The active rental market in Vancouver is often set abuzz with horror stories brought around by creative rental fraudsters that lure unsuspecting tenants into predatory schemes. Although the onset of online listings, zoom meetings, virtual tours, electronic money transfers and app-based door locks have made tremendous improvements to the real estate industry and the overall customer experience, we must be mindful that technology utilized with ill intent can be a potent tool when in the wrong hands. To help protect you from falling victim to the next imaginative scheme, the team at Sycamore Property Management has put together five tips that you should diligently apply to your next search.
Tip 1 – “The Rental Listing: The Devil is in the Details”
Landlords or agents representing legitimate rentals will likely use valid and appropriate websites to showcase their prospective property. Often a significant amount of time is spent curating attractive pictures and crafting a detailed description of the property to maximize its appeal. If you come across a listing with no pictures, a very minimal number of pictures or a non-existent or vague description it would be best to do further diligence to ensure that this is a legitimate address or property. Most rental portals do require an email to sign up and go through a minor verification process, but it would be impossible for them to detect the true legitimacy at the time of the posting. In our opinion an authentic rental listing should, at a minimum, be able to show:
– The address for the rental property
– Clear pictures of the outside and the inside of the home
– A somewhat comprehensive description of the property (a basic one is acceptable so as long as it corresponds to the pictures and gives a general idea of what you are renting)
– Definitive availability dates
– Contact information for the landlord or the agent
Tip 2 – The Rental Price: “Watch out for Boxing Day Deals”
Ever heard the saying ‘it’s too good to be true’? Well, when it comes to the rental market a listing that is priced way too attractively, it is perhaps one of the biggest flags that could present itself during your search process and should be investigated thoroughly by any prospective renter. Thousands of rentals come to the market each year that play a role in developing median rental prices and while there will be obvious anomalies that could lie at the upper and lower end of any price range a prospective renter should have detailed questions prepared to address reasons behind significantly low pricing.
Tip 3 – Your Rental Payments: “Cash is not king”
Simply put, if a prospective landlord or agent mentions that they only accept cash, you have two options: either request another payment method or walk away. Genuine landlords and agents would want to have documented methods of payment for trackability and tax purposes and any attempt to evade this could likely spell a scam. Another typical flag to look out for is if you are requested to make a deposit or rent payment in haste and have it wired to an international account or a request to use a money order.
Tip 4 – The Rental Application: “Information is power”
Handing a rental property over to a tenant is a big decision that landlords and property managers should not take lightly. The application process is a strong determinant of the legitimacy of a rental as a future landlord would want to know as much as they can about you. We advise being wary of individuals eager to proceed with a lease without any appropriate information to help them make a decision. On the other hand, be careful about applications that ask you for a great deal of personal data that is not pertinent to the application like bank account information, tax or social insurance details without providing any context. A standard rental application should ask for proof of employment, residential references and essential proof of income documents and only inquire about more information specific to you renting their property.
Tip 5 – The Rental Agent: “Property Management Professionals”
A helpful step towards protecting yourself from deceptive rental listings is to look for rental opportunities that are professionally managed by a property management company.These properties would be represented by licensed agents who would be operating under the guidelines of the Residential Tenancy Branch and real estate council with fiduciary duties aimed at protecting parties involved in any transaction. It is also likely that a professional property manager will have an online presence that can be verified and a reputation that they value and would like to protect. More importantly, they would act with consideration for the rights and protections that all tenants are afforded in the province of British Columbia.
Choosing the right rental property can be a tedious and stressful process even for the most seasoned of renters. With prospects battling against a limited inventory, tight timelines and other aggressive renters in the market there is a constant motivation to have ‘fast feet’ and move through the rental process as swiftly as possible in the hopes of beating out any competition. While this may be an understandable approach, we at the Sycamore Property Management Group strongly advise staying alert, asking questions when your gut tells you to, doing your diligence and applying the information shared in this post. After all, this is a decision about where you will live and one that should never be taken lightly. We trust that you find this post helpful and wish you the best of luck in the search for your next home!