[Updated October 2021] How To Protect Yourself From Rental Scams In Canada

How to avoid rental scams

As the rental landscape continues to move online as a response to current global events, there has been seen an increase in scams targeting renters. It’s no surprise that apartment rental frauds exist in Canada, especially in the hottest rental markets such as Toronto and Vancouver. In fact, 43% of renters throughout North America have encountered fake ads. In most cases, the scammer aims to steal money from a prospective tenant. They’re typically imposters who place ads for rentals that either don’t exist or aren’t for rent (they may even be for sale). Either way, we want to raise awareness amongst our community of renters so that you can be better equipped to recognize and avoid these scams.

Finding a place to rent is difficult enough and the last thing you want to deal with is financial or identity theft. Whether you’re renting in Toronto, Vancouver, or any other Canadian city, here are some of the most common rental scams and tips to help you avoid them.

Table of Contents

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how do I protect myself from rental scams in Canada

Scam #1 – Too Good To Be True

If the rental rate seems shockingly low, raise an eyebrow. It may very well be a false listing.

How to Avoid:

Do some comparison shopping. Look at comparable properties in the same neighbourhood to determine appropriate market value. It is possible that you have come across a good deal, but it is wise to do your due diligence first.

apartment rental fraud

Scam #2 – Urgent Demand For Cash Deposit

You have no obligation to make any deposit until a lease is signed. If a landlord is pressuring you to send a cash deposit before viewing a place and signing a lease, DO NOT! 

How to Avoid:

If there is pressure to sign or send money, you should be suspicious. Legitimate businesses, especially in a hot rental market, have no need to pressure prospective tenants; they know you might need some time to make your decision. Moreover, they should be using their time to screen you first (references, work, etc.) before moving to the financial step.

how to spot rental scam

Scam #3 – Request For Too Much Information

You are only obligated to share contact information or SIN, credit card or bank account information with a prospective landlord until you decide to move forward with a lease.

How to Avoid:

DO NOT provide your SIN, credit card or bank account information until you have decided to move forward with a property. You are under no obligation to share these details. Once you do decide on a property, the landlord may ask you to show bank statements or tax information ensuring your salary can support the rent payments. You can show it to them but it is not mandatory. Your SIN is NEVER required by a landlord.

NOTE: The liv.rent platform requests some personal information, like bank statements and identification to verify you as a tenant and to complete your renter profile, which serves as your application for ALL property listings.  As a verified tenant, landlords will prioritize your application; thereby, boosting your chances of securing your preferred rental. In fact, verified renters are 77% more likely to secure a rental as they are deemed more reliable and desirable by landlords.

rental home scam

Scam #4 – Reluctance To Use Traceable Payment Methods

If a landlord seems reluctant to use traceable payment methods like cheque or e-transfer, be suspicious!

How to Avoid:

It is for your protection to pay by a traceable means – it provides evidence that payments have been made. Do not enter into a lease agreement with a landlord that doesn’t insist on traceable methods of payment.

TIP: The payment feature within liv.rent provides renters and landlords with a digital rent payment receipt. This is saved in the chat history between landlord and renter. It can be easily exported and printed for your records.

how to avoid a rental scam

Scam #5 – Difficulty Arranging Viewings

If setting up a property viewing is problematic, this could be a sign the property doesn’t actually exist. For renters looking to secure a property from abroad, this could mean landlords ignore requests for video tours or not providing up-to-date pictures.

How to Avoid:

If a landlord keeps switching viewing times or is a no-show, these are red flags. Scammers are reluctant to meet with their victims to avoid recognition and police descriptions. Make sure to check out your city’s Police Department website for more info on common scams. (Here’s a post by the Vancouver Police Department on Rental Scams.)

Also be wary when viewings are difficult because the owner is allegedly in another country. They may send lengthy emails flattering your suitability and selling the value of their property; you are right to be suspicious and to steer clear.

rental scam what to do

Scam #6 – Address Details Withheld

If the landlord is reluctant to provide an address or unit number, this is suspicious and may indicate that the unit does not exist or the images posted are for a different unit than the one available.

