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Protecting yourself as a renter of a vacation property

Protecting yourself as a renter of a vacation property

Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 05:16 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 273
Protecting yourself as a renter of a vacation property

In light of the recent posts about possible and actual problems with renting a vacation property abroad I have thought of an idea that may be an extra level of protection for the renter. This comes from my renting experiences and also what I have read from some others here.

Let me add that I have rented once from Homelidays and without a problem but I can see how fraud could occur. I have also rented successfully from abritel and papvacances. These are all renting direct from owner.

When I have rented I have always asked the owners for the exact address of the property and I pull it up on mappy to see its exact situation. But more importantly I then ask if my cousins who live in the general area (but I am in the States) can drive by or call to set up a visit. Just like the poster on the homelidays thread who had her daughter in Paris check apartments for her. So far out of dozens of rentals over several years not one owner has said no and they always graciously extend an invitation for my cousins to come visit. My cousins have fun too as it is interesting to tour some of these lovely homes and apartments. I was only doing this to be sure that the rental would be satisfactory for us. I never even considered the fraud possibility.

So the idea is: Not everyone will have a friend or family member that can visit the rental I realize. But, the owner does not know this. When researching your options
1) ask the owner the exact address of the
rental and pull it up on mappy
2) tell the owner you will have your friend or family member drive by to get an idea of the area. Is that okay with them?, they do not need to really know that you do not have someone there
3) ask the owner if this "friend" can call to set up an appointment to see the inside of the rental.
If they say yes to #2 or #3 you can probably feel confident that there is an actual place to rent even if you do not have someone there to visit it. Also if they say yes you can then make something up later about not being able to get in touch with your "friend".

I realize that this is not fool proof but it will help a bit. Also, it will not speak of the quality of the rental but only its existence. I would just hate to see potential renters get cold feet when this is such a wonderful way to vacation. And perhaps like the Paris college student I could hire out my cousin to visit apartements in the South of France.
lemidi is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 07:02 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I think this would work - I really thought that renting the college student was a super idea.
We are renting 2 places in France next fall. For the one month rental in the Dordogne we rented from a person who had some history on this forum (Carlux) and communicated extensively with her by email. It was easy to establish a relationship and get a positive feel for the type of people we were dealing with. We verified the palce itself by communicating with someone (moolyn)who had visited the actual house and raved about it.
For the one week Paris apartment we communicated direcly with someone (fishee) on this forum who had rented the apartment. These communications are easy to set up and thanks to them for their willingness.
We have a positive feeling about both.
robjame is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 08:46 AM
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Not to get too carried away with possible schemes, but the tenant fraud that occurred around here a few times (to local people, not vacationers) is that the apartment would be shown, the deposit collected, but when it came time to actually move in, the would-be tenants would discover that the person showing the apartment had no rights to rent it, and that 15 or so people had also handed over deposits. The person who had shown the apartments had himself rented the apartment first, under an assumed name, and then disappeared after collecting the deposits. So it's possible to have a fraud even if you see the apartment, although granted it's much less likely.
WillTravel is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 09:06 AM
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What about asking for a photocopy of the latest electricity bill with the name of the owner and the rental address?
I wouldn't mind sending one

I said in a previous posting to check rated apartments one can find on tourist office websites as they all have been checked and rated.
Also check the mail address to send the deposit. It must be the same as the one mentioned on the website.
cocofromdijon is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 09:11 AM
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While I see where you're all coming from, if I were renting out my apartment and someone wanted to see the most recent copy of my electric bill to prove I am real, I'd probably suggest they look elsewhere. I wouldn't be comfortable entering a rental situation with any one who was that suspicious of me. By the same token, as the owner of the apartment I wouldn't demand they send me a copy of their plane ticket to prove they are actually coming. After all, they could be pulling my leg too.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 10:17 AM
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"but the tenant fraud that occurred around here a few times"

WillTravel, where is "around here"? I am hoping that the scenario you mention is more likely to be for a long term lease rather than a vacation rental from week to week. Scary though.

I'd feel uncomfortable asking to see the owner's utility bill but it does have some validity. And I do see why an owner would want to see my plane ticket. That makes complete sense because they definitely can be burned too.
lemidi is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 10:49 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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One tip I got wasn't about Europe, it was Hawaii, but I thought I'd post it here anyway, since this topic came up.

