October 9, 2013 5:20 pm

Alleged rental scam leaves dozens homeless

CALGARY- At least a dozen families are looking for new places to live after what appears to be a bizarre home rental fraud.

Over 20 people showed up a duplex in the community of Temple on Wednesday morning, all expecting to move into the same house. It turns out that they’d answered the same ad on Kijiji last month, signed rental agreements and paid deposits.

Many who arrived had boxes and children in their vehicles, but when they arrived the doors were locked and the house was still full of furniture.

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“[The owner] gave me and a couple of other girls house keys to the place, but they don’t work,” says Florence MacKinnon, who paid a $1,600 deposit. “We tried the front door, the back door, the garage…they don’t work.

“There’s stuff in the house, food on the counters, dishes in there. It doesn’t even look packed.”

Another woman named Jenelle Bereth says she paid $1,450, and was supposed to move in with her mother.

“My mom’s on disability, I’m on disability. I have nowhere to go,” she says. “I have two dogs and I have nowhere to go.”

Victims say they were actually supposed to move in a week ago, but the landlord told them the previous tenant committed suicide and the move-in had to be delayed for a police investigation.

In a bizarre twist, Calgary Police confirm they were called to the house on Wednesday morning by a person who was in distress. They took a woman to hospital under the Mental Health Act, where she is receiving psychiatric treatment.

The say the woman living in the house is a renter, and the owner is out of the city.

“We’re still trying to determine whether or not she has the authority to rent the property, and that’s a work in progress,” says Sgt. Andrew Harnett, adding multiple fraud investigations have since been launched.

Police are now trying to help the victims connect with the right agencies to help them find new homes or places to stay.

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