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Common Rental Apartment Scams in Argentina

Common Rental Apartment Scams in Argentina

After living here for 10 years and hearing far too many apartment rental stories, I feel compelled to advise visitors of some of the unscrupulous practices that sometimes occur here in Buenos Aires, and what you need to look out for.

Please read this carefully as these things can and do happen all the time.

The Bait and Switch

On the day of your arrival, the owner or agent tells you that the apartment you reserved is not available because "the water heater is broken" or "the apartment has a gas leak", and that it will take them several days to effect repairs, and thus they will need to bring you to another, substitute apartment.

If any owner or agent tells you that the apartment's "water heater is broken" or that the apartment has "a gas leak", they are lying to you. The fact is that some owners and agents who will confirm any reservation you make, for any apartment you select, for any dates you want, planning all along that they will find you an apartment somewhere in the city on the day of your arrival.

How to protect yourself: First, only deal with an owner or agent who's reservation calendar is displayed on their website so you can see for yourself that the apartment is reserved for you.

Second, be prepared with the names and addresses of a couple of chain hotels in Buenos Aires so you will feel empowered to reject the substitute apartment, ask for a return of your reservation deposit, and instead check into a comfortable hotel until you make alternate arrangements.

BTW: Our reservation calendars are available on line for your review, so you know that we've properly scheduled you in the apartment you selected.

The Counterfeit Currency Swap, Part I

This happens all the time! As the owner or agent is counting your currency, you are distracted for a moment during which they switch one or several of your hundred dollar bills with locally available counterfeits. This can happen in a second, and when you turn back, the owner or agent simply announces that "this bill you gave me is counterfeit" and waits for you to provide alternate currency.

How to protect yourself: Photocopy your currency or record the serial numbers in advance. You might laugh at this, but it's a common practice. This way you can look at the bill in question and simply tell the owner or agent that "This isn't one of the bills I gave you, because here's the list."

The Counterfeit Currency Swap, Part II

This also happens all the time, and it's very simple: As you are checking out of the apartment and the owner or agent is returning your security deposit, they will have replaced some of your original bills with counterfeits.

How to protect yourself: Same as above, make a photocopy of or write the serial numbers of the bills you originally provide as your damage security deposit, and insist when you first rent the apartment that they return exactly those same bills.

BTW: We will gladly accept your credit card as your security deposit, which makes all of this much easier.

Apartment features not working

If there is anything in the apartment that is not functioning when you check in, you have an approximately 10% chance that it will be fixed during your stay. This specifically includes the internet connection, the cable TV service, the telephone, the air conditioning, or the TV itself.

I don't like to say this because it sounds rather blunt, but here it is: With absolute certainty the owner or agent will swear on a stack of bibles that the problem will be repaired in short order, but they will be lying to your face. The fact is that they will tell you whatever they need to say in order to get you to sign the contract and collect your money, and once they have your money, the problem just won't be a priority anymore. This is just the Argentine way of doing business.

How to protect yourself: Either accept that you can do without the service, or tell the owner or agent that you will check into a hotel until they have fixed the problem, upon which you will check into the apartment as planned, less the day or two you stayed in the hotel.

Surprise Utility Deduction

A friend of mine was checking out of an apartment with the agent and the owner. The owner, upon inspecting the apartment and accepting that everything was okay, handed my friend his deposit back less $60 USD, which she announced was deducted to cover the electric bill during my friend's stay. My friend, who speaks very good Spanish, pulled out his copy of the Rental Agreement signed by the owner herself and showed her where it clearly stated that the rental fee included all utilities. The owner quickly looked at the section my friend was pointing out, and then stated dismissively "Oh, I didn't agree to that part"

My friend took the remaining cash and left. His flight was in less than 3 hours, what else could he do?

The Disconnected Phone

This isn't a common problem, but it gives insight into the Argentine mindset.

I was with a friend of mine who was checking into an apartment with both the agent and the owner. Prior to making the reservation, he had confirmed with the owner that the apartment did have a telephone. As he was checking into the apartment, he picked up the telephone handset, which did not emit a dial tone. He turned to the owner and said "You told me the apartment had a telephone", to which she responded "It does". "Well, its not working" my friend stated, to which the owner deadpanned "You didn't ask if it had phone service, you asked if the apartment had a phone, which obviously it does as you are holding it now."

Share your stories!

If you have any rental apartment experiences or comments you'd like to share, please email them to me at apartmentsinba@gmail.com.


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