Am I Being Fooled? Long-term Airbnb in Iceland

I was planing to rent an apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland. The price looked a little cheap. I wanted to ask if it was the real deal; the landlord said he lives abroad and he is offering to pay one month’s rent and one month’s deposit through Airbnb, that he will keep the money until I get the keys and agree to rent the apartment, and only then will the rent be deposited in his bank account. Here are his messages:

Hello, I just read your email regarding my apartment located in Reykjavik. It has two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom, and kitchen. I bought this apartment for my daughter while she was studying in Iceland. She’s back home permanently, so I’m renting the place for an indefinite time. Before we go any further I would like to know a little something about you: how many people intend to live in the apartment, and for how long? The flat looks exactly like the pictures, fully furnished and renovated. Also – very important – the utilities (cold/hot water, electricity, wireless broadband Internet, digital TV, parking spot, dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.) are included in the price of 125.000ISK/month. As for me, you can rest assured that I will never ask you to leave the apartment.

My daughter is building her life here, and I am too old to move to Iceland, so we won’t disturb you. You can use my furniture, or you can also use your own if you prefer. If you decide to use yours, you will have access to a very large and well-ventilated cellar, where you can store my furniture. Now, a little bit about myself so we can get to know each other better. My name is Thomas Nordanger and I’m a 58-year-old structural engineer. I work for MWH Global Engineering. I worked hard to have a good career and I really respect hard-earned money. The company I work for has projects all around the world so most of my time I’m traveling. I have a lovely wife, Sarah, and a 25-year-old daughter, Maria. I am very proud to say that soon I’m going to be a grandfather. Another member of our family is an 8-year-old Labrador which we all love, so, I have no problem if you will keep pets. I’m in Rome now working on a new project. The only inconvenience is that my job doesn’t allow me to leave Rome even for a single day. We just hired some new staff and I’m in charge of their training. However, this won’t affect you at all. I can make arrangements to rent the apartment from Rome (on my expense of course). Looking forward to hear from you soon. All the best from Italy!

After I expressed some concern about the situation, he wrote this:

Thank you for your reply but the problem is that I’m in Rome already. Like I have informed you, the price you shall pay for one month’s rent will be 125.000ISK, with no extra taxes to pay. The security deposit is 125.000ISK. I want to retrieve the money from my bank account on a monthly basis, so I hope it will be no problem for you to wire the money to my bank account. The apartment is ready for you; you will need only to receive the keys and the contract to check in, and see if you like it. Obviously we need a way to complete this deal, that will allow us to make sure we receive what we are after. Along those lines, I have found a way for us to complete the deal safely and fast, and in this way you will receive the keys in less than three days, if you move quickly as well.

The solution is a worldwide third party company called Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). They will provide assistance in handling the payment and delivery of the rental package. We use this company to see that you are a trusting and serious person. With this procedure you will be able to check the apartment before I receive the payment. Please be aware that it is not necessary for you to register with Airbnb given that I’ve been a registered user for four years and I’ve made over five transactions with them so far. They are really professional and they have great services. Let me know if you are interested so I can provide you with all the steps of this transaction. You need to know everything about this process before we get this started. I think is right for both of us.

I replied again asking for more information, and he wrote back:

This transaction cannot be made face-to-face. This is the whole reason for using Airbnb – for both of us to be 100% protected. Regarding the process, you will only have to deposit the first month’s rent with Airbnb for the contract and security deposit 125.000ISK + 125.000ISK = 250.000ISK and they can proceed with shipping the rental package (keys and documents). I will pay for three-day delivery so you will receive the keys and the contract signed by me right away. I will explain you step by step how this process will work:

To start the process all I need is your information (full name and address). I will go online at Airbnb to deposit the keys and the contract with your name as the intended receiver. Airbnb will check the package to see if everything is in order and also the legal papers that will come along with the keys and proof of ownership with their Real Estate Professional Department. Airbnb will send you a delivery notification to let you know they have the keys and the papers in their custody. They will also send you all the payment instructions to complete the rental transaction.

At this point you will have to go to your bank and make a money transfer to the bank account of an Airbnb representative for the amount we agreed upon; the total amount you shall deposit is 250.000ISK. After you make the deposit you will have to send the payment details to Airbnb. Airbnb will verify the transfer and if everything is in order they will start the shipping procedures using UPS or TNT Next Day Shipping Service. After you receive the package, you will go and check the apartment and in three days (inspection time) you must contact Airbnb to inform them if you want to keep the apartment or not. If everything is in order you will instruct Airbnb to send me the information about the money deposit and I will be able to receive the funds.

If you don’t like the apartment they will be sending the money back to you and you will send back the keys and contract. Airbnb can’t release the funds without your approval. Now I must know for sure if you agree because there are a lot of people interested in renting this apartment and I want to know for sure if I can tell them it’s unavailable. If you agree to what I suggested I will tell them that my apartment is already rented and I will keep it for you. If you agree then I must have all the shipping details so I will be able to make all the arrangements for the Airbnb delivery. Thank you for your interest and I await news from you.

What do you think?

Lost Everything in Airbnb Theft… Inside Job?

We moved to Southern California on July 15th, 2016 and unfortunately, while staying at an Airbnb in Pasadena and looking for a permanent place, our apartment got broken into and everything we had brought with us including our passports, birth certificates, national ID cards, all our academic diplomas and transcripts, and every single immigration document we had got stolen (including the copies of them). This is in addition to the huge financial loss due to the jewelry, laptops, even specialty contact lenses being stolen. Obviously the police were immediately notified and involved. We are still in shock and I don’t think it’s something we can easily recover from. We’ve compiled the list of the items we remember that have been stolen and every day still remember some new items that are missing and realize they were in our suitcase or backpacks… The truth seems to be far from what the reviews and the Internet suggest!

Unfortunately, some of the documents are irreplaceable such as both of our undergrad and masters original transcripts and diplomas as they are issued only once in our home country. This can have a significantly negative impact on our professional lives and careers. The magnitude of the damage is beyond repair. The host and management company failed to change the lock on the unit, after the previous tenant had not returned the keys. The Airbnb host and the apartment management are telling us conflicting stories. The Airbnb host says he had asked for the locks to be changed but management denies it, as says he only asked for a duplicate key.

The apartment management claims that the security cameras were being serviced exactly in that hour when the burglary happened and thus no footage has been recorded. There was no evidence of forced entry (remember this is a gated apartment complex with a digital entrance, gated parking, and a key to the unit). These all suggest that it was an inside job. Nothing that was originally in the Airbnb property was even touched by the thief, whereas all of the stolen items belonged only to us! The property loss is about $20,000 (jewelry, laptops, bags, clothes, etc.). Financial loss is something that you can forget and recover from, however the loss of all identification documents, educational records, and most importantly the feeling of having been violated this way, is something that will be haunting us for a long time. We firmly believe the people who caused this need to pay for it and make sure this does not happen to anyone else…

We believe Airbnb should have done something to make sure any apartment that is being rented using Airbnb’s name is a safe place and that if a tenant does not return a key, that it is immediately reported, and the unit made unavailable as soon as possible. I hope this will not happen to anyone else!