7

I am in the UK. I found an apartment in Germany listed on homeaway.co.uk and booked it. I had to create a homeaway.co.uk account but did not give any credit card or other payment details.

I then received two emails:

  • one from homeaway.co.uk saying my booking is confirmed and payment is due on (date of arrival), without giving any information about how to pay. This says that the property is professionally managed by HRS Destination Solutions and has a website link and phone number for them.
  • one from HRS which is mostly in German and includes a personal email address (looks like "full name"@web.de) and what looks like a UK mobile phone number. This one says I should ring the number 30 minutes before arrival to collect the key, and payment in cash on arrival.

Two main questions: 1. How can I tell that this listing / booking is legit? You hear a lot about scams in this arena and I was very surprised to be asked to pay cash rather than bank transfer or credit card. I would not hand over the cash until verifying that the key works in the apartment, but is there anything else I can do to protect myself? 2. Would I have any come back against HRS or homeaway.co.uk if it turns out to be a scam of some sort?

Although the listing looks legit (has a few reviews over a few months, etc.) something is raising my "scam hackles" here, probably mainly the request to pay in cash.

  • When I said "looks like a UK mobile phone number" - I meant 07nnn/nnnnnn - would this also be a valid German number? Also when I google the "full name" in the email address (and various combinations thereof) I get nothing relevant. – Mortgagor May 6 '18 at 11:54
  • 1
    A side-remark: In Germany, cell phone numbers start with 01, followed by 5, 6, or 7. When calling from abroad, you skip the leading "0". A number starting with "07" is a regional number. – DCTLib May 6 '18 at 13:44
  • 1
    OK, I googled and the number does appear to correspond to a local number in the area where I the apartment is. – Mortgagor May 6 '18 at 14:24
  • 1
    The apartment might still be illegal even if you get the expected service for money, because of zoning laws which limit the commercial rental of private properties. (That is, a residence is not a hotel and turning it into one requires a permit.) So there could be good reasons for the landlord to keep this off the books. – o.m. May 6 '18 at 15:09
  • 3
    What is the complete area code (before the slash) of the phone number you got? If it is a private rental, it sounds to me legit that you have to pay cash. Bank transfers may take a few days to go through, so paying that way, you would likely have to pay well in advance for the landlord to be sure to get his money (and you would usually not be able to reverse the transfer if it is a scam anyway). – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo May 6 '18 at 15:24
7

There is nothing in your description, which rings any warning bells for me.

Germany is still a very cash-centric country, compared to most other European countries. If it is a private rental, you can't expect the landlord to accept any kind of card payment. The landlord could probably accept a bank transfer, but bank transfers in Germany take some time to go through and can not be cancelled or reversed. It would IMHO reek much more of a scam if the landlord expected a bank transfer in advance. In Germany, there is no widespread service or network for instant money transfers between 'regular' persons.

The phone number you have got (07665/...) is in the area code for March, a village just outside Freiburg. I am not sure if you have agreed that you pick up the key at the landlord's place or if he will meet you at the appartment? Whenever I have rented appartments from private, we have always agreed to meet at the appartment, where I have paid and received the key.

  • Thank you very much for the reassurance. We have not agreed to meet anywhere yet - although it seems like it will be at the apartment, since the booking confirmation says "Bitte setzen Sie sich ca.30 minuten vor Ihrer Ankunft mit dem Vermieter in Verbindung 07665/nnnnnn für die Schlüsselübergabe. Wir begleiten Sie dann mit in die Wohnung um Ihnen alles zu zeigen. Zahlung erfolt Bar bei Ankunft bzw. der Schlüsselübergabe." which as I understand it (my German is quite rusty!!) I think means he will show us the apartment at the time. – Mortgagor May 6 '18 at 19:46
  • 4
    @Mortgagor Why didn't you simply run that text through an online translator? It says: 'Please contact the landlord about 30 minutes before your arrival 07665 / nnnnnn for the key handover. We will accompany you to the apartment to show you everything. Payment is cash on arrival or key collection.' – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo May 6 '18 at 20:10
  • @Tor-EinarJambjo of course I did that too, but one can never be sure whether there is some nuance that has been missed that way! – Mortgagor May 7 '18 at 16:48
-1

A quick search on Homeaway.co.uk took me to a page which says ‘never pay in cash’ https://www.homeaway.co.uk/info/ha-guarantee/travel-with-confidence You will have no recourse if there are any problems with the booking (cleanliness, inaccurate description etc). At the very least you should consider using PayPal rather than cash IMHO

  • 2
    When you click "Learn more" on that page it takes you to help.homeaway.co.uk/articles/… which states "Avoid the following practices: - Sending cash is not recommended, but paying in cash in person to owner or manager upon arrival can be okay. [...]" – Mortgagor May 7 '18 at 16:51
  • @Mortgagor I interpret ‘Can be okay’ very differently to ‘is OK’, and it’s in a section about what to avoid doing that states it voids any guarantee from the company. As a comparison, when using AirBnB I’ve only ever paid cash to a host for local tourist taxes. But it’s your call if your fears about a scam have been allayed. – Traveller May 7 '18 at 17:34
  • 1
    Good luck with not paying cash in Germany. Landlords tend to be older persons and no tech-afficinados at all. – Janka May 9 '18 at 21:19
  • @Janka But presumably they are sufficiently tech-savvy to get their property listed on the site – Traveller May 10 '18 at 7:40
  • 1
    The 16-year-old grandson did this. – Janka May 10 '18 at 8:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.