With so much demand for housing in Berlin and an offer that simply cannot provide for everyone, pressure has increased tremendously for tenants when looking for a flat. It requires more organisation, more perseverance & more flair than ever. It also requires speed as you have to be fast to make decisions.
When there are 30 other applicants waiting in line for the same flat, some people may sometimes take advantage of your weakened position and trick you.
This increasingly competitive environment has led some individuals with loose moral to trick unaware flat-hunters into some bad schemes. Here is a quick best-of, provided by our friends at Wunderflats.
#1 : The Classifieds Fairy Tale
One of the oldest tricks in the books, brought to you by the same person working for “a Nigerian prince that is prepared to give you all his money for a small upfront cost” ;). The fake landlord is posting an offer about an apartment that is not real. The offer often looks great (too great perhaps?) and the owner’s Facebook profile looks definitely clean too. You already subconsciously know that something must be wrong but you hope it is not. You contact the advertiser anyway. The scammer is really nice and writes a little too much asking for personal details as well as deposit before even signing the contract, just to make sure you are interested. Definitely stay away from those people ! This is clearly an attempt at stealing your data and/or your money. Others signs that should trigger red-alert : a Western Union account & a landlord claiming he lives in Germany but currently staying abroad.
If the landlord manages those things him-self, then there is no doubt he would be on location to handle contracts, keys etc.
#2 : The Nebenkosten Ticking Bomb
It is often custom for offers to be published with the cold rent price as a way to attract more applicants. That’s fair practice but what comes next is not. The devil hides in the details with this trick because it is all about Nebenkosten. The Nebenkosten cover all collective utility bills of the building like cleaning, sewer & garbage service or sometimes heating costs. The landlord might make you sign a contract with relatively low Nebenkosten which then turn in a pretty pricey deal for you with time. It might look like this : Landlord says you pay only 1€ per sqm the first year, and an additional 1,50€ after a year. You sign the contract thinking no further. However it does make a sour bill in the end. In a 100m2 flat : 12 month x 100m2 x 1,50€ = a 1800€ payment waiting for you. Not such good deal after all, ain’it ?
#3 The Rent-One Renovate-One
Some landlords are lazy, some are rude & not available and some are downright cheap. This last category might offer you what looks like a sweet deal in the first place. It’s pretty straightforward; if you renovate the flat doing such and such things, you can live in there for free for 1 or 2 months. Seems decent enough doesn’t it ? Except it’s usually not a good deal as in many contracts, you are legally binded to renovate it again. If you did it in the beginning and expect not to have to do it at the end, you have to have a written document with your landlord on that.
#4 The Small Repairs, Big Bill
This can never be stated enough; always proof-read the contract before you sign and check that it doesn’t contain anything suspicious. Of the conditions to pay attention to are the small repairs (“Kleine Reparaturen“). This term defines all the things that are reasonably expected to be repaired by the tenant, as they are used in the every-day-life, like the sink faucet for example. The cost of small repairs during the year should be capped in the contract. E.g : landlord writes in the contract that you should pay all small repair bills that are about 40€. This is only legally correct if it states that you have to pay max. 120€ a year. If the landlord asks for 120€ on a 300€ bill (your share so to speak), that’s simply bullcrap, you don’t have to pay anything. If you discover this in a contract you already signed and get pressure from your landlord because of that, you are protected by law and you can’t get in trouble or pushed out of the flat.
What about you ? Have you ever experienced any dirty tricks ? Did that lead to any conflict ? How were they resolved ? Let us know in the comments.
Wunderflats truly wants to enable everyone to live anywhere they want. It became relatively easy to go from Paris to Berlin for the new chapter of life but you encounter so so many challenges really arriving there. One of which is scammers. It is disgusting to see how expats are taken advantage of. Wunderflats provides safety for people on the move by putting together a website with furnished apartments, studios and verified landlords in Berlin and other cities. This how it goes:
Go on Wunderflats.com, select Berlin, choose an apartment that you like and book it. Within one day you get a response whether you can book it, visit it if you like or an alternative if it is not available anymore. The rents include everything – WiFi, electricity, utilities and sometimes a cleaning service. A huge benefit for internationals is that there is no need for paperwork like Schufa statements or guarantees from relatives (“Bürgschaftsurkunde“). They check up with your employer and you are good to go.
Many of their tenants are job starters e.g. from Mercedes or Microsoft in Berlin who just moved there. They take a furnished apartment für 3-6 months until they find something permanent. The others are expats or freelancers who just stay for a limited time.