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Knowing your rights and avoid real estate scams

Real Estate Scams

Written by Laura

Real estate scams: the true and the false
It´s generally exciting to go live in a new city in a new country. We all have amazing reasons to rent an apartment in Barcelona. However, nowadays we need to pay more attention to scams and rip-offs, especially in the real estate sector, for which tenants should be careful and aware. There are as many ways to deceive a leaser as a landlord. Therefore, we recommend that you avoid risky situations and unknown contacts.

Photo via Pixabay

Too good to be true?
The almost obligatory use of the internet has, without a doubt, made access to information easier, in particular with respect to real estate negotiations and the wide array of advertisements for apartments and houses. However, it is important to be prudent and verify the existence of an apartment as well as the landlord. In addition, you should be careful with ghost locations, which appear and disappear within a short time, or with those that can be insecure. This can cause problems and puts you at risk for paying… for nothing. In the end, you run the risk of losing your money and time.

If you are dealing with an agency, verify their reputation online and verify their identity on Google and on social media
If you are dealing with an individual, in this case simply decline to pay anything over distance. Be cautious as well of those that use fake pages on AirBnb or those that request payment via transfer under the profile of an agency, for example. This is, without a doubt, a scam.
Our advice:  in whatever case, keep in mind that Barcelona is an expensive city to rent an apartment in and that bargains don´t really exist. As a result, if an offer seems too attractive, it´s probably a rip-off. You can look here for average prices of unfurnished m2 rentals.

Caution with contracts in different countries
Be cautious with the contract you are going to sign. In Spain, long-term rental contracts are generally valid for three years, but require a permanent stay of at least six months in the apartment. If for some reason you must break a contract before the first six months, know that the landlord/agency has the right to claim the difference of the remaining months. This is the law and it is respected. Many people complain about being <<ripped off>>, but it is the right of the landlord to do so. Pay attention to your contract. A contract is binding, so be sure that you understand every line.
Our advice: If you have the smallest doubt, ask your agency o landlord for a copy of the contract in a language you understand well. You don´t have it to facilitate, but it will be a test of trust between the two parties. Otherwise, you can use Facebook or your consulate to know more.

Photo via Pixelbay

The deposit
The end of a contract is usually a complicated topic. In order to be sure, you should know that in Spain there is a government entity called «INCASOL», which states that all agencies and landlords pay at least half of the quantity that leasers pay for the deposit. Not everyone knows this… which is a shame because in case of a dispute, it is this entity that controls the abuse and advantage taken by both parties. They respect the rights of the landlord as much as the rights of the leaser.
We strongly discourage you from delaying the payment of your last month´s rent with the excuse that the landlord already possesses that quantity under the deposit. Spanish law explicitly prohibits this. In fact, if the landlord wishes, they can initiate a criminal process for which the fine is extremely high.
Our advice: Kindly ask your landlord for a receipt or request a meeting with Incasol. It is required and furthermore remember that it interests them as well. In case of a dispute, it will be seen as obligatory to initiate a criminal process in the local legal manner.  See our article about the obligations of the landlord and the leaser in Spain.

ITP: What is it?
No, it´s not a new tax designed to annoy tenants. It´s a tax that has existed for decades, but only since 2015 has the state started to pursue those who commit infractions. In fact, all agencies and landlords are now required to pay the ITP (Impuesto de Transmisiones Patrimoniales/Patrimonial Transmissions Tax) to tenants. It is easy to calculate – it is 0.5% of the accumulated rent during the contract period. For example: rental costing 1000€ for a three-year contract: 0.5% of (1000€ of the rental X 36 months) = ITP of 180€.
Our advice: It´s non-negotiable – if the ITP is not paid, the State will penalize the tenant. Therefore, to maintain a good relationship, it is strongly recommended to comply. In whatever case, the State has the right to claim the determined amount. The good news is that you do not need to pay a housing tax.

Paying for a reservation?
Perhaps you´ve been surprised, or will be surprised, by having to pay upon making a reservation. If after visiting an apartment you are interested and wish to make a reservation, the agency will ask that you pay an amount of money simply as a signal of your interest.
This amount guarantees your commitment to reserve to the apartment, but does not guarantee that your application will be accepted by the landlord. If it is accepted, this amount is subtracted from what remains to be paid. Finally, if it is still not accepted but you change your mind, you will lose this amount. It´s the agency´s way of making sure no one loses their time and to assure the availability of the rental. The agency only presents one application to the landlord and a second in case of doubt.
If you wish to speak about other forms of fraud or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to write us in the comments. We want t0 help in any way we can!

About the author


American journalist living temporarily in Spain. Her passions include news and feature writing, Spanish language and culture and the outdoors.

1 Comment

  • Hello,

    me and a colleague Are going to mataro, spain from Sept. Until dec. To study at tecnocampus. We got 2 tenancy contracts from 2 landlords and both of them want a Security deposit as well as 1 or 2 rents in advance. Is there any possibility to get those contracts checked? Just in case we wont get scammed.

    Kind regards

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