Don't get scammed: Fraudulent online rental ads on the rise in Montreal
Prospective tenants need to know their rights and keep an eye out for scams
Carole Fleuridas was looking to rent her condo in Rosemont and posted an ad online, but she was surprised when two prospective tenants showed up unannounced at her home, saying they had an appointment to view the place.
Fleuridas said the two young women had been in contact with a man who had convinced them to put up a financial deposit in exchange for viewing the apartment.
"I was quite shocked," said Fleuridas.
She realized quickly that the girls had seen a fraudulent ad on a housing website advertising her condo and using her photos but with a lower price.
"I realized that there was something wrong," she said. "The guy had a whole story."
The man behind the fake ad told the potential tenants that he lived outside of the city and required a deposit in order to meet them for an apartment visit.
The women tried to contact him after it became clear that he was not the owner of the condo, but it was too late.
Fleuridas doesn't remember exactly how much the two women said they paid him, but said it was more than $100.
"I told them to see the police with all the information they had because obviously it was a fake," she said.
'Don't fall into the trap'
These kinds of apartment rental scams have been around for years, but are becoming increasingly common in Montreal, according to industry insiders.
They say these kinds of scams often use images and text posted by real landlords but with a cheaper price and a scammer's contact information.
Philippe Marchesseault, who works for the apartment listing site Appartmap, told Radio-Canada that pirated ads have tripled in recent years.
He said the company is trying to get ahead of it by taking more steps to verify landlords and remove fraudulent ads.
"We are in the process of reviewing everything," he said, adding that they are looking at verifying landlords' identities using tax records.
The same type of scam can be found on the site Kangalou, where administrators say the number of fake ads has doubled in the last year alone.
"Especially given the current housing shortage, it's more difficult to find nice rentals at a decent price," said François Albert, technology director at Kangalou's parent company, the Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec.
"It can be tempting to say, 'I found it. I'll deposit money and reserve it.' In these cases, you have to make sure you don't fall into the trap."
He said that once people are victims of this kind of fraud, there are next to no options for recourse.
"It's very difficult today because often these frauds are coming from outside Canada. So for us, it's very hard to file a complaint."
Tips to avoid a rental scam
Here are some of his tips on how to avoid these scams:
- Physically see a property before any money changes hands.
- Ask references from the landlord.
- Research the local rental market.
- Ask for proof of ownership, such as land titles or a city property tax assessment, or ID.
- Avoid any money transfers that are not traceable and do not pay upfront.
More information about the regulations set out by Quebec's rental board can be found here.
With files from Radio-Canada, CBC's Daybreak