Re: Were you House Scammed? Call me!
Please see as follows few comments I personally found very helpful so as to detect scam sublets around:
1. By Frank Jordans:
How to survive a Geneva sublet
If you move to Geneva (Switzerland) then the chances are one of your first homes will be a sublet apartment. Here are some cautionary tales and bits of advice based on personal experience:
Most people find it hard finding an apartment in a new city, but Geneva poses particular problems because of the acute housing shortage. One reason is the excess of demand compared to supply. Another (and rarely mentioned) reason is the tendency for people to hold onto apartments they've let forever. And I mean forever. They literally think about passing them on to their grandchildren, while in the meantime subletting them - usually illegally - to stupid foreigners.
Don't think you can't simply avoid this scam. Chances are, you're going to have to settle for a sublet at first because signing a real tenancy with a regie is almost impossible. I did and so did most of the people I know. Sometimes it's fine. Most of the time there are problems. These include being "found out" by the regie; being ripped off by the actual tenant (your landlord); and living with broken appliances and other problems because your landlord won't fix them and you can't go to the regie.
Luckily there's help for you in the form of ASLOCA, the tenants' association. Everybody should join ASLOCA. I did and they helped me immensely to solve the problems I had with my landlady, let's call her Sylvia Boska. Here's what happened:
_ I moved into a small, centrally-located, furnished apartment in January 2007. Sylvia said it was a legal sublet and I signed a contract for 1,800 francs rent a month. We renewed the contract in early 2008.
_ A few months later we discovered damp in one of the walls. Instead of sending a workman from the regie, Sylvia brought round her own guy. I should have smelled a rat.
_ In late 2008 I had a problem with a neighbor and called the regie. They informed me I wasn't living there legally and Sylvia had significantly overcharged me on the rent. Sylvia, who had since married and moved to Argentina, admitted she'd lied to me, but saw no reason to lower the rent. The regie agreed to a one-year sublet and in the meantime I contacted ASLOCA about the rent.
_ After about a year of legal wrangling Sylvia was forced by the court to lower the rent to the legally permitted amount of 1,540 francs. She refused to pay back the money she'd overcharged us so we went to court again and were awared the 6,000+ francs she owed us. At which point, in late May 2010, she sent us an eviction notice.
_ Without a valid contract or the support of the regie, it's impossible to avoid eviction. We could have gone to court to get a stay of execution, but by sheer luck and pleading we found another apartment nearby and agreed to move out at the end of June. Sylvia still owes us over 6,000 francs, though the court has ordered her to pay it back to us by the end of the year.
The above is an absolutely typical example of the kind of problems you'll face with a Geneva sublet. Now some might say we should have kept quiet, paid the overpriced rent and nothing would have happened. Maybe. Or maybe she would have taken a dislike to us for some other reason and turfed us out, sans contract, on a whim. In my view it's always worth consulting ASLOCA and fighting for your legal rights, because failure to do so by too many people is one of the reasons the housing market in Geneva is such a mess.
Don't be surprised if the person who sublets an apartment to you illegally turns out to be a two-faced, lying, greedy and manipulative individual. Arm yourself well and get support: join ASLOCA; meticulously document your correspondence; follow the rules and the court will side with you.
2. By Nir:
“If you're subletting, insist on speaking with the Regie before paying anything, to ensure the person whose about the rent the place to you is indeed the current & future tenant. And use common sense: if anything feels wrong, don't go ahead!”
3. By translator:
“I currently sub-let and I have an official contract with the original lease holder. I also have a copy of the letter from her regie that says the renter is allowed to sublet to me for a specified length of time at a specified rate”.
I hope it helps.