November 30, 2017 6:30 am
Updated: December 1, 2017 8:00 am

Police investigating after alleged scam bilks west-end Toronto condo hunters

WATCH ABOVE: After putting down a deposit on a rental condo in the city’s west end, a Toronto woman soon discovered the man who introduced himself as the owner was actually renting the suite himself. Shallima Maharaj reports.

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Claire Hay has been searching for an affordable rental suite on Kijiji and found one about a month ago – or so she thought.

It was a bachelor unit in a new condo development Park Lawn Road and Lake Shore Boulevard West. She arranged for a viewing and was met by a man who identified himself as the owner.

In love with the unit, she expressed her desire to rent it. She paid the first and last months’ rent using e-Transfer. It came out to $2,600 or $1,300 a month.

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READ MORE: Toronto police lay 21 fraud charges against man in alleged apartment rental scam

Her optimism was soon tempered by caution. She came across another ad and it was similar to the one she had responded to.

“Just with a little bit of a higher price on Kijiji,” she recalled. “Then I had my friend contact the person … and it ended up being the same landlord – Femi.”

Femi Agunbiade has also been identified by another prospective renter Global News spoke with Wednesday.

READ MORE: Brampton man charged with fraud in alleged apartment rental scam

Shocked that the unit she paid for was still being rented to others, she posted about her experience on Facebook. Hay said she also filed a report with police.

“It was through that I then got a message from Femi saying that he wants me to take [the Facebook post] down, that that’s not okay, that I posted that and he would like an apology,” she said.

“So that’s when I said, ‘You’re going to give me my money back.'”

READ MORE: How to protect yourself with rental scams on the rise

By Wednesday evening, Toronto police said they were looking into allegations from three individuals. They had all been shown the same suite by the same person.

“The first potential renter went and checked out the place and said, ‘You know what, I’m going to pay the first and last months’ rent,'” Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu said.

“On their way out, they had a conversation with the concierge and realized this person doesn’t actually have the authority to rent this out.”

A third person, who Global News spoke with over the phone, said they were told they could pick up keys and a fob and gain possession of the suite by Wednesday morning. They were able to do none of those things and have since filed a report with police. They say they paid Agunbiade more than $2,500.

READ MORE: Two charged in alleged Kijiji rental scam in Hamilton

Global News reached out to the actual owner of the suite. He said he only became aware there was something amiss in October when building management contacted him and informed him that his tenant, Agunbiade, may be attempting to rent the suite to others.

“I send him an email just talking about those things,” he told Global News. “I just emphasized again, that this is not allowed and if you want to move out, no problem.”

The landlord said he has been in touch with a lawyer. He said has also tried to reach Agunbiade, but has been unable to for several days now.

READ MORE: Craigslist rent scam leaves Regina homeowners stunned

Hay was able to get her money back. However, she is still attempting to figure out where to go next.

“Between these scams and finding a place with decent management, it’s very difficult,” she said, referencing Toronto’s rental market.

“For somebody to be doing this when it’s already hard for people is just unbelievable.”

Toronto police said it’s vital to do your research and ensure you are dealing someone who is legitimate. That includes reaching out to a licensed realtor.

They also said opt for cash transactions that can be documented.

“Something like e-Transfer is a little too simplistic, so select something … where you’ve got the bank involved,” Sidhu said.

“That way it’s a lot more work for that person that’s trying to defraud you.”

READ MORE: Tight housing market fuels rental scams

She also encouraged prospective renters to speak to the property manager to find out whether the individual you are dealing with has the authority to rent to you.

Sidhu told Global News the investigation is ongoing and a potential charge could be fraud under $5,000.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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