an email address, facebook page or phone number then you should ask them to confirm the business address. If they send you the details of an estate agency in Amsterdam, call them directly to check that it is legitimate
You can also verify who owns the house or apartment on the Kadaster property register as well and if the two names don’t match you can ask for a written authorisation from the landlord and further explanation.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you don’t pay anything unless you have seen the apartment and the contract has been signed. Alarm bells should be ringing if they want a payment upfront in cash, western union or Paypal. Instead, you should insist on paying via bank transfer. You should also look out for agency fees, administration fees and contract fees are not legal
You should make sure that registration is possible at an address. If you’re moving from another country, you will need to be able to register in order to work, and open a bank account. Many people advertise rooms where registration is not possible so double check for this when you reply to an ad.
If you do get scammed report it to the police immediately including any evidence you have. Good luck out there, and make sure you check my article on how to find a room in Amsterdam, and the fun that you’ll have during a kijkavond.
Please note, that this does not constitute as legal advice and I will not accept any liability if you do get scammed.