When looking for accommodation in France, you might come across rental scams. This is, unfortunately, a very widespread practice. It is, moreover, particularly targeting students. Here is our best advice to help you detect scams, avoid them and respond accordingly.
In case of a long-distance apartment research, you might consider using the services of an estate agency. It is a bit more expensive, but you are less likely to run into scams. Check Livinfrance's services >
Even if no one is really exempt, there are a few steps you can follow to make your accommodation research safer and avoid rental scams.
When moving to a foreign country, you should always get to know how the real estate market works. Indeed, it allows you to spot what a normal rental offer is and what a scam might look like.
If you are moving to France, here is what you need to know to avoid rental scams.
There are really 2 types of landlords you might come across during your housing research.
In order to avoid rental scams, you should also inquire about the key figures of the market (average rent, duration of housing research, best time to start your research, etc). For France, we would advise you to rely on these figures :
Looking for accommodation on reliable websites is usually a safe way to avoid rental scams. As mentioned, registered estate agencies' websites are usually safe and reliable. Still, if you want to be adventurous and look for accommodation on rental platforms like Leboncoin or Facebook Marketplace, here is what you should be careful of.
Leboncoin is the French Craiglist, a website on which anyone can advertise their property. Therefore, when looking for a property on leboncoin, you are very likely to come across rental scams. Here are the signs you should look for when browsing accommodation offers on leboncoin:
Many international students use Facebook to look for accommodation in France. It is an efficient way to connect with the current tenants of the flat, especially when you want to move into a shared flat. Still, in France, many scammers use Facebook to connect with students and extort money from them. Like on leboncoin, a very cheap rent or pictures copied from another listing are signs you should look out for. Here are additional tips:
Even if you can never be sure the person you are interacting with is reliable, there are some signs that should ring a bell.
If you are asked to send some money via Mandatcash, Transcash or any other untraceable payment methods: run away! Whatever reason, and even if they ask you to hide the code (which, by the way, does not stop them from stealing your money), this is just not how renting a flat works in France. And this is usually how rental scams will steal your money. You should also be careful when a landlord sends you a link to a so-called bank website. Check the URL, and never type the confidential number of a Mandatcash on a website.
If you are emailing a landlord, and they send you an ID, you should not consider it definitive proof of their reliability. Indeed, they might be impersonating other people they have previously scammed.
If a landlord gave you a lease agreement that is vague or incomplete (e.g: mentions are missing), it might allow them to change it or cancel it without
letting you know. When reading the lease, make sure there are no blank spaces, vague writing or incomplete sentences.
Most scammers will use the same schemes again and again in order to fool you. We have listed 4 of the most common housing scams. If you ever come across a similar situation, it should ring a bell!
💡 Google is your friend!
An easy way to spot a scam is to copy and paste the text of their listing or their emails on Google. As they use over and over the same messages, they might have already been reported as a scam on an online forum, for example. You can also search their "first+last name+scam" on Google to see what comes up.
The property is really cheap, ideally located, has a great surface, the pictures are really nice… Watch out! If it is priced well below the market rate for no apparent reason, it does not sound good at all.
If a private owner says they are not able or don't want to meet you in person, that is usually not a good sign. You should always be able at least to have a video call with the person listing the property. Moreover, a "real" owner would be willing to meet you digitally or in person, to make sure that you can be trusted as a tenant.
The scenario is usually the following : the owner leaves far away, and does not want to get around for nothing, so they ask you for a security deposit, to ensure you will be there for the visit. They will probably ask you to send it via Mandat Cash or any other untraceable payment mean.
First, it is illegal in France to ask for a deposit before signing the lease. Agencies might ask you to pay "booking fees", but no deposit can be required before you have your contract.
Most scammers are not really smart, and will only copy and paste the text/images of an existing listing. If you come across a suspicious ad, you can copy and paste the text on Google, and if the listing is offered for rent by another landlord on another website, it is most likely a scam.
Same logic goes for the emails you might get from the landlord: you can copy and paste the text on Google and check if it has already been reported as a scam.
Unfortunately, as scammers rarely use their real identity and use untraceable methods, it is very likely you will not get your money back. There are still a few things you can do:
The best way to avoid scams is still to use trusted, professional websites when looking for accommodation. livin-france.com is the #1 housing platform for international students, with over 10k verified listings.
In France, housing insurance, commonly known as "assurance habitation", is a crucial aspect of homeownership and rental agreements. It provides essential protection for both property owners and tenants against unforeseen events that could result in financial losses.
Our tips to handle your accommodation check-in and check-out properly, and ensure maximum chances of getting your deposit back.
Discover the cheapest cities for student housing : find your solution on a budget!