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Renting For Members

Five common rental scams in Norway and how to avoid them

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Five common rental scams in Norway and how to avoid them
An apartment building in Oslo. Photo: Husleie.no

With the rental market in Norwegian cities like Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim becoming increasingly competitive, scams involving rented apartments are getting more common. Here are the cons you might come across - and how to avoid them.

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1. Fake adverts

This summer, a fraudster in Oslo managed to collect as much as 43,500 kroner in deposit payments and advance rent each from four separate victims, taking payments over the Vipps online payment service. She then vanished.

The woman behind the scam did not own the apartment at the address advertised and the photos taken of the interior and courtyard were not even taken there. 

There have been several similar cases of fraudsters putting up adverts for apartments that don't exist, enticing potential victims with the prospect of living in a desirable area at a surprisingly low rent.

"We see a spike or increase in fraud in the summer months when the students are coming into the rental market, especially August, which is the biggest month," says Andreas Sæle, marketing manager at the rental site Husleie.no. "It's a pressured market where a lot of tenants are trying to get a place to rent and then they could take shortcuts and that enables the scammers." 

He said that the most common trick was a fake listing loaded up onto a site such as Finn.no. 

"It could either display a different rental property, or it could show something that is completely unreal," Sæle said. 

The scammers tell their victims that dozens of tenants are interested in the flat and offer a deal where they can jump the queue if they transfer a down payment, deposit or a month's rent before even having a viewing. "It's basically pressure tactics." 

How to avoid this scam? 

Firstly, ask yourself, “is it too good to be true?”.

"If the answer’s 'yes', it probably is," warns Ingunn Isefjær Huus-Hansen, team manager for the fraud team at the ad-listing site Finn.no. If the rental price is much lower than comparable apartments in the same area, be on your guard.

Also - compare the photos with the description - contradictions are likely indicators of a scam. You can also use Google's reverse image search to check whether images are used elsewhere (e.g. on the website of a furniture store). If this is the case, it is likely that the ad is a fake. 

Never sign a tenancy agreement without viewing the apartment. "We recommend physical viewings where you actually meet the landlord," Sæle said. 

If this is not possible, you should ask for a video tour by phone. "That way, you can see the rental property and the landlord at the same time," Huus-Hansen says. 

Never transfer a deposit into a private bank account. Under Norwegian rental rules, the deposit should go into an escrow account called a depositumskonto. If a prospective landlord tries to make you pay it into a private banking account, take this as a warning sign.

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2. Renting out same apartment to multiple tenants 

There have been several cases of tenants in Norway moving into their new apartment only to get a knock on the door later that day from someone else who believes they have signed a contract for it.

One scammer leased out the same apartment in Bergen four times, collecting deposits and advance rent from each tenant before disappearing. 

These scams involve real apartments to which the scammer has somehow obtained access, making it harder for prospective tenants to check.

The scammers do not own, or normally even lease, the apartment themselves.

How to avoid this scam 

As with the deposit scam, you can safeguard your deposit by using a depositumskonto and never transferring the money into the account of the person claiming to be the landlord, making a Vipps transfer, or paying in cash.  

Never pay anything before signing the lease and be very sceptical of owners who claim to be out of the country for whatever reason. 

If you have seen the apartment and feel pressure to make a payment before signing anything, do some background research on the owners. 

If you are using the property section of Finn.no and someone contacts you on the message system and asks you to move the conversation to other platforms, be extra watchful. 

"This should get the alarm bells ringing as there is no reason for not continuing the conversation in Finn's message system," Huus-Hansen says. 

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3. Phishing 

Another common method used by fraudsters is to send phishing emails. Posing as the official rental portals or as reputable real estate agents, such emails will usually contain a request to log in to the real estate portal via a link with your access data, or to open an attachment. 

If you log in via the link, however, you will be taken to a fake log-in page, which fraudsters can use to intercept your access data. Files attached to emails may also contain malware, which can spy on your personal data.

How to avoid this scam 

Never click on links sent to you from strangers, when these links often redirect to malicious websites that collect your personal information and credit card details. 
 
Never use a password to log into a rental site that you use for any other purpose. Carefully check email addresses against the legitimate ones also. 

4. Identity theft/card fraud

In some cases, fraudsters will ask victims to send a copy of their passport or other personal documents, such as pay slips and utility bills, by email. The biggest warning sign for this kind of scam is when you are asked to take a picture of yourself holding your ID card or passport.

Fraudsters can then use this personal information to open bank accounts in your name, take out loans or conclude telephone contracts, and some have even managed to apply for credit cards with high credit limits and make high-value purchases in instalments.

Scammers might also ask for your bank card details, which could then be used to make online payments or even bank withdrawals using an ATM card skimming device.

How to avoid this scam 

Never give your credit card or bank details to a prospective landlord. 

Use one of the digital rental contracts offered by sites such as Finn.no or Husleie.no. These use BankID. 

"Then you know that the tenant really is who he claims to be and that the landlord is who he claims to be," Sæle  said. 

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5. Illegal subletting  

Most rental contracts in Norway prohibit tenants from subletting the property, without receiving special approval from the landlord. As a result, it is quite common in Norway for tenants to sublet their apartments or rooms in their apartments illegally, often without informing the subtenant.  

As illegal subletting is grounds for eviction of the legal tenant, the biggest risk you face in these situations is losing your room or apartment at short notice. 

How to avoid this? 

If you are aware that the property is being sublet, ask to see letters from the landlord approving the apartment. 

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