It’s that time of year again – when students are moving back to the community where they go to school and are trying to secure a place to live. In BC we commonly think of the big cities as the only areas where it can be tough to find places to rent (let alone affordable places to rent), but reality is much different. In almost every city and town in BC, students can find it very challenging to find places to live. In Kamloops for example, the vacancy rate is so low that you might be up against as many as 80 or more people applying for the same unit you are!
With this much demand for such limited rental supply, some students are bound to encounter problem landlords or worse, scammers taking advantage and trying to steal your money. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together some useful information about how to avoid rental scams, and also some tips on avoiding problems when renting.
Top five survival tips for avoiding rental scams:
Be aware of offers that seem too good to be true
Be sure to check rental rates in the same area. If the rent seems too low, do more research.
Be cautious of giving your personal information
You may get asked for your social insurance number, bank account, or credit card numbers. However, this type of information is not required to rent a place.
Don’t give up your cash too quickly
If they are asking for a cash security deposit, be cautious. Cash is untraceable and can be used immediately. Also be very cautious when being asked to “wire” money or send money to a third party as this is often a sign of a scam.
Don’t rent a place without viewing it
If they only communicate by email and are unable to show the property, be cautious. Some scammers post the same pictures of an apartment for rent but at a different address, and most scammers won’t want to meet, to avoid being recognized by police.
Beware of the two most common scams
- A scammer poses as a landlord and says they are out of the country and require a deposit on the rental to be wired, without viewing the property.
- They pose as a landlord and show the victim a property. They then request an immediate down payment to secure the property and inform the victim they can move in at a later date.
(Source: Consumer Protection BC & Vancouver Police)
Top five survival tips for problem-free renting:
Choosing a place
Do trust your instincts—if your first meeting with a potential landlord is not good, it’s likely you’ll have problems with that person and should not rent from them.
Don’t sign an agreement or pay a deposit unless you are absolutely sure you want to move in to the place.
Know what’s included
Ask the landlord or manager what the rent includes (e.g. heat, lights, cable, laundry, fridge, stove, storage, parking), and get everything in writing. Also, make sure the agreement states if use of a yard or recreational facilities, such as a swimming pool, are included.
The landlord and tenant must do a condition inspection together when the unit is empty before moving in and after moving out. Have a witness with you and take pictures when you move in and out of a place.
Landlords can ask for a security or damage deposit – it cannot be more than half of one month’s rent. They can also only ask for one pet damage deposit, no matter how many pets a tenant has.
Landlords can only raise your rent by a maximum of 2% plus inflation, once every 12 months.
GREAT RESOURCES FOR RENTERS
A great resource is TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre. The folks at TRAC are experts in tenancy issues and are there to support you when you need it. You can call their infoline for advice, and their webpage has tonnes of information to help you navigate the rental market.
To make sure you know your rights as a renter, you can also take the Renting It Right course. It was developed by TRAC to help people ensure they understand their responsibilities as a renter, and their rights as well. The course is free, and you get a certificate at the end that you can show your landlord to demonstrate how you’ll be a good tenant (this could give you a leg-up over the competition when applying for places, too).
For more information, check out the Tenant Survival Guide, also by TRAC. The TRAC tenant infoline is:
Vancouver: (604) 255-0546 Outside Vancouver area: 1 (800) 665-1185