Renting can be a lot of things; rewarding, stressful, exciting, and in some cases, an absolute nightmare. One such nightmare is rental scams. Rental scams are a fast-rising malaise plaguing the real estate landscape in the country. The Lagos state government for instance recorded in the past year, an increase in complaints over rental scams, with some of the landmark cases involving prospective, hopeful tenants who were scammed of 16-51 million Naira. And these are just some of the reported cases. A number of rental scams go unreported, making it hard to accurately determine to what extent these scams affect Nigerians. While we have a comprehensive guide on how to avoid rental scams and what to look out for before renting a home, this piece details the experiences of some Nigerians who have experienced rental scams first-hand.
So in 2019, I rented a mini flat on the mainland before I moved to Lagos. I was 22 years old at the time and mumu me went to check the place at night and met the landlord, who said his dad recently passed and had given him the place. I paid him 800k the same day I went to check the place because he said the place was in high demand and he needed the money to fix the roof of the house. After I paid, I was happy that I could finally move to Lagos. At the time this all made sense. Fast forward 1 week in school, this guy said he had still not fixed the roof, and that it would be sorted the following week. 1 week became 2, 3, 4. At the end of 2019, I decided to go check and you won’t believe the flat only had a wall. Apparently, it wasn’t only the roof left. There were other unfinished parts that 800k could not fix, still, the young man insisted that it was just the roof left. I eventually told him I was not doing again, and that he should refund me. After some back and forth he agreed to pay back. I didn’t see him till 2020. I needed money so every time it crossed my mind I’d just hiss and lament and text him. He used to say, “If I was a scammer my number would not go again”. It reached a point where I begged this guy to just start paying small small since he always had one excuse or the other. Luckily for me, he started paying me 3k weekly. On some weeks if he’s in a very good mood he’d send 5k. I don’t even think he finished paying but I got up to half of my money. My coping mechanism was pretending that it was my allowance.
My sister and I were looking for an apartment in Ejigbo, Lagos. After months of searching, one night, I saw a signboard somewhere with an agent's number. I copied it into my phone. We called the agent and went to the house to check it, and it was exactly what we wanted. But they were not done with the entire building. They cajoled us to make part payment to secure our apartment, which we did. They gave us a timeframe within which the building would be completed We started to see that the date for completion was getting pushed forward. At a point we got tired and decided we no longer wanted to live in the area, so we asked for a refund. There was a person, a random stranger that was willing to pay the full rent for the apartment we "secured". My sister was there when he made the payment and our money was returned to us instantly. The next month, someone called us to give us the gist that the agents had leased a house that had 10-12 apartments to over a hundred different people. And when these people all came with their things to move in, they were struggling to see who the lucky ones would be. That’s how we were almost scammed.
When I was moving to Lagos, I tweeted about my relocation plans and a friend who I knew largely from Twitter sent me a DM. He had found a place. So we both went to see it. Everything looked decent except for the plumbing - water wasn’t flowing into the house and we were convinced by the agent that they would fix it before we moved in. They didn’t. The agent said the plumber was coming the day I moved in. Till we moved out - were chased out - the water was never fixed. Anyway, we moved in. The House wasn’t the best, but the power supply was very solid, it was safe, and the rooms were spacious and to be honest, for my first apartment in a new city, it wasn’t the worst. At least I thought. One day, I was home and someone knocked on the door loudly. I came out and an elderly guy stood there looking confused and asked me who I was. I told him I lived here. He asked how and said that he was the landlord. At that point, we had lived there for about six months. When my housemate came home, we talked about it. We tried reaching the agent, to no avail. We’d been scammed. The next week, I had to travel home and while I was home, my housemate got arrested by the police. With things that serious, we had to get a new place. We did, within a few weeks. But still, that was something.