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Avoid vacation apartment rental scams

Paris windows

We’ve all heard the stories of vacation rentals that don’t look at all like the photos, or worse, don’t even exist. So if you’re thinking of renting a vacation apartment for your next trip to Paris, and want to make sure that you don’t get scammed, here are a few tips.

First of all, only rent through a reputable local agency with an address and phone number listed on their website (and, ideally, their business license number as well, or SIRET in France). Beware of the “anonymous” ones. They may only be scamming the tax man, not you, but for peace of mind insist at least on this. And verify that the agency is guaranteeing the rental, not just listing the owners info on their site.

If you want to get a better deal by renting direct from an owner, through the many online platforms, there are some precautions to follow:

– NEVER send deposit money via MoneyGram, Western Union, or any other type of money transfer system that can’t be tracked to a personal account. Pay with a credit card or through PayPal so that you can recover your money if there is a dispute.

– Always ask for proof that the person renting you the apartment is really the owner: ask to see ID and a recent electric or telephone bill in their name with the address of the apartment.

– Ask for references and check them. A pain in the ass, yes. But it’s your money and your vacation.

– Google the property and the owner online (you should be able to use street image to see the property’s facade; make sure the windows match).

– Be immediately on guard if the owner’s email is full of bad grammar or odd-sounding English, if the owner isn’t in Paris and asks you to send the money to another city and/or person, and other telltale signs like ads that don’t match the photos. Another article on the subject can be found here.

– I have heard many people say NOT to ever send a copy of your ID to an owner because then they will use this as their own fake ID. Again, if you are renting through an agency, you won’t have to deal with any of these issues.

You Can Be Scammed on Airbnb , Too

Most prudent people stopped using sites with unverified listings like Craigslist a long time ago, but amazingly (and sadly), there are a lot of articles about scammers using AirBnB, too. Here are just a few of the latest ones:

Personally, I have rented apartments direct from owners without problems, but I always had a back-up plan (the nearest hotel with an available room), wasn’t traveling with all of my family for the first time in a country where I don’t speak the local language, and didn’t send such a huge deposit that it would end my vacation if I had been scammed.

I don’t want you to become paranoid, just a bit more street smart. Of course, that’s good advice for traveling in general. 🙂

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  • Hello, I just fount this thread by pure luck and read the main post as well as some of the comments. I've been living in Paris for about twenty years and work mostly for hotels. And I just wanted to WARN you all about the NOISE. Most tourist complain about this when they visit Paris but are actually unaware somehow that Paris is a major tourist destination where you will find no less than TWENTY THOUSAND people per square km. Also there are bars and restaurants literally in every-single-street. So yes, it is most probable that there will be a bar or a night club near your vacation rental.

  • Great post! and I partially agree with your opinion. I own this Trullo in Italy – and it's never easy to get payments from clients. To avoid any misunderstanding we need to use Booking, Airbnb or other websites but they ask a lot of fees to manage the service (Booking asks around the 15% of the income!). We can't afford sometimes to have also too much accounts!

  • I rented for a year an apartment Avenue Victor Hugo through Cabinet Ravier, Paris 75116 when we left they did an "etat des lieux" and they charged us 60 euros for each bulb, that we used to purchase for 4,5 euros + the cost for the electrician !Beware…

  • I rented an aprtment in Paris from ASLOM 2 years ago and recognized some type of scammy activity as well. Thry never took our all cash security deposit, due to the person who gave us our keys not really knowing what was going on. Once we checked in, and called with minor issues, we never heard from them again. They never returned phone calls or E-mails!!!

  • Hi Heather – SO sorry I found your site on our last day in Paris! However, you did provide the info needed so hopefully we are off to an English-language bookstore now. A note for you in case you choose to write more on this subject, we are here in a lovely home in Puteaux that we did not pay anything for – aside from time and labor. We use a website called homeexchange.com and are trading our summer house in Denmark for this house in Puteaux. We are fortunate to have inherited a second home so we have the ability to exchange in a leisurely fashion (called 'non-simultaneous') but many exchange during the exact same weeks with success. I will say, there are risks. We've done this before with folks from the U.S. and in one exchange got a very neurotic couple who couldn't stop contacting us every day with this and that (not so relaxing for us). But this time around . . . it's working great! So – a thought for your readers.Keep up the good work!

  • Hi Heather,I love your site. I have been in Paris last December and I had the best time of my life. I am revisiting this May 2012 and doing more research. I would like to ask your thought on Airbnb in renting a studio instead of staying in a hotel. Merci,Rika

  • Has anyone used feelparis.com how do I know if it is legit? I am going in Dec 2011 and is rue du ponceau in Paris safe to stay?

  • I have actually had many problems with tourist rental agencies that were "legit" like Paris Attitude, regarding the security deposit. Both times that there had been problems, I didn't sign a sign out sheet saying there is nothing wrong with the apartment, therefore the contability is partly my fault, however both times at Paris Attitude and Parisian Home (should have learned my lesson the first time) They did a walk through and told me everything looked perfect and after leaving charged me for a new microwave(never been used by me) and a full couch(saying there was holes and had to replace the whole thing-not true). So don't repeat my stupid mistakes and make sure there is a sign in and out sheet signed and kept by you.

  • I have used homeaway.com for the past 6 years, which is really a good and legit vacation rental site. I have used them for several places I've vacationed around the globe. I have been really fortunate with the owners of the rentals; nothing but positive experiences. I received my security deposits back within 7-10 days. However, I wish the dollar was stronger. The rentals are rather pricey when paying in U.S. dollars.