A vacation rental owner in Kailua estimated that 95% of vacation rentals (i.e., rent for less than 30 days) in Hawaii are illegal. She suggested you always ask for a copy of the owner's "NonConforming Use Certificate" that allows the vacation rental to legally operate. Any legitimate rental would be happy to provide a copy, as it is a doc issued by the County government (the lady I rented from provided me with a copy of hers).

I didn't realize how big the "illegal" market is there, until I was told this. Apparently, it's a big problem for Oahu (and probably other islands too, but my only experience with a vacation rental was Oahu).
Jolie is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 10:56 AM
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Lemidi, this is a scam that has happened in Vancouver, but I've also heard of it in other places. In this case it was for a long-term lease.

It's interesting to read the Craigslist scam and fraud warnings (these are posted in the Paris rental section, but I think they're the same for every Craigslist site).
WillTravel is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 11:08 AM
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I thought that idea of the college student starting an apt. check-out service was a very good one, actually.

I think some owners may not want to deal with all this stuff, and if I were an owner I certainly wouldn't want to deal with people requesting copies of my utility bills (and I wouldn't send personal info like that to anyone, there is such a thing as identity fraud). I think Patrick was being a little flippant, as an airline ticket wouldn't prove you'd show up anyway, and it would be completely unnecessary if the owner made you prepay, which many do--at least a large deposit amount.

Christina is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
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When I rented a studio in Paris last year, the owners sent me a contract (written in French, however) and a PDF of both of their passports. I googled their names and their identities were consistent with what they had told me (she was an artist and some gallery references pulled up). Their rental also pulled up on various web-sites and they had been up for years. They sent me the passport info unsolicited -- I felt very secure in pay-paling them the money. (It was a crappy studio compared to what I just rented in the Marais but I was quite happy with it last year since I had nothing to compare it to)

I like renting from places that allow you to send them a U.S. personal check, which they return when you leave. Sending money through paypal is a bit stressful but most owners seem to understand that they need to send some kind of ID info if they expect cash up-front.
fishee is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 01:18 PM
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I'm listing what one would need to know (feel free to add or comment):

1. Does the address exist;
2. Is the address actually one of accomodation (i.e, it isn't a bank or a furniture store);

So far, the college student can check this out.

3. Is the person representing themselves as owner actually the owner of said accomodation. To verify this, aforesaid student would have to check local tax records - and hope it wasn't registered to '1000099999 limited' or 'Obtuseandvague Properties, Ltd.'
4. Are they legally allowed to rent out the accomodation to tourists; (student needs to check with local municipality);
5. How much expertise do the owners have in the business of renting - i.e., they won't double-book the accomodation. This is probably hardest to determine.

I think it was Christina who suggested that these are the sorts of things an agency (not just an internet advertiser) is supposed to verify. Of course, one then has to be sure the agency is legit....
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Old Dec 22nd, 2006, 06:26 PM
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no, it wasn't me who had a list like that of things agencies check. But I'm sure agencies do check whether a place exists and whether someone owns it when they add it to their roster. They probably do various financial checks on someone if they are going to represent their property, and give them money for a rental. There are various kinds of agencies -- some must check with an owner when you say you want a place to make sure it is available (some apts are listed on multiple agengies), but others may have exclusive rights.
Christina is offline  
Old Dec 24th, 2006, 02:48 PM
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I think Coco's idea is a good one, barring forgery of a utility bill. Not so sure about consulting Mappy for rural rentals - or even in-town rentals in some cases. For example, we own (and rent) a home in Honfleur, a town of 8,000 on the Normandy coast. The legal address is a number on the street at one end of the little bit of land that our house sits on, and past the back neighbor's land and house. There is absolutely no access to our property from its legal address, or anywhere else on that street. Instead, the access is from a pedestrian lane that intersects with the street that the house would "legally" seem to be on. (There is no confusion on the plan de cadastre, the official map of property lines for tax purposes.) There are no house numbers on the pedestrian lane. Mappy would be pretty hard pressed to pinpoint our property, though the house has been there for well over 100 years. How do we receive mail? We discussed the situation with the Honfleur post office, but in the end decided to have everything sent to our primary residence in Paris, two hours away.
Dave_in_Paris is offline  
Old Dec 25th, 2006, 03:58 PM
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Sue xx yy
I have to add that your suggestion of checking on a map that this is an actual accomodation location may be difficult. The only reason we could find our Paris apartment location in the Paris yellow pages, with assisting mapping feature, was that there is an attorney whose practice is also in the same location. It could well be a furniture store, but with apartments above.
Danna is offline  
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