About Secrets of Paris

American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

* Custom Travel Content 
* Free Paris Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events
* Private Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

October 8-12
The theme for the 81st annual Fête des Vendanges, the grape harvest festival, is Montmartre Fête les Poètes. Events include a parade, grape stomping, the food & wine tasting village, cooking demos, live music, and tons of other fun stuff. Check out the entire program, the online boutique (get your commemorative bottles of wine!) and other info about the festival here.

October 12 
Stock up on fall reading material for a handful of euros and support the English-language SOS Helpline at their Autumn Book Sale today from noon-4pm at Orrick Law Offices (31 ave Pierre Ière de Serbie, 16th, M° Alma-Marceau). Paperbacks €1, hardcovers €2, all categories for adults and kids, as well as bake sale items. Those who want to donate books can drop them off during the sale.

October 16-17
Blending culture with social, Sinfonietta Paris brings you an evening of Mendelssohn and Brahms exquisitely performed by a brilliant ensemble of young professional musicians. At the Institut FInlandais (Latin Quarter, 60 rue des Ecoles, 5th) from 8-11pm. Tickets €25 (wine and hors d'oeuvres included). The address will be mailed once confirmed; the performance on the 4th December is in the 17th; on the 5th December it's in the 1st. Register on the website; places limited. 

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees
to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

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Saturday
Apr182009

Avoid vacation apartment rental scams

We've all heard the stories of vacation rentals that don't look at all like the photos, or worse, don't even exist. So if you're thinking of renting a vacation apartment for your next trip to Paris, and want to make sure that you don't get scammed, here are a few tips.

First of all, only rent through a reputable agency. These can be found on this site or through the Tourism Office website. Generally, a reputable agency will have their address and phone listed on their website. Beware "anonymous" ones. They may only be scamming the tax man, not you, but for peace of mind insist at least on this. And verify that the agency is guaranteeing the rental, not just listing the owners info on their site.

If you want to get a better deal by renting direct from an owner, through Craigslist, or through other online or print ads (there are so many), there are some precautions to follow:

- NEVER send deposit money via MoneyGram, Western Union, or any other type of money transfer system that can't be tracked to a personal account. Pay with a credit card or through PayPal so that you can recover your money if there is a dispute.

- Always ask for proof that the person renting you the apartment is really the owner: ask to see ID and a recent electric or telephone bill in their name with the address of the apartment.

- Ask for references and check them.

- Google the property and the owner online (the Pages Blanches at www.pagesjaunes.fr will even show an image of the building). Unless they're on the blocked list, they should appear on the White Pages listing (my name shows up, for example, but only with phone and zip code, not the full address).

- Be immediately on guard if the owner's email is full of bad grammer or odd-sounding English, if the owner isn't in Paris and asks you to send the money to another city and/or person, and other telltale signs like ads that don't match the photos.

Some other articles on the subject can be found here and here (scroll down a bit).

Amazingly (and sadly), there is a whole site about scammers using CraigsList Paris here (again, scroll down past the names to read the comments) and another scam victim speaks out here. Some of these are from owners, who also get scammed by fake renters, which should go to show a legit owner will be as wary as you are.

I have heard many people say NOT to ever send a copy of your ID to an owner because then they will use this as their own fake ID. Again, if you are renting through an agency, you won't have to deal with any of these issues.

Personally, I have rented apartments direct from owners without problems, but I always had a back-up plan (the nearest hotel with an available room), wasn't traveling with all of my family for the first time in a country where I don't speak the local language, and didn't send such a huge deposit that I it would end my vacation if I had been scammed.

I don't want you to become paranoid, just a bit more street smart. Of course, that's good advice for traveling in general. :)

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Reader Comments (27)

I have used homeaway.com for the past 6 years, which is really a good and legit vacation rental site. I have used them for several places I've vacationed around the globe. I have been really fortunate with the owners of the rentals; nothing but positive experiences. I received my security deposits back within 7-10 days. However, I wish the dollar was stronger. The rentals are rather pricey when paying in U.S. dollars.
September 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeesoup
I have actually had many problems with tourist rental agencies that were "legit" like Paris Attitude, regarding the security deposit. Both times that there had been problems, I didn't sign a sign out sheet saying there is nothing wrong with the apartment, therefore the contability is partly my fault, however both times at Paris Attitude and Parisian Home (should have learned my lesson the first time) They did a walk through and told me everything looked perfect and after leaving charged me for a new microwave(never been used by me) and a full couch(saying there was holes and had to replace the whole thing-not true). So don't repeat my stupid mistakes and make sure there is a sign in and out sheet signed and kept by you.
October 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
Has anyone used feelparis.com how do I know if it is legit? I am going in Dec 2011 and is rue du ponceau in Paris safe to stay?
November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTanya
Hi Heather,

I love your site. I have been in Paris last December and I had the best time of my life. I am revisiting this May 2012 and doing more research. I would like to ask your thought on Airbnb in renting a studio instead of staying in a hotel.

Merci,
Rika
January 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrika
Hi Heather -
SO sorry I found your site on our last day in Paris! However, you did provide the info needed so hopefully we are off to an English-language bookstore now. A note for you in case you choose to write more on this subject, we are here in a lovely home in Puteaux that we did not pay anything for - aside from time and labor. We use a website called homeexchange.com and are trading our summer house in Denmark for this house in Puteaux. We are fortunate to have inherited a second home so we have the ability to exchange in a leisurely fashion (called 'non-simultaneous') but many exchange during the exact same weeks with success. I will say, there are risks. We've done this before with folks from the U.S. and in one exchange got a very neurotic couple who couldn't stop contacting us every day with this and that (not so relaxing for us). But this time around . . . it's working great! So - a thought for your readers.
Keep up the good work!
August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen W-C
I rented an aprtment in Paris from ASLOM 2 years ago and recognized some type of scammy activity as well. Thry never took our all cash security deposit, due to the person who gave us our keys not really knowing what was going on. Once we checked in, and called with minor issues, we never heard from them again. They never returned phone calls or E-mails!!!
November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G
I rented for a year an apartment Avenue Victor Hugo through Cabinet Ravier, Paris 75116 when we left they did an "etat des lieux" and they charged us 60 euros for each bulb, that we used to purchase for 4,5 euros + the cost for the electrician !
Beware...
October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThierry

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