Staying cautious while apartment hunting
Montreal was named the number one city in the world for students, according to the 2017 QS Student City rankings, a bump up from seventh place last year. A big reason for its popularity among students is the abundance of affordable housing—some of the cheapest in the country—in almost every borough.
Nonetheless, there are scammers and landlords who specifically target students, who may be desperate to find a place to live.
Leanne Ashworth, a coordinator at Concordia’s Housing and Jobs Office (HOJO), has some tips for students and specifics to watch out for when apartment hunting.
“If [landlords] are just contacting by email or by text message, that’s not good enough,” Ashworth said. “You always want to see in person what you’re going to be committing to. If the apartment seems too good to be true for the neighbourhood that it’s in, then that’s a good sign that it’s not actually a real apartment.”
This is the kind of situation Concordia student Roba Riad Bairakdar encountered when she was looking for an apartment earlier this month.
“I was looking through the ads on Kijiji, and I came across a place that was unbelievably cheap,” she said. “There was no phone number in the ad, and I was only allowed to message the person through Kijiji.”
The scammer, who did not use a name in the emails Bairakdar shared with The Concordian, displayed many red flags indicative of fraud. This included the demand that Bairakdar must pay one month’s rent upfront to secure the apartment. Under the Quebec Civil Code, landlords are not allowed to demand deposits to guarantee apartments—tenants only need to pay for the months agreed upon under the official provincial lease once they move in. The scammer also claimed to be out of the country, in France, Bairakdar said.
Another red flag was the pictures that accompanied the apartment ad on Kijiji. Bairakdar said she reverse searched the images and found they matched the photos of another apartment worth almost three times what this ad was offering.
Ashworth recommends students who are unsure about the legitimacy of their lease or are worried their landlord is taking advantage of them to come to HOJO. The office offers a legal information clinic by appointment for those seeking advice.
“The best thing for students to do is to prepare themselves for how the process should go,” Ashworth said. This process includes potential renters ensuring they visit the apartment with the landlord and go over all the details before handing over any money or signing anything. The only lease that should be signed is an official provincial lease.
She also suggests students visit the housing committees that exist in each neighbourhood in the city, and speak with them directly regarding any problems. These committees can help students by offering help to find apartments with credible landlords.
For more information, visit HOJO on the second floor of the Hall building. The office is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. There is also a HOJO in the CC building on the Loyola campus, open on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.