As of November 2023, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Metro Vancouver is $2,362, with renters now spending an average of 51.28% of their monthly income on rent alone.
Considering this, plus record-setting inflation and interest rates, it’s understandable that renters are on guard. Unfortunately, it’s not just these rates that have been increasing but also the frequency of rental scams.
While it’s important to remain diligent while house hunting, most renters don’t receive formal training on how to spot when potential landlords are being deceitful, making them prime targets to be taken advantage of.
If you don’t think they’re legit, verify
Whether we like it or not, we live in a technologically-dependent era. While this is a good thing in most respects, it also provides greater and more diverse opportunities for scammers, such as renters seeking new living situations online.
These false landlords can create profiles, communicate with, and take advantage of unsuspecting renters through various methods. Phone and voice scams are already common, but artificial intelligence is emerging as a new area where scammers can create more convincing listing descriptions through generative AI. These advancements make upfront verification less of a ‘nice to have’ and more of a necessity.
These scams can occur throughout the search application process, including calling references and signing a lease agreement. If you don’t feel as though the person you’re speaking with is legit, ask them to verify their identity or meet in person. If they’re unwilling to do so or unable to produce appropriate identification, that is a cause for concern.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
By far, the most common rental scam in Canada is fake listings. In these scenarios, individuals create enticing but misleading ads for properties that either don’t exist or aren’t available. These can be difficult to discern, with many scammers using actual photos from real estate and rental listings to make their ads look genuine.
Another scam that is becoming increasingly common is roommate fraud. In this scenario, scammers respond to listings as a prospective roommate who claims to be out of town but can send a cheque under the guise of a deposit. They then send a higher amount than requested and ask for the surplus to be returned via cheque or wire transfer. Typically, by the time the poster becomes wise that the initial deposit was fraudulent, it’s too late to rectify the situation.
To avoid falling into these traps, do your research. Check out comparable properties to determine whether the rate matches up, and be sure to ask prospective roommates for verifiable proof of their identity.
From there, ensure whoever is posting is who they say they are by using a platform with verified landlords and listings or research the rental property’s ownership via public records.
Trust your gut. If something appears too good to be true, it likely is.
If they wanted to, they would
Much like dating, finding a rental property is its own form of courtship, and when finding a safe and reliable landlord, the logic of ‘if they wanted to, they would’ applies.
Insist on viewing the property in person or at least a video walkthrough before sending any payments or supplying personal details. If the potential landlord or property owner is unreliable in scheduling a viewing, that’s a red flag. If they are reluctant to provide an address or unit number, that’s another. Both can indicate the property does not exist or the listing isn’t genuine.
If the landlord is legit, they won’t have anything to hide, and you shouldn’t have to jump through any hoops to see the property.
If it doesn’t add up, don’t pay
With over half of Vancouverites’ incomes going towards rent each month, listen to what Jay-Z taught us: keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind.
Remember, you are only obligated to put money down once you sign a lease. If a prospective landlord pressures you to send a deposit before viewing or signing the lease, do not do it.
Similarly, if they are unwilling to set up a traceable payment method, like cheques or e-transfers, that is sketchy. It is also crucial to read the fine print to avoid agreeing to one rate and having the scammer increase the cost in the lease without you noticing.
liv.rent, a trusted rental platform in Canada, offers renters a secure and regulated environment to find their next home. The platform also provides valuable insights and tips on identifying common rental scams, saving renters time, stress, and money.
liv.rent implements industry-leading protocols that prioritize mutual trust to ensure a positive experience for renters and landlords. Its verification features, including phone number/carrier verification and required government ID verification for every user profile, protect against rental scams while expediting the rental process by streamlining communication.
Through its digital features, renters can browse listings, talk with landlords, submit applications, sign leases and pay rent - all in one place, adding another layer of security that bypasses the need to use unsecured platforms.
To learn more about how its platform can help you find your next rental, visit liv.rent.