  • We purchased an apt. almost 5 yrs ago and rent it through VRBO and Homeaway and have not problems. We are pretty full all the time and have had good tenants and very little trouble. People are happy with the apt. and the extras we provide. Julie

  • Unfortunately both my parents were victims of apartment fraud. They came for my wedding last month and had both rented apartments via craigslist. The one my mother rented coincidentally suffered from a fire the night before her flight to Paris. The one my father rented had seemed completely legit until my father and relatives arrived at the airport and waited for the apartment owner to pick them up (as offered in the ad) and were left stranded at the airport. Fortunately, my husband's family were very helpful with providing alternative lodgings. My mother paid a deposit via Paypal, however, Paypal has refused to return the money. My father paid through MoneyBookers, and they are even worse. I have been in contact with the department of fraud (http://www.dgccrf.bercy.gouv.fr/contacts.htm) who will intervene in the case if there is correct contact information for the apartment owner. My mother is still in the process of trying to recover her funds. My father will never recover his money being that they owner's info was invalid. It's upsetting to know this happens so often, and that such can give a negative impression on travelers. However, despite it all, we still had a wonderful wedding, and my family is looking forward to returning to Paris, only this time they will stay in hotels.

  • The important thing is to find local contact information. long distance landlords usually a local resident employed to collect the rent checks show the property, make repairs, and so on. This person can be a part-time or full-time caretaker. You can contact book this individual to see the apartment. Make sure the number is part of a local nature.

  • My husband and I have used ParisAttitude to rent an apartment on two separate occasions. One was for 1 1/2 months and the other was for 10 days. We had positive experiences with both and highly recommend this company. They're very professional and we had no problems at all.

  • Not sure if this contradicts your advice or not, but I have used Vacation Rentals By Owner for several years now and have never had a problem. Their website is vrbo.com.

  • An apartment was rented in April, 2010 for 10 days from ASLOM (www.aslom.com) in Paris, France. All was fine with the apartment and it was left in excellent condition. The security deposit of 1500 euros was to be credited to a Master card. It is now almost 4 months since vacating the apartment and the deposit has not been received. Repeated phone calls, Emails to ASLOM have not resulted in having the deposit returned; although Philippe Rey, listed as director general of ASLOM, indicated he would take care of it, but did not. A few days ago, an Email was received from Philippe Rey informing us that the company was filing for bankruptcy. We suspect this is false, and just a tactic to avoid returning the 1500 euros security deposit. This company, its director general and the owners of apartments who lease through ASLOM should be investigated by French authorities. Thanks.

  • Really helpful article especially for someone like me who really work hard for money.Do you know particular vacation rental "scammers" based on your experience? thanks.-julie

  • it is important to remember that the rental market is not what it was and that many people are looking for short term deals, so an agent will try to fill a listing however they can and many specialize in vacation rentals. Plus the daily rate is higher than a monthly per diem. If you own an apartment or are an agent for an owner you can usually sublet your apartment, so the shorter term rentals fall into a very shady legal area.

  • I don’t think it’s up to you to go and talk to the club owner about the noise. What’s he going to do? Close? No, the owner of the flat shuold have told you about the club and possible noise before you rented it (some people would be happy to be so close to a club if they want to go out all night). Tell her you want your money back for the nights you’re not staying there and go to a hotel. If she refuses tell her you will report her to Craig’s List and put her name and her address on this website. Just try and give her the option of giving back your money nicely first. And next time, be more careful about trusting strangers on the internet!

  • Sadly it was a Craig’s list contact and no agency was involved. I have had luck with Craig’s list in the past. This time the owner, who’s name I will leave out for now was deceptive in not being up front about the fact that my apartment was directly over an adjacent to a disco tech. I acted stupidly in giving her any money up front. But I didn’t discover the problem until Saturday night when I had already been here a couple of days. When I went to talk to her she said I should go over and talk to the manager of the disco about the noise. While this is an unaccpetable answer, I am unsure I have any recourse if she says no. I am trying to keep a cool head about this and not get upset and ruin my vacatioin. What should I do if she refuses to refund my money? By the way, thanks for the advice.

  • Sleepless in Paris: Yes, you should conact the owner and ask for your money back. Did you go through an agency?

  • I rented an apartment for 11 days. I sent the landlord 200 Euros to secure the deal. When I arrived, I moved in I gave the proprietor another approximately 600 Euros plus another 100 security deposit. That was Friday. It turns out that the apartment is next to a disco tech and the noise at night is intolerably loud, music blasting, screaming, people apparently throwing up or choking, loud voices in the street and from in the club. It sounds like the apartment is in the middle of the disco. Apparently, disco and the apartment share a common wall. I have not slept and I wonder if I have any recourse other than beg the landlord to have mercy on me and refund my money so I can rent a hotel room or something.

  • Hi Heather, I’m wondering if you’ve used/heard of parisattitude.com. It seems legit (has Paris address, phone number, there are stories on other sites about having no problems with it). But they are also very good deals, and ask for large upfront payments and ask to pay the owner directly. Any idea?Thanks 🙂

  • To complete this article, I would say that it is important to privilege owners established as company (SARL or SCI in France)) and offering all the guarantees necessary for short term rentals (insurances, invoicing, etc.). Indeed, if you realize a rent with a private individual, it is not rare that its accommodation is not insured for vacation rental and you will be exposed to major risks in case of disasters!

  • Heather,Not sure if this contradicts your advice or not, but I have used Vacation Rentals By Owner for several years now and have never had a problem. Their website is http://www.vrbo.com.They offer places all over the world. I’ve probably used them a half dozen times now, and it’s been a great experience each time. Hope that helps.Dave