No place to rent in Richmond, but plenty of scams

John Shelfaut has lived in Richmond most of his life and for the past 26 years, his living room has overlooked the Blundell Bump, east of No. 4 Road.

To say the least, he’s observed a thing or three on this stretch of road.

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Those days, however, are coming to a close, as he’s being “demovicted,” as his old, rental home will be demolished to build a large mansion on the four-acre farm property.

As such, Shelfaut finds himself in the crosshairs of two of the most controversial issues in Richmond these days — speculation of farmland and a historically low vacancy rate amidst rising housing costs.

And yet it’s a whole other matter that’s grinding his gears.

It seems all Shelfaut can find in the online classifieds for rental properties are scams.

“I got sick of just going through Craigslist,” said the 61-year-old retired longshoreman.

“I had someone write me up something, ‘I’m looking for this, this and this.’ But all I’ve gotten is people trying to scam me. They take an ad from a house for sale and say, ‘This is our house, I live in the States, send me the money and I’ll send you the keys after you’ve accepted me.”

There are a number of matters complicating Shefault’s house hunt, which must be resolved by the end of the month.

“I’m looking and looking, for any place, and not just Richmond,” he said.

“I could move to Hope right now. But my doctors, because I’ve had heart surgery, I can’t be too far away.”

Other medical considerations are a long-term brain injury from work.

Then there are no condos that can accommodate his mutt Tank.

“He’s my physiotherapist. He gets me up in the morning; he takes me on walks every day,” said Shefault.

The pensioner said he presently pays $1,400 in rent and is realistically accepting the fact he may have to spend $2,000.

And yet, nothing to be found.

“This is stress. I’m not supposed to be under stress because of my heart. And when I’m stressed, my brain doesn’t work. I don’t know what to do some days. I say (expletive) and go back to bed.”

Shefault said a friend has helped him navigate through the scams.

“It’s easy pickings out there,” he said.

“People are desperate and don’t understand what’s going on. I could have got screwed if it wasn’t for a friend of mine who woke me up.”

Shefault said police told him there’s nothing they can do without an exchange of cash. He said City Hall can assist in identifying whether someone is the true owner of a property.

Vancouver Police have a checklist of red flags and tips for avoiding rental scams:

Is the price too good to be true? 
Check rental rates in the same area. Often fraudsters will try to entice their victims with low prices to elicit multiple victims. 

Are they just communicating with you via email? 
Fraudsters will not want to meet their victims in person to avoid being recognized and investigated by police.

Are they asking for cash only or a cash security deposit? 
Cash is untraceable and can be used immediately. 

Are they asking for money to be wired? 
Once money is wired, it is extremely difficult to cancel the transaction. Also, money transfers are difficult to trace. 

Have you seen the place and walked around with the property manager or owner? 
Never rent a place that you have not been inside and walked around. 

Are they asking for personal information such as a SIN, bank account, credit card numbers? 
That information is not required to rent a place. 

Are they the landowner or property manager?
Only the landowner and property manager have the authority to rent out a place (there are exceptions to this rule however, it is rare). 

Ask the neighbours about the landowner and history of the property. 
Neighbours are a great source of information regarding the owner and property. They can often confirm who the owner or property manager is.

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