Once upon a time I was in the frantic search for a place to live in London. I only needed a roof over my head for 6 weeks, but those 6 weeks were right before the London Olympics of 2012. Short-term rents that are not complete money-drains are hard to come by so close to a big event.
So I searched. And I found various friendly landlords and landladies. Most would say “6 weeks only? That’s not good enough. Sorry.”. I eventually found a listing for a nicely positioned house, close to where I had to work, decent price, furnished, but the important thing: willing to rent it to me for only 6 weeks. Great!
But the landlady asked a very weird task of me to prove I had the money to actually rent the place out: send a fairly sizeable portion of the sum to a friend via Western Union and send her the receipt as proof. I figured that was sketchy, but I decided there was nothing bad that could happen should I just send the money through, then immediately have my friend withdraw it. Done and done.
Receipt scanned and sent. Landlady said that wasn’t good, had to do it again, but without my friend withdrawing it so fast. Aaaand… “You’re clearly a fraud. Have a good day.” was my reply. “(Censored) you!” was their reply. Phew, bullet dodged.
Then I found a different listing. Worse position, but slightly better price. Room and a bed and that was it. I didn’t need more than that, so I was good. Contacted the landlord and set up a viewing. Real place, real landlord, rent for only 6 weeks, everything was perfect!
Paid the sizeable deposit of 500 pounds, moved in when the time came, stayed there for 6 weeks. Everything was great! And then the landlord disappears off the face of this earth. Phone number no longer worked, the other tenants disappear as well, email no longer brought replies. Bye bye 500 pound deposit.
Of course, the fact the deposit was paid through a bank transfer, without any institution mediating it, would have been a clear danger sign, did go through my head, but it didn’t ring loudly enough. Luckily enough, at least I got accommodation out of it. More expensive than I bargained for, but I’ll take the small win.
Pay great attention to who you give your money to. And make sure a place exists. And use intermediaries where possible. And reputable agencies. And double check everything. There are bad people out there willing to prey on trust.