The Vancity Renter Survey recently found that a whopping 51% of renters in Metro Vancouver and Victoria have encountered a rental scam.
As if the rental market wasn’t already challenging enough, renters are having to contend with a variety of scams ranging in severity from annoying to illegal.
While prospective renters can’t completely avoid seeing these tricks, they can learn how to spot them early on.
Here are the top five rental scams and shams identified in our survey.
1. The out-of-town landlord
This was by far the most commonly reported scam: the scammer poses as a landlord that lives out of town and therefore cannot show the rental, but asks the renter for a deposit with a promise to send the keys.
2. The amazing imaginary landlord
The scammer (sometimes the current tenant) pretends to be the landlord of a rental unit in order to collect deposits or secretly sublet the rental for more money.
3. The unbelievably inaccurate advertisement
The landlord purposefully provides an inaccurate description of the rental in the ad to attract prospective renters—for example, misrepresenting how many bedrooms are in the unit or what features are included.
4. The absurdly low rent
The landlord advertises a very low rent, but when renters go to the view the unit it turns out to be the starting price and they’re holding a bidding war.
5. The incredible disappearing rental
The landlord advertises a great rental, but when renters go to see it they’re told it’s not longer available and shown an inferior place (also known as the bait and switch).
Tips to avoid rental scams
To avoid rental scams, watch for these common red flags:
- Price is very low
- Only communicates by email
- Asks for money up front
- Refuses to meet in person
Check out the Vancouver Police Department’s advice on preventing rental scams.
And the most common advice from renters themselves is: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.