Apartment hunters beware, someone in Vancouver is allegedly trying to get unsuspecting renters to fork over cash deposits for Airbnb listings they don't own.
Narcity spoke with a woman in her late 20s from B.C. – who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns — about her experience. She was looking to secure an apartment in the city and said she had spotted a one-bedroom apartment at 933 Seymour Street in Vancouver and arranged to view it on November 8.
The apartment had been listed for $2,300 a month which she had found to be "quite reasonable" for Vancouver and it would be ready to lease from December 1.
However, when she arrived for the viewing, she immediately felt "something that was off."
She was met by two women, one claiming to be the property manager and another claiming to be the daughter of the woman who owned the unit. They mentioned they also had a two-bedroom apartment available to rent in the building.
"The first thing I noticed is there's a little sign that's similar to the one you would see in an Airbnb ... I was taken aback and I was trying to size up the situation," she said.
The phone number on the sign didn't match the one she had been texting about the apartment, and there were some other red flags, too. She said the unit was fully furnished, and she suspected one of the women was under the influence of something.
Another couple had also arrived for the viewing and at the end, both were asked if they were interested in renting the apartment. However, the person claiming to be the property manager asked for a hard cash deposit which was the "final red flag."
While the couple said they would be interested, she left the unit and tried to memorize the number on the sign she spotted so she could investigate further.
She immediately contacted the number she had found in the apartment and scoured Airbnb for the listing, which she managed to track down, only to find out it already had been booked in December.
She told Narcity that she's filed a report with the police and managed to alert the Airbnb owner, who told her they also filed their own report.
"When I was on Airbnb looking at the loft, I saw there is a two-bedroom there as well and I just thought 'this is a full-on operation.'"
Vancouver Police confirmed to Narcity that they're investigating an incident at the address.
In the meantime, she said the whole experience has made her a lot more wary about apartment hunting, and added that it highlighted a wider issue about renting in Vancouver.
"There isn't affordable housing. People are in desperate situations so it's much easier to put the deposit down on the spot," she added.
Luckily, she was able to sign a lease for another apartment pretty quickly.
A spokesperson for Vancouver Police told Narcity that while this kind of incident has been seen from time to time, there hasn't been a "concerning" amount recently.
Airbnb was contacted by Narcity but had not replied at the time of publication.