Avoiding Rental Scams: A Quick Guide

Money

So you think you have found the perfect place to call home. The neighbourhood is amazing, the property is beautiful and the price is really low. Does the deal sound too good to be true? Unfortunately it might be. The last thing you want is to fall victim to a rental scam, which has the potential to cost you thousands of dollars and even leave you stranded. Here are some handy tips to keep in mind when searching for a new apartment.

 

1) Heed your gut

If something seems fishy, it probably is. Is the landlord really eager for you to sign the papers right this minute? Are they never available to actually show you the property? It is better to potentially loose out on a great deal then end up loosing a ton of money and ending up in a bind with no place to stay.

2) Never send money without having viewed the apartment and met the person renting it.

It is not the usual practice to hand over large sums of cash without having seen the apartment and met the landlord. Don’t be too trusting! Before you write a cheque make sure you have seen the apartment (in real life, not just photos) and met the landlord. This ensures that the apartment is actually for rent, and for rent by the person you are meeting with. It is also the best way to make sure the apartment is actually as nice as the person renting it says it is.  You don’t want to move in and realize the place is completely uninhabitable.

3) Your security deposit seems REALLY high

According to the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta landlords can only legally insist on a damage deposit that is equal to one month’s rent as well as a portion of the following month’s rent. If rent is only listed at $1000 per month, but the landlord keeps asking for $3000 as a security deposit, it may be prudent to hire a lawyer or simply walk away.

4) The landlord wants to sign the papers right this minute

Most landlords will ask to know your credit score, and many will want a criminal background check and employment verification. You may even be asked for references from previous landlords. If your new potential landlord seems more than eager to skip one or all of these in order to speed up the signing process they may be trying to scam you.

5) You are told a lease is unnecessary

Legally you don’t need a lease to live in an apartment. Some landlords are content with renting on a month-by-month basis. Trust your gut. You may not be offered a lease because your “landlord” doesn’t actually have one. In cases like this, it won’t hurt to ask your potential new neighbours a few questions. Ask if they signed leases for their apartments, and what information they have for you about the apartment you may be renting. You may find out it already belongs to someone else.

6) Be sure your contract is with someone who has the right to rent the property.

If you are dealing with an Owner/Landlord, you can confirm the owners name by pulling a copy of title on the property at any registries office in Alberta.   The regisitry office may ask for a legal address or a LINC number.  These can easily be gathered by contacting your favorite Calgary Real Estate Agent.

If you have further concerns, the Center for Public Legal Education in Alberta’s (CPLEA) website is a wonderful resource. Their Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta page (http://www.law-faqs.org/wiki/index.php/Renting_a_Place_to_Live/Laws_for_Landlords_and_Tenants_in_Alberta) and their Renting 101 booklet (which is available for free, shipped from CPLEA –http://sitebuilder.securenetshop.com/legalresourcecentre/inc/sdetail/1472 ) are both very helpful.

Budget friendly decorating Ideas for your new home

Home Decor Design

Congratulations on moving into your new home! As the proud new owner, I am sure you are more than ready to begin to make this place your own. To help you get started, here are some handy tips to keep in mind when you are decorating your new home.

1) Keep your wall colours light

Dark or bold colours tend to make a space look smaller than it actually is. In order to make your space seem as roomy as possible, stick to lighter colours such as cream or pastels. If you really aren’t a pastel person, try sticking to white or cream and use bold or dark colours as accent colours. A fresh coat of paint can bring new life to a tired or dated looking room, and is less expensive than redecorating the entire room.

 

2) Throw pillows and Slipcovers

To update dated or worn looking furniture consider slipcovers and throw pillows. Instead of buying a whole new chesterfield (especially if yours is still in good shape) see if you can buy or make a slipcover for it. This way it looks new, and you can make it fit with you new home perfectly. New throw pillows (or even covers for existing pillows) can help you tie your whole look together without breaking the bank.

 

3) Don’t be afraid of the thrift store

Provided you are up for the hunt a thrift store can be an unassuming looking treasure trove. Whether you are simply looking for some inspiration, or shopping for a specific vintage style piece, thrift stores and garage sales are a good place to visit. You also don’t have to use your newfound treasures for their intended purposes. Vintage plates can become interesting wall art, and old statues, toys or lamp bases make excellent bookends (especially paired with interesting vintage books!)

 

4) A little TLC goes a long way

Sometimes it isn’t that we need a whole new room, it is just that the room we love has gotten lost in the clutter. Moving is an excellent time to sift through your stuff and figure out what you really want to keep, and what can be donated or thrown away. Any room looks larger and roomier when clutter is kept to a minimum.

 

5) Go for a coherent style

Any room is going to look jumbled and cluttered when there are a bunch of different styles mashed together. Pick one, and do your best to stick with it. Whether it is a sleek modern look, vintage eclectic or a more traditional style of decorating coherence is essential to creating a harmonious space. Even if it is something as simple as sticking to a basic colour pallet, you want the objects in your space to work together, not against each other.

 

6) Wall art is important

Wall art helps to make a space feel cared for, and is an excellent budget friendly way to bring life into a tired looking space. Art doesn’t have to be expensive either. Frame some cheap prints (Ikea is a good place to start), make some simple artwork of your own, or frame something you already have (like the cover of or a page from your favourite novel). What matters most is that the space and its wall art reflect who you are.

 

7) Don’t forget curtains!

Aside from being practical, curtains can also be used to divide spaces or bring some much needed colour to a bare looking space. Particularly if you are renting (and therefore can’t paint the walls) curtains are a good way to add some personality and colour to your walls.

