The rental market is a huge contributor to the Canadian economy and its growth. In large cities such as Mississauga, thousands of condos get rented out each year. With the internet at our disposal finding properties has never been easier. However, over the last few years, this has made it easy for internet fraud as well. In the United States alone, around $240 million is estimated in rental fraud and the number seems to be increasing each year. Canada has strict privacy laws that prevent us from finding out just how much money is being lost to rental fraud each year. However, if you were to look up internet scams online, dozens of articles pop up for the GTA alone. In this article, I would like to focus on some stories that came to my attention and to let tenants know what to watch out for when browsing for properties online.
Over the past several weeks, we have seen a spike in the number of people calling us that have fallen victim of a rental fraud in the Square One area. Below I will outline some scenarios that have occurred and what you need to look out for when you are searching for leases.
In this first case, the tenant was searching online for a property on Kijiji. She found what appeared to be a great deal for a large 2 bedroom condo at the Marilyn Monroe buildings for $1500 per month. She wanted a short-term lease for only four months. She did not view the unit, nor she never met the landlord. She decided that she will follow the link in the ad, which leads her to an official-looking website with 50 and 60 Absolute on it. The tenant decided the website looked legitimate, and she contacted the person representing himself as the landlord. She was then asked to pay the money up front and to transfer money into the landlord’s account. Once it was paid for, the landlord never picked up her calls.
In the above scenario, the tenant should have checked for a brokerage name in the ad. The scam artist also made the ad look real by including a link of the actual buildings in the ad. This can easily misguide anyone that is surfing the internet. As a general rule, you should never transfer money to anyone’s account, not even a real estate agent’s. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Another scenario was of a young couple that was asked to pay more money up front as a deposit and to also transfer the money into a bank account. The landlord, in this case, showed them the unit and promised to give them the keys once the money was transferred to him. Once the young couple transferred the money, they never heard of the person again. Although they had contacted the police, there was not much that could have been done to help.
Using a rental real estate agent is absolutely free to anyone looking for a property, as the landlord absorbs our fees. If you work with an agent 99.99% of rental scams can be avoided. Real estate agents have access to all the listings in the Square One area. All landlords that are on MLS, also have an agent represent them and their names and other details about them are available to agents. Realtors also use a system called Land registry to verify if the landlord actually is the rightful owner of the property they are trying to lease. In my brokerages’ case, Cloud Realty asks for certified cheques, that go into the bank trust were the money is held until you take possession of the property. Once we have the keys, then we can release money to the Landlord.
And lastly, many scams are created by creating fake ads that advertise properties that are far below market value. Media and experts believe that this is being done to entice as many tenants to respond to ads and that in an emotional moment one of them would think that the person is a real landlord and that they can safely transfer money with no worries.
Many culprits, may post someone’s property without the owners’ knowledge, and they may not even live in the city or the country. Others may simply be tenants of the property that they are trying to lease in order to not default on their payment, and use your money to pay for their rent, while others post a fake property altogether. By using a real estate agent, scams can be avoided and your money will be accounted for.
If you or someone you know have been a victim of a rental scam we urge you to contact the RCMP.
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