For members


How to avoid getting scammed when flat hunting in Paris

Apartment-hunting in Paris can be a nightmare for new arrivals, not least because they have a good chance of falling victim to a scam or identity theft.

How to avoid getting scammed when flat hunting in Paris
Photo: AFP

There's no need to panic and stop trusting everyone but you need to have your wits fully about you when you are apartment hunting in Paris. 

It can happen to anyone, even the French president's daughter. Flora Hollande, daughter of François, lost €2,400 after wiring two months' rent to a landlord in order to secure a flat she had seen online.

She arrived at the flat with her mother Segolene Royal only to find the door locked and the landlord having turned off the phone.

Sometimes the scams are so well organised that there's little the victims can do, such as the man who swindled around €10,000 out of nine different tenants for a studio in Paris. They had all visited the flat, some with their parents, spoken to the fake landlord, signed a contract and wired over the first month's rent.

These kind of scams happen with sublets, where someone already renting the apartment lets it out to someone else for a short period of time. If you sublet a flat you need to be doubly careful.

The main type of scam flat hunters in Paris and other French cities fall victim to most often sees a fake landlord ask prospective tenants to send them money to secure the flat they have advertised on a website. Once the sum has been paid, the eager renter never sees their money again and the online ad simply disappears.

Then there's the more serious scam involving identity theft which stems from handing over the infamous dossier.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know about apartment hunting in Paris

The dossier is the file of documents you need to put together to give to a landlord or estate agent to basically prove you will be a trustworthy and reliable tenant who will pay the rent on time.

Most agencies or property owners demand this giant folder filled with copies of IDs, bank statements, tax assessments, job contracts and lots of other fiddly documents. 

It is also filled with lots of personal financial information, meaning you need to be very careful who you show it to and also how you share it. 

So how can you make sure the apartment you are interested in is even real and that the person at the end of the email doesn’t intend to run off to with your identity?

According to Nadège Conger, founder of, if you are coming to Paris for a short time you should “be suspicious of a landlord who isn't interested in finding out who you are, why you are coming to Paris and how long you are staying.”

If someone is going to rent you their home, they should want to know some facts about the person they are going to let sleep in their property.

Conger also believes you should be wary ”of someone who is in a hurry to get everything settled in order to receive a deposit and rent money”. 

If you are organising the apartment from abroad, you should try to connect with the person through video call, so you can have a virtual tour of the property. If they refuse, a giant red flag should be blinding your vision.

“You want to see they have access to the property,” agrees Conger. “If they tell you they can't accommodate a video call or a visit because they are travelling or because of some emergency, beware!”

It's a good sign if a landlord who advertises their flat on a paid site, rather than on free sites such as Le Bon Coin, experts say, but not fool proof that they're legit.

Email exchanges can give a lot away too. Watch out for emails where the French is badly written or when the language used is very formal and impersonal, because there is a chance a scammer is just copy-pasting lines from the internet to lure you in.

Here are our top tips to avoid scams:

Be suspicious

Especially if the landlord or departing tenant says they are abroad and are suddenly hard to contact, or someone else picks up the telephone on the number they gave you.

Be very suspicious if the landlord is ultra keen to rent to you. It's hard to find a flat in Paris and normally landlords are very picky, so there's no reason for them to be so keen to get you in.

If they try too much to reassure you that it's not a scam, it probably is.

The golden rule is: “If in doubt, walk out.”

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Sometimes, the scams are easy to spot. Websites such as Craigslist or Le Bon Coin have hosted many bogus adverts. If you see a flat for €600 a month for a three-bedroom apartment beside the Louvre, it is almost certainly not a legitimate  bargain, but a scam. If the pictures look straight out an IKEA catalogue that's s probably because they are. Dream flats do exist, but they come with a price tag . 

Take care to check out if the photos on the ad matches the text that goes with it. If they don't, the alarm bells should go off.

Have your wits about you

If the wording in the advert rings a fishy bell with you, it is probably a kipper. If some paragraphs are in perfect English, but others are in capital letters demanding you send your email address immediately, this is probably a fake ad. Do not send your email address. A good idea is to copy paragraphs directly into Google and you can see if they have been lifted from a real ad. 

Never wire money. Never ever (unless the contracts are signed)

This is a hard and fast rule, without exceptions. If you send money through Western Union or one of the other wire services, it's probably gone forever. Forget about getting it back. 

No good landlord would ask you to do this, but scammers often ask for deposit money to be wired even before you have seen the flat or signed a contract.

Check them out too

It is increasingly easy to find out if someone is real or using an anonymous email account. Google their name, if they give it to you. Try to speak to them over the telephone. Fraudulent renters often use and email addresses. Be sceptical if you can’t find anything about them. 

Maintain some privacy

Landlords will need to know details about you but they don’t need to know everything before they meet you. Do not give out any financial information to a stranger over the internet. 

