Rental suite 'looked wonderful' until Vernon woman realized it was too good to be true | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Rental suite 'looked wonderful' until Vernon woman realized it was too good to be true

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November 21, 2016 - 1:00 PM

VERNON - Hope of finally finding a nice, affordable rental suite for her daughter quickly turned into disappointment for a Vernon woman when she realized the whole thing was a scam.

Carol Giffen has been helping her daughter, a single mom, find a new rental unit for close to a year. When she spotted the upper floor of a house on Herry Road in Vernon listed for $800, she jumped at the opportunity.

“It was three-to-four bedrooms, two baths, a big fenced yard. It sounded wonderful,” Giffen says.

She contacted the landlord at the email provided — the ad specifically said not to reply through Kijiji but through a specific email address. She heard back almost immediately.

“He messaged me back this long story about being in the Yukon working,” Giffen says.

He also said he was renting out the home to help with a sick relative.

It was all looking good until Giffen decided to pull up the ad again on Kijiji and found it gone. She Googled the address and found a different Kijiji ad for the same suite. The only difference was the price: $1700 a month.

“I immediately realized what this guy had done was take their ad, made it his own, and put it up for $800,” Giffen says.

Just to be sure, she contacted the realtor for the home (the house was sold in September) and confirmed she was not communicating with the true owner of the house. She says the individual who listed the ad never asked for any money.

“He didn’t get to that part but I know he was going to,” she says.

She says she tried to report the incident to police, but was told it wasn’t a crime because no money was taken.

Vernon RCMP spokesperson Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy says they have not received any rental scam complaints recently, but pointed out a rental scams tip page which describes a similar scam to the one Giffen experienced. Police suggest asking landlords to show picture identification as proof they are who they say they are. While not a requirement, the renter should be suspicious if they refuse.

For Giffen, the disappointment of another dead-end is worse than the scam itself.

“I was so excited that I thought I found her a place,” Giffen says of her daughter.

She's warning others to watch for red flags and never send money before seeing the unit and verifying the landlord's identity. 

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she says. 

With a lack of affordable housing and a low vacancy rate in Vernon, Giffen isn’t the only one combing through classified ads in search of a decent rental.

The John Howard Society of the North Okanagan helps connect people with affordable housing and executive director Barb Levesque says vulnerable people are being taken advantage of during the housing crunch.

Often, people are charged inordinate rents for units that have mould problems, windows or doors that don’t lock, or heat that doesn’t work, Levesque says.

“It’s not a direct scam, but it’s taking advantage of the low vacancy rate,” Levesque says.

Another issue comes when people are moving to Vernon and put a deposit on a rental, sight unseen. When the renters arrive, they often find the accommodation is not what was advertised.

The society has also heard of one case where a woman responded to a listing that advertised cheap rent in exchange for ‘light housekeeping duties.’ When the woman arrived to look at the suite, it became clear housekeeping duties meant sexual favours.

While there are rental units and landlords to watch out for, Levesque says there are many good ones as well, many of whom the society works closely with.

“We do have some really good landlords,” Levesque says.

The society has five tips to protect yourself when renting:

  1. Get receipts
  2. Put things in writing
  3. Have a witness
  4. Take pictures
  5. Find out about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant

More information, click here to read what every landlord and tenant needs to know.

— This story was updated at 8:34 a.m. Nov. 22, 2016 to remove personal information.  

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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