Scam story and an advice how to avoid it
More and more students are coming to Groningen. It is getting harder and harder to find a room. Last year, for the first time since I have been around, I witnessed students who became homeless for a period. In 5 years in Groningen, I had the “luck” to change 5 times my house for a good or a bad reason.
The first year, I was lucky to get a shared room in a dormitory which I didn’t mind, and I found a lot of cool friends from all around the world. However, the limit of contract for one year made me rush into one of my worse decisions. I had searched for a house for nearly 4 months before my contract was over. The rejection without any obvious reason to get a room started to become an intense feeling that you are stereotyped, and you are not a nationality that they prefer. I went to different houses, but the luck was not on my side. With the time I got desperate and scared about my living situation. One person posted on Facebook in some page about an apartment. The price, and the location and everything was perfect. (First, advice…if it is perfect, probably it is something fishy.) I wrote him, and we started chatting. After a few days, a got a contract. I read it very well and I agreed to the terms. Then, the landlord asked me to transfer the money with MoneyGram which was suspicious but with the time pressure, I agreed to it.
So, I sent 1000 euro to a person who I had the personal information, ID card number copy and yet I got scammed. I realized that when he stopped replying to me within 2 days after the payment. Of course, it was a horrible experience to understand that you are poorer and homeless but now after countless other scams, bad landlord stories I would recommend to the new students the following precaution steps before getting burnt. Note that even after 5 years of living around in Groningen, I always get surprised by the new house problem. So those steps could have exceptions but when I search a new house I look at:
- Visit yourself the room (I know this is very hard especially if you come from another country).
- Perfect location, price,
- Send a person to meet with the landlord.
- Insist on a meeting with a camera.
- Ask detailed questions about the place.
- Google the person, the photos, the location.
- Insist on speaking with the current tenants.
- Do not transfer money if it is not with a bank account.
- Find people from your country that could guide you into the problem.
- Check the price in accordance with other houses in that area.
- Probably it is better to use an agency for the first year and the next years you will get your own network to find your other place.
- Avoid living in a house with the landlord because they come up with their own house rules which are enforced on you without any choice.
- Distance from University or work is your last problem comparing with being homeless.
- Sub-leasing contracts can be risky.
- Check the name of the landlord because there is a of landlords in Groningen.
- Agency that find you an internship may oblige you to live in houses under their conditions which usually are overpriced.
- Go to/call the police as soon as you realize you are in danger.
- Get a key to your room. You are allowed to change lockers of your room as long as you give the key to the room after you move out.
- The landlord can not enter your room without your permission and knowledge.
Good luck to the new students! Maybe, your university or country community could help you out so do not afraid to ask for a help. I was homeless for 2 months after this case but fortunately, it was summer, so I could stay over at friends houses and find a new place before the study year.
Do not forget that it is fine to fail and learn from your mistakes! I am sure that your friends and family will help you by supporting you emotionally and in the end, it will be just another fun, stupid story you tell people at a party.