A Cautionary Tale: On-line self property management...

Owners and tenants:  Why is it so important to use a professional, reputable property management company?  Among other things, the dangers of self management and on-line scams are more frequent now than ever before and the following story below shows just how scary it can be.  A Toronto based property manager has been using an on-line service to rent out a furnished property for short term stays, and was recently shocked when it was discovered his latest tenant had scammed dozens of people for thousands of dollars by illegally renting out the suite to incoming families from other countries.  What is not surprising is this happens more often than one might think.  Citysearch ensures the proper, required information is collected in order to avoid such incidents and we focus on securing the best, high quality and well qualified tenants for our properties.  We would rather tell our owners, “We have not yet found the ‘perfect’ tenant yet” rather than place a less than qualified applicant for their home.

A Nightmare Rental Experience Just a Mouse Click Away.

After a year of using the ‘Home Away’ service, things had been going smoothly – until a woman recently made a week-long booking. Her stay was coming to an end, so the property manager had sent her emails, wondering when she’d be checking out. He needed to get the place cleaned out for the next guest. The woman wasn’t responding. He didn’t think much of it until he finally called the apartment the day of her check out, and a male voice answered.

He said: “Who the hell is this?” And the voice said: “I am the tenant. Who the hell is this?” He said: “I am the property manager.”

The man hung up. And that’s when he realized that he might have a problem on his hands. “I raced down there and opened the door and there was a family from South America – 12 people, kids, baby stuff everywhere. They had just arrived to Canada. I was like: ‘What is going on? You need to leave’ They didn’t believe me.”

The woman who rented the unit through HomeAway was nowhere to be found. As they realized they’d been scammed, one of the woman started crying. Feeling badly for them, the landlord gave them 24 hours to vacate.

The unit normally rents for $4000.00 a month but the family had paid $2000.00 cash for one month’s rent. They had responded to an ad on Kijiji that the woman had placed, complete with photos. She knew what she was doing. Once she arrived and obtained the key from the landlord, she’d immediately set to work. She copied they key several times and put together a two-page welcoming binder filled with details, such as the internet password. “It was crazy. She gave them a laminated manual” he says. She seemed legitimate. But she wasn’t. She was a con artist.

The property manager didn’t want to give his name partly because being scammed is bad for business and partly because the condo owner has a public profile. So, we’ll call him John. But John is also embarrassed because it didn’t really end there. The day the family from South America cleared out, he was at the apartment with a locksmith. “He was changing the lock and people were showing up, saying, ‘I’m here to move in’ I said, ‘What?’ “People were showing up with moving trucks. We realized she had rented in over and over. It was horrible”

In all, the woman had conned 10 people out of at least $26,000.00 cash, for stays of varying lengths. According to Toronto Police media relations office Costable Victor Kwong, “The problem with something like this is it’s pretty much an unregulated industry where you have no idea who you are renting your place to.”

‘If you’re a renter, go through a Broker” Constable Kwong advises. “And don’t pay your deposit in cash.”

Both tenant and landlord should ask for references that show the person is credible. Don’t just trust referrals from previous landlords, they might just be desperate to get rid of that bad tenant.

Source: The Globe and Mail – Kerry Gold

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