Apartment hunters advised to beware of scams

As students prepare to find the right apartment this spring, some property owners may be looking to scam them.

By Rebecca Dingwell

As students prepare to find the right apartment this spring, some property owners may be looking to scam them.

In light of fraud prevention month, Det.-Cst. Dana Drover reflected on a case that had students shaken around this time last  year.

Det.-Cst. Dana Drover, part of the HRP Fraud Section. (Rebecca Dingwell photo)

“There were a couple of apartment units that were rented out to numerous people over and over again,” said Drover. “A number of people applied unknowing that others had rented the same apartment prior to them.”

The landlord would take a damage deposit from the students, and be unreachable thereafter.

Police say Cyrano Carrette repeated similar offences with two other properties in the fall and was eventually linked to the crimes.  He was charged with fraud, false pretenses and theft in January.

In the past year, Drover said about a dozen cases of lease fraud were filed with the HRP – a high number compared to previous years.

“Unfortunately, some folks were unable to provide adequate evidence to further a full investigation,” said Drover. “But the majority of the cases were filed through and charges were laid.”

Cases such as this cause concern for people on the apartment hunt. Jacqueline Sullivan, a student at NSCAD, is tired of residence life and wants to find a place for next year. She’s already thinking of ways to protect herself.

“I’ll probably bring someone with me with a little more experience in buying apartments,” Sullivan said. She added that she wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring her parents to a viewing as a precaution.

Handing a deposit over before renting an apartment may make people anxious, but it’s necessary. Anna Brown is the property manager of multiple apartments in Halifax, and is used to dealing with students.

“The damage deposit is in case there is damage to the property when you leave it, and the damage deposit is used to pay for repairs” Brown explained. “Quite often it’s also used as a security, as well to make sure tenants are genuinely interested in taking the property.”

An apartment for rent on Coburg Rd. (Rebecca Dingwell photo)

Brown says students shouldn’t hesitate to keep in contact with the landlord, and ask plenty of questions to make sure they’re legitimate. She adds that while people should be cautious, there needs to be an element of trust on both sides – and students can turn out to be scammers, too.

“There have been a few cases where the [current] tenants have accused the new tenants who have been looking around of stealing their laptop,” Brown recalled. “One time, it was proved wrong because we hadn’t actually gone in that night. So it was obviously some kind of scam that some students use, unfortunately, to try and get money.”

Drover said people should avoid paying deposits in cash, and make sure to get a receipt which proves you paid the landlord. That way, if it is a case of fraud, the victim will have sufficient evidence to bring to the police.

Drover is not aware of any complaints of lease fraud since the fall. However, spring is another time when such things tend to happen, so students must be careful.

Interview with Det.-Cst. Dana Drover

 

The “red flags” people should look for when leasing an apartment.
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Interview with Anna Brown

 

Brown speaks from the point of view of a property manager.
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Interview with Det.-Cst. Dana Drover

 

What precautions should we be taking?
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