In light of the my years of experience of renting holiday homes in Puglia on the most beautiful beaches of Salento with my real estate agency in Torre Lapillo, I feel like giving you some practical advise on how to avoid frauds on renting a holiday home. Yes, frauds. In August especially, we read or hear news about disappointed or downright angry travellers that were swindled in renting their holiday home or villa. The advice I am about to give you doesn’t only apply to Puglia but can be useful in every other Italian location you want to spend your holidays in: I’ve read about these frauds in other places both at the sea and in the mountains in Italy and also in cities of art. You mustn’t consider this post as a signal of alarm because however the great majority of rents is successful: these are only a few suggestions to bear in mind in the booking phase to avoid inconveniences later during your holiday. Let’s begin by identifying two situations that could happen to you: the first is about the house that is not in compliance with what you chose, the second is about real non existent houses.
HOUSES NOT IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE DESCRIPTION
In this case, you rent a house that is white but in reality you find it is black! I’ll explain. You went online and found an advertisment for a holiday home, you saw the photos and read the description, you contracted the house with the owner, you paid the down payment. You can’t wait to go on holiday to the seaside. Good, you get there and surprise: you find a house that is not in compliance with the description. Careful: not that it’s better but on the contrary that it is worse! I’ll show you a real case that came up on Tripadvisor, click here.
“AUGUST holidays in Salento (TORRE LAPILLO) we trusted the ads found on internet. After a few days I found an ad on Kijiji of two flats precisely (we are renting a small villa in a quiet area among the most beautiful beaches of Salento. The house is composed by two double bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom with external and internal shower, possibility to eat outdoors and use of the barbecue, car park space, TV, washing machine, air conditioning, quiet area surrounded by green). From the description it looks like a dream villa, I called immediately and the owner answered so I asked some questions, everything seemed ok. I sent a €500 down payment for both flats. When the day we were to leave arrived we left in the evening also because the trip was 10 hours long. We got there and found these sort of small villas in a road in the middle of the countryside with a sign that said “no entry to cows”, the two houses weren’t what they described, the bathroom was not the one they said and let’s not start on the kitchen and the washing machine. The external shower was a rubber hose and the most drammatic thing was that we had to go to get water every day with a tanck because it wasn’t drinkable, etcccccc. (I’m ok with the fact that it’s not my house but when it’s not livable one can’t swindle people this way). I had to argue here and we went searching for two flats in the town after 10 hours of travelling in the week of the mid-August holiday”.
Isn’t that a shitty situation? In this case, you are up against the difformity of accomodation: I expect a certain house and I get one that is totally different. What to do to avoid this situation?
1) Leave a written trace of the conversation. In the booking phase, write via email don’t just do it over the phone. Print the confirmation email with the advertisment to show to the owner directly the photos he posted online.
2) Ask detailed information about the house. Always ask all information about the house: Is there a washing machine? Is there air conditioning? Could you please supply me with the full list of what is supplied in the flat? Can I have photos of every single room as is? Sometimes, I personally am amazed as to how you can rent a flat seen on internet with 4 or 5 photos in which, for example, the photos of whole parts of the bathroom, kitchen or a bedroom are missing!
3) Get the location on Google Maps. Today, everyone goes on Google Maps to see places and find routes. Get them to send you the exact place in which the house is located. This will help you find the exact distance from the house to the sea and to the main services.
NON EXISTING ACCOMMODATION
The second thing that could happen to you is this: non existing houses. While in the first case you will find the house, but it’s different or not like the advertisment, in this case the house doesn’t exist. This is a real fraud: I get people to send me a down payment and then I disappear. The web is full of these cases, click here and here … How to make sure you don’t get swindled?
1) Ask who you are dealing with. Who is the person that is renting you the house? The owner? An agency? In case it’s an owner, you can trust them but get them to send you a copy of the tourist rent contract, a receipt of the down payment and the owner’s data. In case of an agency, the matter is easier because you can verify the existence of the agency through the Chamber of Commerce. Let me start by saying that I don’t want to cause any injustice to owners who rent their houses on their own, there are many of them and the majority are good and honest people and here in Salento we have a wide network of relationships with them. On the other hand here are the advantages of renting through a real estate agency on the territory and with a numerous clientele.
– The Agency is an intermediary. It chooses the houses by looking at them in person and then proposes them on the market. The agency risks losing its face. If you have any problems, you know who to turn to: there is an office!
– The Agency is a guarantee. The agency works with tens or hundreds of houses therefore its interest is to work well. And let’s not forget that nowadays there are clients’ comments posted directly online.
– The Agency gives you detailed information. For example, in the case of our agency, for every rent advertisment we give you: a descriptive text of the house, many photographs (every room is photographed from different angles), details of the characteristics and accessories supplied, plan of the house and possible video. Last but not least, the real reviews of those who have rented previously.
– The Agency protects your payment. Take care to notice the proportion between the down payment to be given as a “warranty” for the success of the rent and the actual rent fee. Usually it’s around 30%. Again, be careful not to make payments through methods that aren’t quite secure: the least safe are payments on prepaid cards, or payments via Western Union or money transfer [source].
– The Agency assists you on location. Once you have arrived at the house, problems could crop up in the course of one, two or more weeks of stay. Organised agencies supply emergency services for the maintenance and management of the houses. That’s very important seeing as you are on holiday.
There are always cases of improvised agencies and owners but what I feel like telling you in the end is this: whether you are dealing with an owner or with an agency, always ask for information, it is your right!
If you have any other suggestions or experiences to tell, the comments section is at your disposal.