How to avoid apartment scams

15th December 2020 Cecilia Marangon

Looking for an apartment in Montreal can be challenging and in these unprecedented times, the risk of rental scams is increasing! Let’s start from the beginning, What’s an apartment rental scam? 

Rental scams can take on many forms. Scammers generally attempt to get money or personal information from apartment hunters for a dwelling that either doesn’t exist, or one which they have no legal right to rent. Looking for an apartment is already stressful enough without the added time, pressure and inability to visit in person. Luckily, there are many ways to lower the likelihood of getting caught in an apartment scam. First and foremost, trust your gut and be critical when looking for an apartment. If something feels weird with the listing, if the application process is rushed or if the apartment seems too good to be true, it may be a scam. 
Be especially skeptical if you see one of the following red flags :

  1. The apartment is too good to be true: Whenever you see an apartment that seems too good to be true, it probably is. An apartment that is very cheap for the size or area is a red flag. To determine the average rental price of an area, you can look up other apartments on rental websites or ask us about our ‘’Average rental prices’’ handout. An apartment that’s listed below the average price doesn’t always mean it’s a scam, but it might also be a sign that the unit has some hidden downsides.  
  2. You’re asked to send money before signing a lease or visiting the apartment: Being asked to send money before visiting the apartment or signing a lease is a major red flag. Given that it’s more difficult to visit apartments in person, the landlord or property manager should accommodate you by allowing you to do a virtual visit, either by video calling them or the current tenant. 
  3. You’re asked to pay with SurfnetCoupons or other kinds of online coupons, cryptocurrency or another untraceable way: Scammers may require you to pay in unusual manners such as those mentioned, you should never use similar ways for paying rent. 
  4. The landlord is too eager or pushy: Most landlords require a credit check or a guarantor before renting and can also ask for references from your previous landlord. It’s unusual for a landlord to skip any form of tenant screening and immediately discuss the costs of rent and other lease terms. If a landlord is being pushy about accepting the apartment, it’s suspicious. They might claim that there is a lot of interest in the apartment to pressure you into an agreement.  
  5. Asking for too much information: Another red flag is when you are asked to provide too much information. When renting, you are only required to provide your name, address and birth date so the landlord may conduct a credit check. Your privacy is important, so you should never give out your social insurance number, driver’s license, health insurance card, passport, bank account numbers or credit card numbers. Demanding this information when renting is illegal and is a major red flag.
  6. Requiring deposits to secure the apartment: In Quebec, any kind of deposit is illegal. The landlord can ask you for the first month’s rent upfront when you sign a lease, but security deposits, key deposits, or any other deposit is illegal.
  7. Refusing to sign a lease: If a landlord wants you to pay rent or any other fee without signing a lease, it might be because they don’t have a legal right to rent out that apartment, or it doesn’t exist
  8. The landlord is ‘’out of the country’’: A common rental scam is a ‘landlord’ who claims they’re out of the country, and that they can’t meet you in person. Scammers may even pretend to be an agent for a real estate company or a management company acting on the behalf of a landlord who’s out of the country. To verify that the person behind the listing is the landlord, do your own background check on the municipal directory of property owners or do a Google search of the management company to see if they’re trustworthy. 

 So how can you avoid these traps? Here are our tips:

  1. Ask a friend or family member to look over the listing with you. A second pair of eyes is always helpful when looking for signs of a scam.  

  1. Use Google images reverse search function to see if the photos have been posted before. Apartment rental scams often copy listings from other real listings, but change details or lower the price to lure apartment hunters in.  

  1. Do your research on the building or management company. You want to be sure that the person you’re speaking to is the landlord or their representative, and you can find out who owns the building through the municipal directory of property owners.  

  1. Always sign a lease. As a tenant, it’s your right to have an official Quebec lease drawn up in either French or English, the language of your choice.  

  1. Never send money before signing a lease. When paying rent, always make sure to get a rental receipt as proof of payment.  

Please visit us for further information or questions about rental scams and your rights as a tenant in Quebec