Toronto·CBC Investigates

GTA tenant who turned a dozen luxury homes into rooming houses faces more charges

A Markham, Ont. man who previously rented a dozen luxury homes and turned them into illegal rooming houses is now facing more fraud-related charges connected to new property rentals.

Arif Adnan Syed turned at least 3 more properties into rooming houses within last year

Arif Adnan Syed is facing new fraud-related charges in connection with GTA houses he rented and turned into rooming houses. (CBC)

A Markham, Ont. man who previously rented a dozen luxury homes and turned them into illegal rooming houses is now facing more fraud-related charges connected to new property rentals. 

Arif Adnan Syed was charged Tuesday with three counts each of fraud exceeding $5,000, make false statements in writing, possession of property obtained by a crime exceeding $5,000, and uttering forged documents, Newmarket court staff confirmed with CBC News.

The serial tenant was already facing 17 fraud-related criminal charges from York Regional Police for allegedly using fake identification documents in his applications to rent suburban homes in the Greater Toronto Area, which he then converted into rooming houses. 

None of the charges have been proven in court.

CBC News last reported on Syed in December 2020, when a judge ordered him to pay $36,000 in restitution to the landlords of the dozen homes Syed had turned into rooming houses or he'd be arrested and jailed for four months. 

During that proceeding, Syed testified that he received an average of $500 a month for each room he rented and so could have been making roughly $40,000 a month across his former rental properties when he had 90 renters.

Syed rented at least 3 more homes

In the year since the judge in that case voided Syed's leases with a dozen landlords, CBC News has confirmed Syed has rented out at least three new homes in Richmond Hill and Vaughan and turned them into rooming houses. All three landlords reported Syed to police.

James Choy discovered the house he helped rent to Syed had been subdivided into eight units when he carried out an inspection of the property earlier this year. (Submitted by James Choy)

James Choy helped his family friend rent out her Richmond Hill house to Syed in March.

Despite the tenant's arrest, Choy is still trying to get possession of the property back.

"[Syed] has what he's doing down to an art," said Choy. "He knows that [the Landlord Tenant Board] takes time and in the meantime he's getting paid by the people living there."

Choy told CBC News there are seven people living in the four-bedroom house, which Syed subdivided into eight units.

Richmond Hill Fire issued an inspection order to limit the number of people living in the house to four or fewer by Oct. 12, but Choy says Syed is still advertising the only vacant room on Kijiji for $975 a month. 

James Choy says this Kijiji ad is for the only vacant room in the Richmond Hill house he rented to Arif Adnan Syed. (Kijiji)

"He knows how to play the system well, and he'll continue playing until he gets thrown in jail," said Choy. "For him to have court dates pending and still continue this is very, very bold of him."

Choy says before signing the lease, Syed told him he wanted to move into the house with his family and provided a credit report, references, and pay stubs as part of his rental application. Two other landlords shared similar accounts with CBC News, and all three provided Syed's rental application to police.

Choy is still going through the eviction process at the Landlord Tenant Board and hopes Syed's arrest might force him to shut down the rooming house.

"There should be bail conditions that he can't continue on with his business," he said. 

As of Wednesday morning, Syed remains in custody pending a bail hearing on the latest charges.


Nicole Brockbank

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nicole Brockbank is a reporter for CBC Toronto's Enterprise Unit. Fuelled by coffee, she digs up, researches and writes original investigative and feature stories.