I have been searching for a place to rent for the last month or so. There have been some “too good to be true” opportunities on Kijiji, which turned out to be scams. How do I spot a fake? – NERVOUS
DEAR NERVOUS: Areas with low vacancy rates, as we have here in Waterloo Region, are fertile ground for fraudsters. In the past few weeks alone, I’ve had multiple people reach out to me about “phantom listings”, which are ads for properties not actually for rent, posted by people with no authority to rent them. Unfortunately, it’s not hard for scammers to fake legitimacy online by pulling photos, descriptions and details from the MLS system and existing listings. This makes it more important than ever to protect yourself.
Learn a bit about the market. Cheap rent in a great neighbourhood can be a sign that something is amiss.
If a rental ad catches your eye, search the property on Realtor.ca to see if it’s also for sale. It would be rare for an owner to try and sell a unit on MLS while offering it for rent on another platform at the same time.
Visit the property in person. I always suggest seeing a prospective unit for yourself, to confirm that it is as advertised. If there’s a “for sale” sign on the lawn, it may not actually be for rent.
Meet the landlord and be wary of one who wants to remain anonymous. While someone could access the space and pose as the landlord, an in-person visit makes this less likely. If you can, chat privately with the existing tenants and hear what they have to say about the landlord and the living conditions.
Do a Google search. Try your best to verifythe landlord (or management company) online to see if there have been issues or complaints.
Protect your confidential information. A landlord may ask for references and a credit check, but neither of these will require your Social Insurance Number, banking information, or sensitive documents than can be used to steal your identity. As a prospective tenant in a competitive market, you should keep a copy of your Equifax credit check and credit score handy. This will limit the need to share personal information and can streamline the application process with a legitimate landlord.
Demand a written lease. Ontario law requires that landlords use the Ontario Standard Lease Form for any lease signed after April 2018. A legitimate lease will contain the name, address and phone number of the landlord or property management company, the rate you are paying, and a list of the amenities included with your rent. Make sure to get your hands on a written copy signed by both you and the landlord before handing over your deposit or moving in.
Don’t pay before you are approved. A landlord should never ask for money before your application is approved. If you feel you are being pressured to sign documents, make payments upfront, pay with cash or other non-traceable currency (like gift cards or bitcoin), consider it a warning sign.
PRO TIP: Finding the right tenant is a long-term commitment for the landlord and no one wants to get it right more than they do. When considering rental properties not listed on the MLS system, you do not have the layer of protection that working with a licenced Realtor provides. #AskDavid #Advice