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Amsterdam Rental Scams

Amsterdam Apartment, Prime Location, € 800/month. Really?

Many Amsterdam rental scams entice potential victims by mentioning desirable downtown locations.
Houses along Marnixstraat in the center of Amsterdam. Many Amsterdam rental scams entice potential victims by mentioning desirable downtown locations.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

DutchAmsterdam.nl — Amsterdam rental scams are common. Criminals actively target the tight Amsterdam housing market. They use online advertising-, real estate-, and booking websites to defraud people looking to rent a room, apartment, or house.

The rentals on offer either do not exist, or are already occupied by unsuspecting, legitimate renters or owners.

Apartment rental rates in Amsterdam are at a premium

A reality check from HousingAnywhere, showing average rental prices in Q2 2021.

Affordable housing is notoriously difficult to find in Amsterdam, particularly in the most popular areas of town. There are not enough affordable homes. Rent-controlled social housing is near impossible to come by. Rental rates in the so-called ‘free sector’ are sky high. In the Second Quarter of 2021, the average rental price of a 1-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam was €1,605, says HousingAnywhere 1 2

Tourists, students, interns, expats, and even locals often turn to websites such as Craigslist, Kamernet, Marktplaats, or even Facebook as a source for rental apartments.

Most of the advertisements on these websites are legitimate. However, criminals bent on taking advantage of the stagnated housing market also advertise.

Many of the websites used in the housing rental scams say they remove obviously fraudulent ads. But ultimately they simply provide an advertising platform. Users of these services are themselves responsible for determining whether or not a deal is legitimate.

Kamernet is one of the most popular room rental websites in the Netherlands. The platform says it extensively checks every single advert. But, “unfortunately, some scammers still make it through.”

Users can alert Kamernet to rental scams. The service will then block the advertiser, and contact anyone who may have been in touch with the scammer.

Amsterdam apartment rental scam: warning signs

How do you know whether an apartment for rent offer is mostly likely a scam? Typically, the offer will sound too good to be true.

The absent owner and his or her representative

False advertisers usually claim to be outside the country — whether for an emergency family visit, a business trip, or because they ‘live in London.’ Their emails tend to be in poor English, and are often overly friendly.

Since they are out of the country, they want to make a quick deal with you. You can send them your money via (anonymous and virtually untraceable) Western Union or MoneyGram and they’ll “send you the keys by courier.”

Alternatively, you are welcome to meet with a representative who works on the owner’s behalf. The ‘representative’ usually introduces him- or herself either as a ‘friend,’ a ‘solicitor,’ or a ‘courier.’ He or she is “in a hurry” and thus will meet you not at the apartment itself, but at a café downtown.

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The rent application: Handing criminals your private information

All they need is for you to fill out and sign a rental application or contract. That means your identity, credit card details and other personal information is now in the hands of criminals.

Next they ask you for the rent money. You must pay at least first and last month plus a deposit. Perhaps even the cost of the courier service from London or elsewhere to Amsterdam. “Oh, and could you please pick up the tab for this meeting? I’m running late!”

Visiting the non-existing apartment

You might say you want to view the apartment before committing yourself to renting it. But the representative reminds you that he is in a hurry. He has “an appointment with another potential renter.” The message is clear: sign and pay now if you don’t want to lose this fantastic opportunity.

If you still insist on seeing the place first you must pay a “security deposit” for the keys. After you have checked out the apartment, the rep tells you, drop the keys in the mailbox.

Once you arrive at the address he provides you’ll find the place does not exist. Or the apartment is occupied by the legitimate (and puzzled) owners.

Rental scams can occur in every area of Amsterdam.
High rise apartment building in the suburb of Amsterdam Noord. A mix of rent-controlled social housing and privately owned dwellings. Amsterdam rental scams can occur in every area of the city.

News: Consumer Authority Investigates House Rental Websites

July 6, 2021 — The Dutch consumers authority3 has launched an investigation into rental websites that possibly mislead consumers.

Targeted are websites that present a large selection of rental homes, to which you can reply after paying a subscription fee.

“Consumers indicate that many of the presented rental homes are not available or do not even exist. If consumers express their interest in a rental home through these websites, they are unable to contact the rental agent,” Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) says.

Most rental websites compile the selections of third parties, and merely offer a search service, but do not act as agents.

Online businesses must clearly inform customers of what they offer in exchange for the fee charged. For instance, the site most explain how the selection of homes that are presented has been made and whether the rental agent can be contacted directly.

ACM suspects that not all websites inform consumers properly or clearly. Given that fraud may possibly be involved, ACM has shared information with the internet fraud unit of the police (Landelijk Meldpunt Internet Oplichting, LMIO)4, which has also launched an investigation.

Scammers are difficult to trace and prosecute

Amsterdam police say they trace the vast majority of Internet addresses used in these scams to Nigeria. Many Nigerian scammers also operate from England, or even from within Amsterdam, using internet café’s, proxy services and other methods to make tracing them difficult, if not impossible. Give them your hard-earned money, and you can kiss it goodbye.

Many of the websites used in the housing rental scams say they remove obviously fraudulent ads. But ultimately they simply provide an advertising platform. Users of these services are themselves responsible for determining whether or not a deal is legitimate.

