When looking for accommodation in Hungary as a displaced person, it’s important to keep your personal safety as the highest priority. Unfortunately there are homeowners who are trying to exploit refugees in exchange for a place to stay. Always keep the following in mind to stay safe!
How to safely get in touch with homeowners
Never give out certain personal information about yourself, including your exact current location, photos of your passport or other ID documents, and personal pictures. Also avoid sharing these personal information openly on social media when posting requests for accommodation.
Consider asking for a video call with the host or at least inquiring about the specific details of the accommodation. This can help you get a better sense of the place and its surroundings, as well as the people who will be there. Ask for as detailed pictures of the accommodation and the neighbourhood as possible.
When speaking with a potential host on the phone, there are a few questions you can ask to help ensure your safety, and understand all conditions of the offer:
- What is the host’s full name?
- Can you bring your pets (if applicable)? Be sure to let the host know how many and what type of animals you have.
- Is the accommodation suitable for children (if applicable)? Let the host know how many children you have and their ages, as well as any special needs they may have.
- If the host has offered transport, can they bring you all the way to your destination? Will they ask you to pay for it (now or at a later stage)?
- Is there a place for you to park your car (if applicable)?
- Is there an expectation that you will provide services (such as helping with domestic chores, cleaning, etc.) in exchange for the accommodation being offered?
Precautions before meeting with homeowners
To help ensure your safety, consider taking the following precautions.
Check the accommodation and its neighbourhood on Google Maps using the Street View function. This can give you a better idea of what the area is like and help you identify any potential red flags.
Share the accommodation link with some friends or family members, but not from anyone openly on social media. This can help you get a second opinion and ensure that you have someone to contact in case of an emergency.
Check nearby accommodation offers. If the price of the accommodation is much lower compared to similar offers, it’s probably a scam.
Ask about the possible ways of rental payment. Be suspicious if you’re asked to send a deposit in the form of mandate cash (like Western Union or MoneyGram). It’s impossible to track these transfers, and you can’t retrieve the money if you get scammed.
Recognise risky accommodation offers
Be aware of warning signs that indicate that the offer is not legitimate or safe. If you encounter any of these warning signs, it’s best to decline the offer and look for alternative accommodation.
If the host wants to keep your identification documents or asks for your personal items.
If the host advertises the accommodation exclusively for women or underage children.
If the host asks you to go on a date or perform sexual acts in exchange for accommodation.
If the host asks for any kind of service from you (such as babysitting or household chores) in exchange for accommodation.
If the host refuses to share pictures or videos of the accommodation, or if the materials they do share seem fake or suspicious.
If the person who meets you is not the same person you have been speaking with previously.
If the host is putting time pressure on you to accept the offer.
If, after speaking with the host on the phone, you have doubts about their sincere intentions.
Where to search for accommodation
Although no online platform can be considered 100% safe, generally, designated accommodation search sites are safer compared to Facebook and similar social media sites.
If you are searching for a place to stay while in Hungary, UNHCR collected some useful tips and organisations who can help you.
How to seek for help if you are being exploited
If you feel that you or your family is not safe or being exploited at the place you are currently looking or living at, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
Access the collection of organisations who can help you in such situations.
This guide partially used information created by Segítségnyújtás MOST (Refugee Help Digital Network) published in the Segítségnyújtás (Ukrajna,Kárpátalja) Facebook group.