Research the street

Look up other rentals in the area, compare prices. Maybe you are getting a real bargain, but landlords and owners are normally aware of property prices in the area and will set the price accordingly. 

If all the other two-bed apartments in that area are being rented out for €1700, it's unlikely you 'dream rental home' for €900 is real. Also, use Google maps to check the photographs. If there is a pic of a park out through the window and you can see there is no park in the vicinity, chances are the pics are fake.

Dossier don'ts

If you are going the official dossier route, the unbreakable rule is never, ever send it by email. If you do, you run a real risk of somebody stealing your identity and destroying your credibility and financial stability.

A giant alarm bell should ring if anyone asks you to email these documents, no reputable landlord or agent would. You must only ever hand them over in paper format to a person you have met, and consider trustworthy. This makes it difficult to find an apartment through a French agency before you arrive in Paris, but it is a crucial step. 

Don't send personal details before you have seen the flat. Fake landlords looking to con you and steal your identity might ask for bank statements, copies of ID cars, proof of address or payslips before you have even spoken to discuss a rendevous to see the flat. Don't hand over a singe sheet of paper until you are sure they're the real deal.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘You’re better off sleeping in your car’: How Paris is plagued by scourge of bed bugs

The bed bug infestation that is worsening across France has left hoteliers and residents in Paris struggling to find a remedy to a problem that leaves them often out of pocket and out of home.

'You're better off sleeping in your car': How Paris is plagued by scourge of bed bugs
Photos: AFP

If the last thing on your mind when staying at a glitzy Paris hotel is having to worry about getting bitten by critters, think again. 

A Paris hotel group head has admitted that even high-end hotels in the French capital are affected by a pest infestation that’s getting worse across France. 

France’s bed bug problem has seen the number of cases go from 180,000 to 400,000 in just two years.

In 2018 alone, there were 100,000 bed bug infestations in Paris, according to the French Union for Pest Control (CS3D), a scourge that is now also affecting the capital's hotel industry. 

As one TripAdvisor user commented about their stay in a Paris hotel last November: “Bed bugs, no handling of the matter and no treatment. You’re better off sleeping in your car”.

“It’s traumatizing hotel managers, we talk about it among ourselves, but timidly” Jean-Marc D'Orx, general president of Ile-de-France’s Hotel Union, told Le Parisien.

“The hotelier is a victim in this kind of case. It's not that the hotel is dirty, but it has welcomed people who have brought the bed bugs with them.

“When a room is infested, you have to change all the bedding, the mattress, the bed frame, it can cost anywhere from €300 to €10,000 depending on the category of the hotel.

Aside from these big financial losses (not fully covered by insurance according to D’Orx) and the effect bed bugs can have on a hotel’s reputation, hotel managers also have to close their establishment until new beds have been delivered and pest controls carried out.

In fact, since 2018 any landlord with a rental property in France that’s found to have bed bugs or any other parasite infestation (cockroaches, rats etc), has to cease letting it out, or face a fine of €50,000 to €100,000 for not doing so.

“In Canada, pest control treatments are mandatory when a tenant departs, but unfortunately this is not the case in France,” French housing and social inclusion group Si Toit Lien told Le Monde.

This has resulted in countless unwitting tenants in France having to deal with a serious health and housing problem from the moment they move into their new home.

According to the French Union for Pest Control, 92 percent of French people have at some point found pests in their homes. 

But bed bugs – called ‘punaises de lit’ in French – aren’t just being found in beds.

“It’s horrible, even when you’re sure they’re gone you see them everywhere,” a north American reader in Paris who asked to remain anonymous told The Local.

“The cinemas have a problem with them so you start avoiding places.

“You throw out everything that’s part of your bed including the mattress, even though they say all you need to do is wash beddings at 90degrees and it should be fine.

“The pest control guy I got was great. It cost €450 for him to come three times to fumigate. The main problem at my place was the carpet.

“So on top of the cost of fumigation there’s also the expense of staying a night or several nights at a hotel, which often has to happen.

“The fumigator told me bed bugs were by far his biggest business, way above cockroaches and mites, and that he couldn’t keep up with demand despite not advertising.

“The French blame Americans for bringing them over…I got them from an American friend who travels a lot. Bastard.”

The Local's Paris based editor Ben McPartland said: “A neighbour in my block just dumped their mattress in the street after realising it was teaming with bed bugs. They were everywhere. It was stomach-churning.”

Bed bugs are 7mm-long insects that feed on human blood, usually at night. Their bites can result in skin rashes, allergic reactions and psychological trauma for the person trying to sleep.

After having almost disappeared in the 1950s, bed bugs (Latin name Cimex lectularius) have proliferated in France in recent years.

READ MORE: Are American's really behind the bed bug explosion in Paris?