Common Rental Housing Scams
Phantom Rentals- An ad for a place that does not exist or is not for rent. Their goal is to get your money before you find out. A good reason to see before you sign!
Hijacked Ad- A scammer posing as a landlord posts an ad for a real place, with altered contact information. Perform a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that's a clue it may be a scam.
Already Rented- A landlord uses an ad to collect deposits or application fees for a place already rented. Always Google a property’s address as a start to your review process, and ensure you view the unit, sign the lease and are receiving the keys before handing over any money.
Missing Amenities- An ad for a real place that lists amenities it does not have in order to price the unit higher. If you cannot visit a unit yourself, ask a rental agent or someone you trust to go and confirm that it includes what was advertised.
Bait and Switch- The landlord tries to get you to sign a lease or collect a deposit for a different property than the one advertised. If they offer up another unit, be sure to go through the same process to verify the legitimacy of the unit and the landlord.
Suspicious Money Requests- You are asked to send money when you haven’t seen the apartment or met anyone. You are asked to pay an illegal security or holding deposit, a full year’s worth of rent, or other upfront fees. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you are asked to wire money, that is a sure sign of a scam. Landlords can only legally ask for last month’s rent and a refundable key deposit, to be collected at the time of signing the lease. No other fees are legal: no application fees, holding fees, damage or security deposits, cleaning fees, pet deposits, etc.
Identity Theft- An ad that is really a trick to get you to hand over confidential info such as a Social Insurance Number (SIN) or banking information. Be protective of your personal information and only provide what is required by law.
How to Protect Yourself
Never pay with cash, wire transfer or hard-to-trace equivalents such as Moneygram, Bitcoin, or MoneyPak. These forms of payment are impossible to track. You can use bank cheques or money orders, or email money transfer, but only when you are certain of the legitimacy of your rental arrangement. Landlords can only legally ask for last month’s rent and a refundable key deposit, that you should only pay at the time of signing the lease. No other fees are legal: no application fees, holding fees, damage or security deposits, cleaning fees, pet deposits, etc.
Visit in person to confirm the unit exists and matches what was advertised before signing a lease or making any payments. If you can’t visit in person, have a family, friend or realtor do so on your behalf, or request a live virtual viewing. Although there are cases where a scammer has access to a unit and poses as landlord, insisting on viewing the unit will reduce the chance of a scam. We encourage you to take our Apartment Viewing Checklist (PDF) and Landlord Q&A (PDF) to any viewing, and to trust your gut if something seems off.
Avoid handing over confidential information like your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or bank information. Landlords sometimes ask for a SIN to do a credit check, but you are not legally required to submit this. Alternatively, according to Equifax, a Canadian Credit Bureau, a landlord can check your credit history with just your full name, current address and birth date. It may be easiest to get your own credit score and credit report to provide with your other rental application documents. Not only will this give you control over who has access to your credit report, it may also help demonstrate that you are responsible and enable you to move more quickly through the rental application process.
Insisting on meeting the landlord in person will reduce the risk of a scam and usually leads to better service. Be wary of a landlord that gives excuses for not being able to meet you or show you the unit.
If you have a chance, speak to the current tenants outside of the presence of the landlord to confirm information the landlord has told you. This also allows you to find out how the landlord treats tenants and whether there’s anything unusual about the place.
Google the address of the unit and the landlord’s name, email, and phone number to confirm that the landlord/company exists, is associated with the property being listed, and whether there are any complaints or scams online. Be wary of any landlord who tries to remain anonymous.
If you feel like you are being pressured into signing a lease or sending money, consider this a red flag. Conduct thorough research on the property and landlord before committing.
Most legitimate landlords will at least request references or a credit check.
A written lease helps prevent fraud and lays out the rights and responsibilities of both parties. Should include the Landlords name, address and contact information.
What to do if you have been scammed?
Contact your local Police Station to file a report.
Contact Student Housing for support and further guidance.
7057481011 ext 7314.