 

8) Keep your space clean and clutter free

No matter what your decorating style is your room will always look better if it is tidy than if it is messy, cluttered and dusty. Do your best to keep everything in its place. An excellent way to do this is to coordinate storage space into your decor. Instead of an end table, consider an end cupboard to provide you with extra, hidden, storage room. Add some drawers on rollers to the underside of your bed to store extra bedding, blankets and off season clothing. Drawers are inexpensive to buy or to build, and can be made to match the decor through you choice of knobs and paint colours.

Delicious Delights – A Cross Section of Restaurants on 17th Avenue

Tubby Dog - Open Late

Whether you are planning romantic date, a night out with your buddies or simply don’t feel like cooking tonight, 17th Avenue has a restaurant for you. Home to dozens of restaurants, 17th Avenue is a retail and restaurant hot spot in Calgary. The following is a list of six restaurants offering a variety of cuisines.

 

Tarboosh – Middle Eastern Donair (~$10 per entree)

Tarboosh is a small, Mom-and-Pop Donair counter-service restaurant offering a variety of Middle Eastern style wraps. The food is hearty and delicious, offering a truly pleasurable dining experience. For a unique experience, pair your wrap with a Laziza pop (the apple is particularly delicious) and a Baklava pastry for dessert! Open till 4am every night.

 

Tubby Dog – Epic Hot Dogs and Old School Arcade Games (~$10 per entree)

The perfect place for a fun night with your buddies, Tubby Dog is something everyone should experience. Serving hot dogs with a variety of traditional and unique toppings, Tubby Dog is best known for The Captain. The Captain is a hot dog topped with peanut butter and jelly and garnished with Captain Crunch cereal. Are you brave enough to try it? Tubby dog is open till 4am on Friday and Saturday.

 

Co Do Vietnamese – Pho and Vermicelli (~$10 per entree)

Perfect for a chilly day, Co Do offers delicious Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soups) and Vermicelli (Rice noodles served with veggies, meat and spring rolls, but no broth). Reasonably priced, this quiet restaurant is a little known secret. While 17th Avenue boasts a variety of Vietnamese restaurants, the delicious food, reasonable price point and availability of tables makes Co Do a solid choice. Dishes are available for sit down or take away, but not delivery.

 

Midori Japanese Cafe – Sushi (~ $10-15 per entree)

The perfect date spot, Midori Japanese Cafe offers delectable sushi in an intimate setting. Their extensive menu never disappoints, and is available for sit down or take out. However, the restaurant itself is small, so come early if you want a table! Open until 9pm on Sundays and 10pm the rest of the week. The edamame is particularly good, and offers a delicious way to sneak vegetables into your diet.

 

Una Pizza and Wine – Pizza (~ $10-15 per entree)

Always busy, Una’s offers a truly amazing dining experience. Fresh and delicious, Una’s offers something for everyone including “Pizza”, “Not Pizza” and “Salads”. Noteworthy dishes include the 4-magi Pizza (provolone, piccante, friulano, fior di latte mozzarella + pecorino romano, finished with truffle oil + local urban honey), the Walnut Stuffed Persian Dates (which are wrapped in prosciutto, baked and finished with vin cotto) and the Warm Fall Salad (roasted organic root vegetables and arugula topped with a balsamic puree). Expect to wait for a table, but Una’s will text you when your table is ready so feel free to wander. They do not take reservations.

Eight Tips for First Time Tenants

For Rent Signs

So, you finally moved out. Congratulations! But before you go racing off to sign a lease for the first apartment you see, here are some handy tips to save you money and a headache later on:

  1. When you first go to look at the apartment, you are going to look for things like obvious damage. However, it is also a good idea to check that all the outlets work. To do this, invest in a cheap plug in night light and use it to test all the wall outlets. You don’t want to move in and find out that your living room doesn’t have a single working outlet.
  2. Check for evidence of mice or insects. Take a flashlight with you, and shine it in the corners of the cupboards. Keep an eye out for things like forgotten mouse traps, mouse droppings (they look like small, dark, rice sized pellets), ant traps etc. Check under the sink and see if there is an unusually large number of pest control products.
  3. If you drive a car – and, lets face it, if you live in Calgary you probably do – make sure you ask about the parking situation. Is a spot included with the monthly rent, or will that cost extra? Is it indoor and heated? If it is outside, be sure to ask if outlets are available. Is parking assigned, or are you going to have to worry about whether or not the parking lot is full when you get home from the store with a car full of groceries? Do you have a spouse who also drives? Ask if you can get an extra spot for their car too.
  4. Make sure all the taps work when you view the apartment. You don’t want to find out that your shower head doesn’t have any pressure, or that the hot water is broken once you have already signed the lease. Also, make sure to use your handy flashlight to check for any water damage or mold under the sinks.
  5. Talk to the neighbours. Ask them what they think of the landlord, and if they have had any problems. If they needed anything fixed recently, what was it and how long did it take for the landlord to get it done?
  6. Take note of the outside and communal sections of the building. If these areas are poorly maintained, chances are the rest of the building is too. This could mean that there are hidden problems you won’t discover until it is too late.
  7. If there are any problems, insist that they are fixed before you sign anything. Once you do move in, you are going to want to take your digital camera and document every little scratch. You want proof in your hands if there are any issues with you getting back your damage deposit if and when you decide to move out.

Finally, and don’t sign it as soon as the landlord hands it to you. Make sure you know how long your lease is for (if you plan to move again, budget at least 4 months for apartment hunting before your lease is up). And if the landlord seems to be asking you to agree to a very long lease term, that may be a sign that they are having problems keeping tenants long term. That could be a red flag, and would be a good thing to ask your potential new neighbours about.