WATCH: Rockland couple searching for housing are warning others after finding four Victoria rental scams in the last two weeks. Tess van Straaten reports.
Craig and Jackie Hiebert have lived in their Rockland rental for five years but they’re now desperately searching for a new place to live because their landlord is selling.
“It’s very tricky — my strategy is to have Craigslist open when I’m at my computer,” Jackie Hiebert says. “I keep Used Victoria open and I also have the UVic site up and I watch as things pop up.”
Victoria’s hot housing market means competition is fierce — and a recent listing appointment showed them just how fierce.
“It was mobbed, there must have been 50 of us, it was literally cheek to jowl people,” Jackie says. “There were people older than us, there were people our age in their 50’s, there were people with young families, people with babies and 20-somethings all vying for the same market and it’s a very small pool.”
The short supply — and people desperate to find something — is the perfect scenario for scammers.
In just the last two weeks, Craig and Jackie have found four scam rentals.
One house didn’t exist at all when they tried to find it and another they arranged to view had a sign in the window saying it was a scam and wasn’t for rent.
“I was stunned,” Craig Hiebert says. “I was halfway up the walk when I saw the sign and I stood there and I swear I must have been there for two minutes trying to make sense of the sign and checking to make sure we were at the right address.”
“I hadn’t paid any money but the market is so competitive it made me take a big gulp and wonder how many people are paying money told hold a place?” adds Jackie.
Concern grows with Victoria rental scams on the rise
Victoria’s always had a low vacancy rate but now at just 0.6 per cent, it’s the lowest in the country tied with Vancouver so with such a tight rental market, it’s not surprising scams are becoming more and more common.
The University of Victoria’s portal for off-campus housing has a warning users have to confirm they’ve read.
Victoria Police are also cautioning people to do their research before they hand over money or put sensitive personal information on a tenancy application, which could lead to identity theft.
It’s advice Craig and Jackie are following.
“At this point, I won’t hand over a deposit cheque unless I actually see the person and see some identification and our friend who’s a lawyer will run a title check just to make sure,” says Craig. “No money is going to change hands until we’re confident it’s legitimate.”