How to protect yourself from imposter landlords

CBC News talked to the Régie du logement's Denis Miron to get some tips on how tenants can protect themselves from being defrauded out of rent payments.

Here are some tips to avoid being scammed when renting an apartment

Several people have been defrauded out of hundreds of dollars recently by a pair of women posing as a landlord and a tenant. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Several people in St-Henri and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve say they have been fleeced out of almost $1,000 by a woman posing as a landlord who disappeared before handing over the keys. 

​The prospective tenants were asked to pay the first month's rent of an apartment in advance. But when they returned to pick up the keys to their new home, the landlord was nowhere to be found. 

CBC News talked to the Régie du logement's Denis Miron to get some tips on how tenants can protect themselves from such scams.

Visit the apartment

"If you are a tenant you should visit the dwelling before signing any lease," Miron said.

He also suggested talking to other tenants in the building you're thinking of renting as a good way to gauge the reputation of the landlord.

Check the landlord's identity

"When you fill in a lease pay attention — Section A —  about the identity of the landlord," Miron said. 

That information can be cross-referenced with municipal assessment roles. Entering an address in the assessment role will provide the name of the building's owner. 

Some buildings may be owned by a company. In these cases, ownership can be verified with Quebec's enterprise register.

"There are many means to make sure you're dealing with the right person," said Miron.

Legal action

For those who believe they have entered into a fraudulent lease, there are legal ways of getting out of the contract and recovering your money. 

Miron said tenants can claim damages for trouble and inconvenience as well as seeking a refund of the rent they have paid. 

Doing so requires that a claim be filed with the Régie du logement. Once the Régie has rendered a decision, though, it is up to the tenant to seek its enforcement.

This might entail hiring a bailiff to collect the money owed. 

with files from Shaun Malley