How can I avoid rental housing scams?

Finding housing in Ontario can be difficult. Some people might try to take advantage of you as you search for housing. It is important to understand your rights and know the warning signs of possible scams.

A housing scam can affect you in many ways. Someone may try to trick you into paying fees for a unit they do not own or have authority over. They may also try to trick you into giving them your personal information for an illegal purpose.

In Ontario, most landlords require first and last month’s rent when you sign a tenancy lease. They can also ask for some personal details to run a credit check on you.

However, some landlords may illegally ask you for extra fees or costs you do not have to pay. That is why it is important to know your rights as a tenant under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

What are the Signs of a Scam?

Here are a few warning signs of possible scams:

  • The landlord requires payment in cash or through a wire transfer.
  • The apartment or house is much cheaper than other units in the area.
  • The landlord is not available to personally show you the unit.
  • The unit is posted on multiple websites with different contact information.
  • The unit looks very different than it did in the pictures you saw.
  • The landlord asks for a large amount of money to rent or apply to rent the home.

If you think you have been a victim of a scam contact the local police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. You may also want to get help from a Community Legal Clinic or contact the Landlord and Tenant Board

How do I Avoid a Scam?

Below are a few tips to avoid housing scams:

  • Perform an online search of the building’s address to see if anything surprising appears.
  • Carefully read your rental agreement and any other papers you are asked to sign.
  • Ask the person showing you the unit about the history of the unit you are viewing.
  • Don’t give money to the landlord without meeting them and seeing the unit in person.

Be careful who you provide your personal information to. Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is not required to perform a Credit Check. However, it is common for applications to ask for your SIN. Learn more about how to avoid or recover from identity theft from the Ontario Government.

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Last updated: March 29, 2017 4006195