Opinion: Housing shortage is feeding rental fraud
Landlords own rental properties as an investment, and it is understandable to be worried when you are inviting a stranger into the basement of your own home. Even if a rental investment is separate from your home, it would be stressful to ensure the tenants selected are respectful, take care of the home, pay rent on time and are good neighbours. For many homeowners, renting out suites is a necessity to help cover mortgage payments and allow someone to take the step into homeownership.
When you are a tenant it is also very stressful in this market. With a low vacancy rate, just finding a place is a challenge, and then it is even more difficult to find a decent landlord who is fair and respectful.
Plenty of Landlords who have had bad experiences and the ones who want to avoid them, have switched over to more short-term vacation rental sites like Airbnb to avoid long-term tenants that can cause problems.
This switch has removed long-term rental homes and suites from the rental market and added to the housing shortage. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned of people in our region who are renting short-term vacation rentals and then posting ads online for the same units as long-term rentals. They pose as potential landlords to garner a damage deposit and first month’s rent from an unsuspecting victim.
The worse part is that the victims of this fraud only find out they've been scammed when they arrive to move in.
This scam is worrisome because someone can welcome you into the suite and show you around. It’s not as if you haven’t even seen the inside of the suite or are speaking with a landlord who is abroad. That was a common scam a few years ago.
What makes this difficult is to tell if you are getting scammed or not. I’ve spoken to a landlord who has had tenants pay a damage deposit and rent before moving to the province. It’s just so hard to tell who you can trust and who you can’t.
The media and law enforcement are always releasing information on new scams to help protect the public. Most people think that they are up-to-date and are smart enough to not fall into a scam, but this scam made me stop and think that if I were in that position, they could have got me, too.
The current scam has the prospective tenant touring the home and meeting the “landlord” in person. Now tenants need to worry if their landlord is actually real and not just worry about them being a good one.
Make sure to always look on short-term vacation rental websites to see if the suite, condo or home is listed there. Also do not forget to ask to see things like the landlord's driver's license and their current hydro bills for the home in question.
Paying a damage deposit and first month’s rent is a lot of money for anyone, and to lose it to a fraudster would be damaging. It could set someone back significantly.
Scammers are always improving their techniques to keep scamming. The public is told what to do to protect themselves and this also informs the scammers on what they are going to face. Criminals are looking for a way to make a quick buck and, unfortunately, they are getting better and better at it.
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