Apartment rental scam in Germany. Personal experience.

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Some time ago, my husband rented a WG room for several months. At that point, he did not have any pieces of furniture, so he did not mind to rent a room that had some. He managed to get a room from a young German man, who was going abroad and was leaving his bed, sofa, wardrobe, desk, TV-set, TV stand, mirror, and curtains. The man (let me call him John here) mentioned he was looking for a responsible sublessee, because he did not want his furniture to be damaged. John planned to be away for some months and let my husband to use his furniture for his own convenience. Moving his furniture back and forth would be costly and time-consuming.

My husband and John signed the rental agreement. As it later appeared, as a sublessor, John asked my husband to pay EUR 1200 deposit, even though, he paid only EUR 600 deposit to the landlord himself. As for the furniture, there was nothing about it on the rental agreement. Not a single word. John did not mention any additional payment, any ‘usage fee’. It was clear, of course, that if my husband breaks anything, he must compensate for that. It seemed to be a common knowledge. Nevertheless, it was never discussed or written on the rental agreement.

Time passed and my husband was ready to move out. He notified John that he noticed there was a back dot on the curtain (he could not wash it away). My husband also told John there was a small problem with the wardrobe, and John agreed the problem always was there. He did not ask my husband to pay for that.

In addition, there were scratches on the floor beneath the sofa. My husband believed John knew about that. He believed the scratches were there before he moved in. In any case, my husband was ready to meet with John in order to hang over the room properly. John said he was busy and would contact my husband later. In some days after he moved in, he messaged my husband saying he noticed scratches on the floor. He implied he has never seen them earlier. My husband agreed they had to let the landlord know about the damages of the floor and asked John to let him know how much he has to pay for the repair works. A week passed and there was no reply from John. My husband contacted him again asking for the price and wondering when they could meet to hang over the room. John replied the landlord did not care about the floor, so nobody had to pay a single euro. Once again, he said he was busy and did not have time for the meeting. Two months passed. There was no word from John.

According to the rules in Germany, my husband could not get his deposit back without John signing the documents. As for John, he had three months to sign them.

My husband was ready to pay John some money as a thank-you. He thought it was kind of John to let him use his furniture. He was waiting for a call from John.

33 days after John moved in, he contacted my husband, saying that: 1) his iron was leaking 2) my husband must compensate for the black dirt on the curtain 3) window shutter mechanism was broken. My husband replied to him, saying he has never touched the iron, because he had his own. As for the curtains, he was ready to compensate the damage. As for the shutter mechanism, he was wondering why John did not notice this problem after he moved in. 33 days passed. For all these days, John has been keeping silence and has never found some free time for the meeting. My husband did not see any problems with the shutter mechanism when he was moving out.

All in all, my husband asked John to tell him how much John wants him to pay for the damage. It took John a day to think about it and in the end, he replied ‘I talked to my friends, and they suggested you should pay me EUR 60 per every month you stayed in the room. In total, EUR 660’. John was not talking about the ‘damage fee’ any longer; he was talking about the ‘usage fee’ of his furniture. He has never mentioned it earlier, and that was not written on the rental agreement. My husband argued that the price was too high and he was willing to pay less only for the damaged curtain and the shutter mechanism.

John messaged him saying that EUR 330 would be fine. He did not provide any evidence stating why my husband has to pay this amount of money. My husband asked him to send the confirmation of the repair prices. John ignored the message. He started to talk in an abominable manner. John threaten my husband. He said if he calls a handyman to repair the floor and the window shutter, my husband has to pay much more in the end. He started to claim that the curtain that he got as a present, costs EUR 300 itself. This is unbelievable. A piece of a synthetic curtain of that size cannot cost EUR 300. Moreover, maybe a simple visit to a dry cleaner’s can help to get rid of the dirt. John started to claim he would call a handyman to fix the floor, and my husband does have to pay for that. My husband pointed out that John cannot fix the floor without the permission of the landlord. My husband said he would regulate this matter with the landlord directly. Shutter mechanism does not belong to John either. John kept saying my husband has to pay even more than EUR 660 after all the repair works are done. He insisted that my husband must pay him EUR 660, despite the fact he was talking about EUR 330 a bit earlier. The argument went on and on. John made more demands that were ridiculous for many reasons: 1) All the things he demanded were not on the rental agreement 2) Proper handing over of the room never took place. My husband repeatedly asked him about the meeting, but John never had time for that. 3) He claimed my husband had to pay for broken things 33 days after he has been living in the room himself. 4) He refused to confirm the repair prices in an official written form. He did not provide any price list.

My husband had to say he needed to contact a lawyer. After this, John changed his mind, saying my husband can pay him EUR 100. He also asked my husband to come with the deposit documents, so he would sign them. He still did not mention anything about the handing over of the room. The landlord was not aware of the latest events, because he left for a vacation. We believe John crossed the line. His demands sounded as pure fraud. My husband would not mind paying the real price for the damaged things, but he cannot afford to be scammed like this. Remember to read your rental agreement carefully and discuss any possible ‘usage fee’ in advance, preferably in written form.

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