Calgary’s tight rental market leads to more scams and frauds

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s tight housing market leads to more rental frauds and scams'
Calgary’s tight housing market leads to more rental frauds and scams
WATCH: The Better Business Bureau is warning of an increasing number of scams as Calgary’s rental market remains red hot. Tomasia DaSilva has the story of one renter who says she narrowly missed getting scammed. – Sep 14, 2022

Calgary renters already facing low vacancy rates and high prices are now being hit with another problem — rental fraud.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase,” the Better Business Bureau’s Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen told Global News.

The BBB said when you combine Calgary’s population growth with the already tight housing market, it’s a prime market for scammers.

“With back to school and people coming into this city, it’s certainly presenting an environment where scams and frauds are ever more prevalent,” O’Sullivan-Andersen said.

She advised anyone not familiar with Calgary’s recent red hot housing and rental market do their due diligence.

“If it’s too good to be true, if they’re allowing pets, if it comes furnished, prime location and several hundred dollars less than the going market is — definitely that’s a red flag.”

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Calgary renter looks for a place to call home. Global Calgary

Natasha Van Meer almost fell victim to an alleged rental scam. She recently moved back to Calgary from Morocco and has been forced to stay with friends after having no luck finding a place of her own.

“Most of the places that I message are already full, have all of their bookings or I just don’t get responses,” she told Global News.

Van Meer said things started looking up when an ad for her “perfect” pet-friendly place popped up.

“I found a one bedroom, $900 a month,” she said. “The guy messaged me back right away.”

Not only was it the right price, but Van Meer said it was also the right location. But she said when she asked to see it, she felt something was off.

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Click to play video: 'Desperate times in Calgary’s rental market leads to some desperate decisions'
Desperate times in Calgary’s rental market leads to some desperate decisions

“He just sent me this sob story about how someone stole from him and he moved to Kelowna. He will give me the keys but I have to send him first month’s rent and the deposit before he would give me the combination to the lockbox where the keys are.

“I was like, ‘this is very clearly a scam and I’m not sending you money without even seeing a place and knowing that it actually exists.'”

Global News reached out to the ad’s poster and got the same response, except he told us he was in Vancouver. He added he could arrange for us to get the keys but first we needed to “reach final agreement and payment.”

Our crews also went to the address listed on the posting. The building has a “for rent” sign in front but the phone number directed us to a property management company.

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That company, CAPREIT told us in a statement “that someone (who) would be taking advantage of renters in such a manner is deeply troubling.”

Officials went on to say once they were made aware of the situation they took immediate action, reinforcing it was not a legitimate rental opportunity.

CAPREIT also suggested renters rent from “professional housing providers and their authorized representatives” in order to be protected.

Looking for a rental

The BBB advised anyone looking for a rental to not send any money beforehand. It also suggested people take their time, even when desperate. That includes researching the property and the person or company listing it.

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“Do a drive-by, go and knock on the door, talk to the neighbours,” O’Sullivan-Andersen suggested. “See what’s going on.”

She also suggested if you can’t look at it yourself, send someone you trust. Don’t just go by photos posted on a website.

“The fact of the matter is most of the time the pictures that are posted, the information, it’s not legitimate — it’s not a real rental property. And so you’ve sent the money and you’re out money and you don’t have a place to live.”

Calgary renter and her pooch. Global Calgary

Van Meer reported the ad to the rental website that posted it, but it is still on the site. Global News also reached out several times but has not heard back.

“It hurts my heart to think of how many people have actually given this man money,” Van Meer said.

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She has since found a “legitimate” place to live with her pets — something she’s grateful for.

“It all worked out in the end and I met the landlord in person and he gave me the keys and I haven’t even paid my deposit yet,” she said. “So there are good people out there.”

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