Apartment rental scam goes beyond St-Henri

Michael Yanke says he was scammed by the same con artist featured in a CBC story yesterday involving fake leases and ill-gotten rent money in St-Henri.

Montreal man claims to be victim of scam identical to one in St-Henri

The alleged scam took place in January at 2421 and 2429 Frontenac Street. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

A Calgary man who recently moved to Montreal says he was bilked in the same scam mentioned in a CBC story published earlier this week involving fraudulent apartment rentals in Saint-Henri.

In January, Michael Yanke moved to Montreal from Calgary and responded to an online ad for an apartment on Frontenac Street in the borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

He liked the place instantly, signed a lease, and forked over $1,100 cash to a woman who claimed to be the landlord.

When he showed up to pick up the keys, the supposed landlord was nowhere to be found; some appliances were missing, and promised renovation work was not completed.

"I was a little unnerved, you know, in the beginning," Yanke told CBC News. "I wasn't sleeping the best. But now I sleep better."

7 other alleged victims

His story is similar to the one seven other people told CBC earlier this week. Would-be residents of the trendy St-Henri neighbourhood have cash and signed a lease, only to find out the lease was a fake.

Yanke correctly named the woman posing as a landlord, despite the fact that CBC did not identify her in the original story.

The actual landlord of the building on Frontenac Street, Hong Hao Wang, let Yanke move in. Others were not so lucky. Yanke said at least five people came to check out the apartment, further angering Yanke and Wang.

"I think it was kind of a shock for both of us," said Yanke.

Wang, the true landlord, said the scam artist gave him a convincing sob story about taking care of her dying grandfather.

"First thing is, I feel [it's] unbelievable people can do this," Wang told CBC.

Hong Hao Wang is the owner of the apartment building where the alleged scam took place. (Shaun Malley/CBC)
He said the alleged scammer moved into the apartment in September of 2015, and kept making excuses for not paying her rent. He regrets not being more diligent in his background checks, and that he'll be more thorough from now on.

"We have to be more careful," Wang said.

Quebec's rental board, the Regie du logement, suggests people should do more research to avoid getting fleeced.

"There are many means to make sure you deal with the right person," said Regie spokesman Denis Miron.

He suggests taking the name of the landlord on the lease and checking it in a municipality's assessment roll. The roll contains the names and addresses of building owners.

"It's up to every person, to every tenant, to get all the information necessary to make sure of the identity of the landlord."

The Regie said that people can launch a complaint with them, however, even if a tribunal finds in their favour, the plaintiff would have to hire a bailiff to get their money back from the alleged scam artist. That's at least $68 an hour, not counting travel expenses.

It's money well spent, according to Michael Yanke.

"If it's a reasonable amount, like anywhere under $200, then I'd be OK with it even if I'm still kind of getting [ripped off]," he said.