10 Rental Scams and How to Spot Them!

July 18, 2019 Shauna

Apartment hunting is tough. When you are looking for apartments for rent in Alberta, it is easy to get excited about a place based on the listing. You may fall in love with how the place looks in photos and you decide to see it in person. Remember, you must never get too excited and rush this important decision. You will be stuck in the place for at least a year depending on the lease agreement, so make a calculated decision. There are red flags that you should watch out for. Our Alberta real estate experts will talk about some of these red flags in this post

1. Rent seem unrealistically low

If it’s a little too cheap, there is a likely problem (though not always). You may love the fact that you are getting the apartment much cheaper than the going rate, especially if you are on a tight budget. However, you need to draw a line between cheap and unrealistic (too good to be true). There are cases where scammers take existing listings and post them elsewhere at a much lower price to collect deposits from prospective tenants who find the opportunity irresistible. Ads for apartments in big cities such as Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto with rents significantly below market value are almost always used by scam artists. So, make sure you check prices for similar apartments for rent in Calgary or whichever area you are searching. Do not make a decision before visiting the property or you may fall prey to some scammer

2. An elusive property manger or owner

Have you been trying to contact the property manager or owner but they don’t seem too responsive? Are they taking too long to respond to your email or text requests for a viewing? Unless there are reasonable factors this indicates the unprofessional nature of the property manager or landlord. Remember the response you get now is indicative of the response you will get once you rent their apartment. It is better to steer clear of such people. Good landlords and property managers get in touch even when they are busy at the first instance. In some cases it can also mean that the rental property advertised may have been rented already but has not been taken down yet by the property manager or the owner. Beware if the landlord is currently out of the country or resides far from where the property is located. And we recommend that in no circumstances should you do business with an overseas landlord unless you have personally verified their identity and that they actually own the property you are dealing with

3. Ill maintained property 

When it comes to finding houses for rent in Edmonton or anywhere else, it is futile to seek perfection. However, there is a difference between having one leaky faucet and almost everything dysfunctional in the property. Watch out for too many “out of order signs”, water stains on the ceiling, a mildew smell near tub and sinks or anything else that shows that the property has not been cared for. It is likely that the landlord will promise to get everything in order as soon as he can, but had they bothered about maintenance in the first place, it would not have reached this state

4. No credit checks or screenings

You may find credit checks and other screenings quite a hassle, especially when you are in a rush to find the right condos for rent in Edmonton or Calgary. And if someone tells you that they won’t waste your time with credit checks, you may jump with joy. But that is a red flag. No good property manager or landlord will entrust their valuable property with someone who might not have a good credit history.  Make sure you never give your social security number, even if it's just to fill out an application.

5. Rooms with no windows or very small windows

You don’t want to feel suffocated inside your home so having proper ventilation is a necessity. Most illegal basement or cellar apartments for rent in Edmonton have this problem. So, having no or small windows can be much more than an aesthetic or comfort issue. It could be a serious safety hazard. 

6. They want you to pay in cash

You will need to pay the first month’s rent and security to seal the deal. If the landlord pushes you to pay in cash rather than by check, it could be a red flag. The landlord should ideally offer you a variety of payment options and not insist on a cash transaction. If they do so, you should proceed with caution. Do not handover any cash before you have seen the condo or apartment in-person and completed the lease documentation. As a due diligence you may request the owner proof of property ownership such as land title or something similar document that proves the advertiser is the rightful owner before giving security deposit or rent. A genuine landlord or a property manager wouldn't be offended by this but a scam artist would never agree to provide it to you. Whenever possible, try to make payments with a credit card.

7. Sudden showing changes

You are all excited to tour the apartment and you get a last-minute call from the landlord suggesting a change of plan. They may ask to view a similar or model unit instead of the one that is actually put up for rent. Do not entertain such requests. You may ask them to reschedule the showing for another time and insist on viewing the actual apartment. Two exactly same built apartments could offer an entirely different living experience based on how they have been maintained and cared for over the years. 

8. They rush you through the tough

When you tour houses for rent in Calgary, it is your best chance to find out if the unit is habitable and comfortable. The landlord should allow you ample time to look around the apartment and not rush you through the tour. After all, you have a huge decision to make. If they try to rush you through, it could be an indication that they are trying to hide something. So, look around carefully- check all the closets, look under the sink, turn on the faucets and electric switches and everything else that could be wrong. 

9. Poor hygiene and cleanliness

If the apartment is generally unclean, it is not a good sign. You may think that you will be able to clean it to your liking but it is not always possible or worth the effort. If you find the carpets stained, windows broken and the lawn overgrown, it shows that the landlord did not bother about making the right impression. You don’t want to deal with a landlord who is least bothered about your satisfaction. 

10. There are blanks in the lease agreement

This one is a huge red flag. If the property manager is asking to sign an incomplete agreement, just walk away. Once you sign the lease, it means you agree to everything that is written in it.

Apartment hunting can be tiring and stressful, but with professional help it can be very easy. So, get in touch with our Alberta real estate experts, who can steer you through your search and make sure you find the property of your dreams. 


Are you a landlord with an apartment for rent in Calgary, Edmonton or anywhere in Alberta but can’t find the right tenants or get the right rent for your apartment for rent? Or you are a renter whose apartment search in Calgary or Edmonton seems like an unending task? Signup with RentWell.ca to put an end to all your rental woes! Try it free!


Shauna is passionate about real estate and frequently writes in online industry magazines columns. The views expressed are her own.