How to Avoid:

Viewing a listing in person should be one of your first priorities and a key way to confirm the legitimacy of the listing. Be sure to schedule a viewing with the landlord or property management company. They should always be willing and prepared to set up appointments for live or virtual tours.

how to catch rental scammers

Scam #7 – Lack of Screening Process

Landlords will typically want to verify your information (e.g. employment, credit score etc.) and conduct reference checks. While most renters dread the screening process, it’s a necessary part of a landlord’s job to ensure the person they’re renting to is a good match. Avoiding this altogether or rushing through it to try and expedite signing the lease is certainly something to be wary of.

How to Avoid:

If a landlord seems too eager to skip the screening process and move ahead to deposit collection and contract signing, this may be a red flag. Move onto another property!

TIP: Using liv.rent, landlords and property managers have all been verified; thus, providing security to renters. In addition, once a renter has completed their profile, or ‘renter resume‘, they are ‘verified‘ and it serves as their application for all the listings they wish to apply for.

rental scams canada

Scam #8 – Informality

Be wary if a landlord suggests that there’s no need for a lease, and a handshake is just fine. This is not true!

How to Avoid:

It is great if your landlord is friendly and you can develop an easy rapport with them. However, when it comes down to the business of leasing and paying rent on a property, a lease agreement is a MUST. You, as a tenant, need the protection of a lease agreement and a legitimate landlord should be willing to provide a lease agreement, their own contact info and references. Insist on it!

TIP: With liv.rent, you can sign and send digital contracts to landlords without having to meet up in person.

how to tell rental scam

Scam #9 – Listing Photos are Suspicious

Are the photos blurry? Do you see the same photos used in another listing?Is the landlord refusing to provide photos? If any one of the aforementioned situations occurs, be suspicious.

How to Avoid:

View listing photos carefully. Ensure that the images provided match the description. Ask for more if required. Also, search up the address by viewing it on Google Maps and ensure that the images aren’t pulled from an actual sale listing.

what does a rental scam look like

Scam #10 – Obscured Landlord Identity

If a landlord’s identity is hidden behind a numbered company or is otherwise unclear, be cautious.

How to Avoid:

Transparency between a landlord and potential tenant is vital to building a trusted relationship. Before signing the lease agreement, ask the landlord for home ownership documents and/or try to verify the legitimacy of the property management company using LinkedIn or Google searches.

rental house scam

Scam #11 – Deceptive Listings & Emails

There are many ways scammers try to lure a renter. First and foremost, through exaggerated listings or complicated communications. For example, in response to your inquiry, their email claims that they live abroad and provides many irrelevant details such as describing the complexity of their situation and often asking for money immediately.

How to Avoid:

Refer to Scam #1 and Scam #2, and have a look at some of this flagged correspondence by a fake landlord on rentboard.ca. If you’re renting in Toronto, follow the subreddit r/TorontoRenting for any scam alerts. It’s important to be on guard for similar listings.

rental scam red flags

Scam #12 – Inconsistent Rent Pricing

The primary intent of any scam is to make money illegally. Some scammers rely solely on a tenant’s inattention to detail. They may list a property at one rate but then discretely modify the amount on the rental contract hoping that the new tenant will not notice the discrepancy. 

How to Avoid:

Read through your rental agreement diligently to ensure the amount on the contract matches the amount you discussed.  If you miss a discrepancy and sign the contract, you will be obliged to pay the amount listed in the contract.

What to do if you’ve been Scammed

This list of scams is by no means comprehensive. Dishonest people are always devising new and clever ways to fool unsuspecting renters.  Regardless of whether a platform or website is reputable and well-respected, scams still occur. Keep your eyes wide open and do your best to protect yourself from rental scams in Canada.

If, however, you realize you’ve been scammed, consider taking these measures:

However, the most important thing is to educate yourself to avoid being a victim of rental scams.

Keep your eyes wide open and do your best to protect yourself from rental scams in Canada!

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Kristina Ikavalko

Kristina Ikavalko

Creative Content Creator at liv.rent

Creative Content Creator for liv.rent, based in Vancouver. [Read Full Bio]

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