July 18, 2022

Protect yourself from rental scams

The vacancy rate in Calgary is low right now, which means two things - there are lots of people looking for places to rent, and there are dishonest people running scams that prey on would-be renters.
women looking at her phone

The good news is that there are some common tricks that scammers use when it comes to rental properties. Keep an eye out for the following things when you’re looking for a roommate or rental accommodation. You should also always trust your instincts – don’t ignore that alarm that goes off in your head if a situation seems less than ethical or if something just doesn’t feel right.

While this list doesn’t include everything you should look out for (scammers are inventive, after all!) here are some common aspects of rental scams:

  • The landlord has excuses why they can’t meet you in person to show you rental
  • The landlord asks for a deposit before ever showing you the unit
  • The landlord asks for a deposit before you sign a lease
  • The rental listing is written badly, has photos stolen from websites, and/or the listing is different than the floor plan (eg. the floor plan shows 2 bedrooms, and the listing says it’s 3 bedrooms)
  • The landlord claims there are lots of other people who want to rent the unit, and tries to hurry you through the rental process by saying you need to sign paperwork before seeing the unit
  • The rent seems really low
  • The listing doesn’t include basic information about the property, such as the location
  • The landlord requests your personal information to look at a unit (this can lead to identity theft)
  • One person controls all the utility bills and just asks for a lump sum every month

When you’re searching for accommodation, there are a few specific things you can do to help protect yourself:

  • Search the internet for the name, phone number and address provided by the landlord to see if anything comes up related to that person
  • Never hand over your deposit or first month’s rent until you have a signed lease and keys in your hands
  • Landlords can only charge a security deposit equal to a month’s rent, and they can’t ask for more during the time that you’re renting from them
  • Get a written and signed rental/lease agreement, and make sure everyone involved has a copy of it

And always remember - if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.