Kiev Apartment Rental Scams - How to Recognize and Avoid Them

Shady locals of various countries will always try to scam foreigners. Ukraine is no different. Since Kiev is the melting pot of the country, scams are commonplace and often target foreigners.

The internet is full of advertisements to rent cheap, renovated apartments with new furniture. These apartments are often either already rented or used as a scam to prey on the gullibility of home seekers. In the first scenario, you waste your time making many phone calls in vain. As you call, many realtors will offer their services to find you a similar option. You will then spend additional time explaining to everyone exactly what you are looking for. The second scenario is much worse. If you find an apartment at an attractive price or even directly from the owner, be cautious. You are often being lured into a trap of scammers.

So what are the commons methods of deception when renting apartments?

1. Renting out an apartment that was already previously rented on a daily basis.

Scammers rent out an apartment for several days, which is quite easy to do.  Then, under the guise of the owner, they will rent the same apartment out to several long-term tenants. Such scammers often forge legal documents, which are used as legitimate ones upon signing the contract. They then manage to hold several meetings to sign a lease with all interested "tenants" with a receipt of payment for the first and last month. Thereafter, they safely disappear. Within the next few days, the "tenants" attempt to move into their new apartment only to find out that there are other similar "tenants,” who have also signed a contract and lease and received the keys to the apartment. Moreover, the real owner of the apartment soon discovers that his apartment was used by scammers.

2. Renting an apartment without original title documents or forged documents.

In this situation, you agree on all terms with the "landlord.” You sign a lease and pay, as expected, for the first and last month, and then receive the keys to the apartment. You are shown only copies of title documents of the apartment because the originals are "in a different city" or a passport with registration at the same apartment that supposedly proves that "everything is fine, and there’s nothing to fear."

On the following day, you will find the locks on the door changed. You cannot enter the apartment. The "owner’s" phone number, with which you previously communicated, is all of the sudden disconnected. Afterwards, an appeal to the police reveals that the passport and documents were forged. In most cases, the story ends here with no recourse.

3. Sales of an "information" database.

In this scenario, you are offered to buy the entire database of owners’ direct contact information, which is allegedly used by all real estate agencies. The amount for this database is far less than a real estate agency’s commission. With such a tempting proposition, you purchase the database to avoid paying commission and save money. However, soon after, you realize that the "database" is a list of out-of-date and disconnected phone numbers. You lost your money and still have no apartment.

4. Payment for the "arrangement of a viewing."

This scheme is one of the more elaborate ones. You call the listed telephone number in an ad and reach the "operator,” who confirms the apartment you are interested in is available. The “operator” claims that you don’t need to pay any commission, but you must come to their "office." In the "office," you choose an apartment and even talk on the phone with a "landlord" of the apartment. You pre-negotiate the terms of the lease and make an appointment to meet. For these "office" services, you must pay a small fee (usually no more than 400 UAH). Subsequently, you can contact the owner directly. With the “owner” on the phone confirming that he is ready to sign a contract with good rental terms, a 400 UAH fee seems to be a trifle amount. Based on the nice photos and the attractive words from the owner, you pay the fee and arrange a time to meet with the owner, avoiding payment of commission to a real estate agency. The next day, you arrive at the agreed time at the apartment’s address only to find that no one is waiting for you. The "owner’s" phone is turned off. You return to the “office” for an explanation only to receive a puzzled shrug. A few days later, the “office" has moved to a new location.

Of course, finding an attractive option to rent an apartment directly from the owner does not necessarily mean that you are being defrauded. Also, even in practice, a deal is not always closed following all the rules and with all the proper documents. Often people just trust each other, and all ends well. Nevertheless, it is always better to be safe, than sorry. To be more secure, it is always recommended to use a professional real estate agency, such as All Star Kiev Realty, with experts who possess extensive knowledge about the local market and can foresee any possible issues. 

We wish you only good and legitimate deals!

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