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.