As this year’s renting season remains busy by historic proportions, a large number of Canadians have seen themselves caught in scams around rental properties.
This has created additional risk for renters who are already under pressure to find housing.
Compared to June 2021, Vancouver-based rental platform liv.rent has seen a 47% increase in rental activity on their platform during June 2022.
Meanwhile, reports of suspicious listings have nearly tripled from the previous year, as can be seen from a feature that allows users to flag suspicious activity on the platform.
With students starting to return for the upcoming fall semester and 432,000 new permanent residents expected by year-end, there is an urgent need for Canada’s rental industry to take action to safeguard vulnerable renters.
“Scams and fraud are my biggest fear when renting in Canada. I haven’t personally encountered any scams, but I have heard stories from friends where they sent a security deposit for nothing”, said John Harding, a renter.
Opportunistic scammers are more prevalent now than ever, costing Canadian renters 12.3 million dollars through merchandise scams—which include rental scams—in 2021, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
As the rental industry continues to move online, scams have become more sophisticated and more varied. Fake profiles and listings remain the root of the problem, but recognizing and avoiding them is often difficult for renters.
Blurry listing photos, obscured address details, and urgent demands for personal information or cash deposits are all tell-tale signs, but are easy to miss without careful attention.
One incident, reported on by CTV News Toronto, involved a listing on Kijiji that attracted attention after several tenants submitted cash deposits to a fake landlord, only to be asked to leave the following day by the real homeowner.
Karima Siddiqui, originally from Milton but who has recently moved to Vancouver, said she had to go through a rental scam where she made an advance payment for a property listing that had no features as shown on a listing website.
“I have lost a considerable sum. Though I have alerted the authorities, but it cannot substitute for the stress that I am going through right now”, she said.
Muhammad Aamir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Milton Reporter, Milton Reporter