I am planning to rent an apartment for a year in Cambridge, UK. We liked a property, but the owner wants to rent it through booking.com, and he is physically located in Switzerland. He sent us the following email.
I am sure you are aware of the current virus pandemic spread
worldwide; all doctors here in Switzerland are now the 1st line of
defense in the race to control the spread of the virus. Since I'm
working over 16 hours/day to help my colleagues to fight this pandemic
and as well it's not recommended to get a flight these days, a viewing
before completing the transaction through Booking.com would not be
Also a video tour of the property is available if you would like to
check it out: URL
Allow me to explain the Booking.com process step by step.
Upon your request, I will list the property online on Booking.com for GBP 1,100 / month with all the bills included.
I will send you the booking invitation through the Booking.com system so you will have 24 hours to confirm it or the invitation will
Once you receive the booking invitation from Booking.com, you will have to choose your check-in date ( this would be the date that you
would prefer to move in ) & staying period ( minimum one month and
maximum five years )
After registration, you will have to pay £ 2,200 to Booking.com to get your reservation confirmed. The payment of £ 2,200 would be used
as a 1 (one) month of rent + 1 (one) month security deposit. You can
use it as the last month of rent or take it back at the end of your
Booking.com will automatically provide the tenancy agreement. Booking.com's policy allows maximum 1-month bookings, but choosing a
more extended period will enable you to have the contract for it and
receive the invoice each month during the selected period.
Your deposit will be held by Booking.com in their system until your check-in, after which will be put in a DPS as per law.
After Booking.com confirms your payment of £ 2,200 Keycafe ( https://keycafe.com ) will provide you the location of the keys since
it is their main partner in these transactions. If you don't like the
property for any reason, Booking will refund your money on the same
day. If, after the viewing, you decide to rent it, you will have to
sign the tenancy agreement and forward it to me by fax or email.
Let me know when would be the best time for you to list the property
online on Booking.com and forward you the listing.
Is this a genuine method to rent properties in a different country through booking.com, or is it part of an elaborate scam?
a viewing before completing the transaction through Booking.com would not be possible. <= this is where you should run screaming and not read anything else. Even if the place exists, how would you know it's not a mold infested, badly insulated garbage heap?
If they wanted to do a real long term rent through an app they would use airbnb which allows for this and not booking.com which doesn't. It is a huge red flag they want to use a platform not suited for long term.
I will send you the booking invitation through the Booking.com system <= once again, airbnb has this but even there only after enquiring after a property, Booking.com very simply does not have such a feature. This person is talking nonsense, we will see why.
Booking.com will automatically provide the tenancy agreement. <= the very reason Booking.com stops at 30 days is because in a lot of jurisdictions 30 days is where a short term becomes a tenancy and booking.com does not want to mess with tenancy agreements. Booking.com most assuredly will not provide a tenancy agreement! I have first booked an apartment with Booking.com close to five years ago and there's nothing even remotely close to a tenancy agreement in all those emails, I reviewed a few again.
If you don't like the property for any reason, Booking will refund your money on the same day. <= Booking.com doesn't exactly work like that. As this blog post shows, the host sets the cancellation policy and up until very very recently the scammer was able to siphon the funds off as soon as the reservation becomes 90% non-refundable, otherwise on the guest’s check-in date. See for example here. Right now, because of the COVID-19 situation, they can only get their money one day past check in per this update but I somewhat suspect they are not 100% up-to-date. Also, do you want to convince Booking.com that the apartment simply doesn't exist within less than 24 hour before your money is gone? If Booking.com doesn't side with you then your only avenue is to sue them in a Dutch court of law.
Finally, if I needed to make a grim bet, I would put my money on this being nothing more than bait-and-switch and they don't want to use Booking.com: you agree to this, and after some hemming and hawing and probably a few juicy photos they come back complaining about some problems with booking.com listing and ask for a plain vanilla WU wire. By this time you are hopefully hooked enough to go ahead with it, if not, what's there to lose for them? You can even test it by agreeing and see what happens, just don't send money to them...
And if you are wondering how people rent long term in a different country: they might have boots on the ground (company or friend) and if they don't then just do a short term rent much like it'd be a vacation and get a place once you are there. Easy as pie. I did so when I landed in Vancouver.