Illegal Sublets

Something else to watch out for: There are strict rules regarding the legality of renting out a room, apartment, or house in Amsterdam — and indeed throughout the Netherlands.

One obvious red herring: if you are told you cannot register (Dutch: inschrijven) at the address, the place is most likely rented out illegally.

Protect yourself from Amsterdam housing scams

  • If it sound too good to be true, it more than likely is
  • Do not deal with people who claim, for whatever reason, not to be able to meet with you in person
  • You must be able to see and inspect the apartment on offer
  • Ask the person who rents out the apartment to introduce you to a neighbor. The reaction to this request may be telling. If you do get introduced to a neighbor, ask what they neighborhood is like, whether it is safe, and whether they would recommend you rent the place
  • Don’t trust appearances. Most scam artists do not look like seedy characters. Just because a handsome guy shows up wearing a nice suit doesn’t mean you should trust him off-hand. (Not surprisingly, potential male housing scam victims are met by a charming woman)
  • Make sure the key or keys you are given work
  • When you sign a rental contract and provide your ID, ask for a photo copy of the landlord’s ID as well

Is That a Legitimate Website?

Mind you, criminals also set up their own websites. Don’t trust everything you see. For instance, check how long a certain website has been online by entering their web address into the Internet Archive’s “WayBack Machine.”

Nice photos! Is That Apartment For Real?

Fake ads for apartments, rooms, or houses often re-use photos in many different false ads.

If you use Chrome, right click on a photo. Then select “Search Google for Image.” Firefox fans can use the “Google Image Search” browser add-on.

Sometimes you’ll find the same photos are used in advertisements for rentals in places around the world. At times the images may be cropped, or flipped horizontally.

Don’t trust photos of the landlord either. These scammer usually engage in identity theft as well.

Additional rental tips

In addition, make sure the rental contract states what is and what is not included (utilities, use of the garden and/or roof terrace, cable TV, internet connection, et cetera).

Try to negotiate. While most legitimate landlords will not take less rent than what they advertised, you may be able to rent without paying a ‘last month’ in advance.

Make sure you get a detailed receipt for each rental payment as well as for your deposit.

Take photos of the property as soon you as you arrive — perhaps even upon first inspection. You could always say your parents are paying for the place, so you want them to see what it is like. Document everything: the walls, the doors, the floors, etcetera. If there is any damage, have the landlord note it on your rental contract.

How much money?

Scammers are in it for the money. So in addition to several months worth of rent, they usually try to get various other fees as well. Think deposits, contract fees, or agency fees. Those are all illegal, as are disproportionately high administration fees.

If you paid such fees, even for a legitimate rental, and you live in Amsterdam you can contact !WOON. They can help you reclaim unjust fees.

Rental scams are a bit more difficult to pull of in neighborhoods where people know their neighbors.
Single family homes in the Amsterdam suburb of Slotermeer. Most of them are still rented out by social housing corporations, and thus subject to rent control. But many of these dwellings are now privately owned. While social housing renters may not sublet rooms, house owners have no such limitation. This is an example of a neighborhood in which people know their neighbors, making rental scams a bit more difficult to pull off.

Amsterdam Rental Scams FAQ

Should I pay via Airbnb?

No. This is a common scam used to defraud people. The ‘landlord’ gives you a link to a fake website — an Airbnb lookalike. You will lose your money. (Why would a landlord want to pay a commission to Airbnb while there are much easier ways for renters to pay?)

What about using Western Union or similar services to pay for the rental?

Legitimate landlords do not use these type of money transfer services.

Should I pay for a room via a bank transfer?

Carefully check the details. Is it a well-known bank? Is the bank located in the Netherlands? Does the name on the account match the name of the person you are dealing with?

What if I fell victim to a rental scam?

Contact the Netherlands Police. Use the non-emergency number: 0900-8844, or click the link for other options.

How to find and rent a room, apartment, or house in Amsterdam: Our recommendation

Unless you can afford to have a real estate agent find your new home for you, do not try and search for a place in Amsterdam while you are still abroad.

Instead, first rent temporary lodging via a legitimate agency, such as Kamernet.

Once you are in Amsterdam, start looking for a more permanent place to live.

How to find and rent a room in Amsterdam


Published July 2, 2021. Last updated July 21, 2021 to add information from HousingAnywhere.

Notes:

  1. Source: HousingAnywhere, Average monthly rental prices, July 2021 report, last accessed Wednesday, July 21, 2021 – 5:27 PM CET
  2. Nearly 41% of homes in Amsterdam is owned by corporations tasked with providing rent-controlled social housing. Private parties own and occupy 30.8% of the homes. And private owners rent out 28.5% of Amsterdam’s housing stock. Source: Woningvoorraad Amsterdam (Housing Supply Amsterdam), NUL 20. Last updated: June 10, 2021. (Dutch language only)
  3. Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) (Autoriteit Consument & Markt)
  4. Dutch language website only. Use this Google Translate version to get the gist of it.
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Last updated: Wednesday, July 21, 2021 at 9:20 PM, Central European Time (CET)   
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