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Nova Scotia

Homeowners opening their doors to rental scams in Nova Scotia

Some Nova Scotia homeowners have been caught off guard after people showed up on their doorsteps eager to move into their homes.

Vanessa Childs Rolls, from Sydney, NS, returned from grocery shopping on Saturday to find two international students on her doorstep looking in their windows.

Childs Rolls was told the prospective tenants had responded to an online ad, signed a fake lease and paid a deposit. The women expected to move into the George Street house within a few days.

“My husband actually said to them, ‘Well, I’m very sorry, but you’re not renting this house because it’s not for rent,'” she said.

“They told him that they had quit their current apartment and that they had to move out in two days and had nowhere to go.”

“It wasn’t a good situation,” says the homeowner

Childs Rolls said her family has lived on the property for 20 years and has never offered it for rent.

“They weren’t very happy. They looked disturbed. So it wasn’t a good situation we were in. It was very embarrassing and uncomfortable for us,” Childs Rolls said.

“This makes us think, what if other people show up at our house on February 1st and try to move in? … We’re very nervous about what’s going to happen in the next few days.”

housing shortage

Nova Scotia is grappling with a housing shortage fueled by a lack of supply and rapid population growth, leaving the market open to fraud as people try to find housing. The Halifax area had a 1 percent vacancy rate as of October 2022.

Nathalie Vogel, of Halifax, said three or four people showed up at her home last year expecting keys to a new unit.

After telling them the apartment was not for rent, Vogel was shown an online ad that included her address but different pictures of the interior.

Vogel said most people who stopped by seemed vulnerable or desperate for housing.

“Later in the day, an elderly man came in and he was really upset,” Vogel said in an interview with CBC Main Street Halifax.

“He had paid a deposit. I think he sent that woman about $500. And he also showed me the same ad and he had just flown in from Edmonton.”

Tense Encounters

Vogel was told the man had arrived in Nova Scotia to visit his father, who was dying in hospital.

In another case, a man became angry after believing Vogel was the scammer.

“He was screaming on my doorstep and I was like, ‘I’m really sorry … again, we’re not renting a room,'” Vogel said.

Sonya Major is a co-owner of a real estate management company in Lunenburg, NS. She received a call from tenants at a property she manages. A young couple from Mahone Bay, NS arrived wanting to move in after paying a $2,000 deposit.

“It was upsetting for everyone, of course,” Major said. “They thought they were going to move in that day, so they had all those things packed and ready to move in.”

Major, Vogel and Childs Rolls said police have been contacted about the incident.

What the RCMP recommends

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay said renters should never pay a deposit on a house they haven’t personally viewed.

He said red flags are often raised when landlords say they’re too busy for apartment tours, or when they pressure people by saying they have multiple rental offers.

Tremblay said scammers should contact their local police force.

He said people should never send money via e-transfer.

Tremblay said financial crime investigations are difficult and complex, as they involve many warrants and court applications to obtain information from banks.

“Often the money changes hands so often … and that makes it extremely difficult for investigators to track and trace that money,” he said.


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