Burnaby renters caught in ‘web of deception’ over fake leases
Posted December 1, 2023 10:05 pm.
Last Updated December 1, 2023 10:06 pm.
Tenants of a Burnaby house say they were blindsided after discovering the couple they were renting from were actually illegally subletting someone else’s home.
Marko Nezhyhai says he and 10 other tenants living at the same home fell victim to a rental scam. He says he was offered a fake lease agreement in September when he arrived from Ukraine.
He says a couple posed as homeowners but he later learned they were only tenants.
“I was really stressed out due to the fact that I was caught in this web of deception by her,” said Nezhyhai.
Victoria Ong tells CityNews she signed a lease to live at the home in November after moving to Canada from Singapore.
“Little did I know that she was lying, and all of these properties were rented … was illegally subletting every one of them,” she said.
In an email to CityNews, the couple facing these allegations did not confirm or deny if they were pretending to be the landlords, instead saying, “We share our home with them.”
The real property manager of the home confirms there was an initial lease agreement with the couple, who claimed they were renting the home for themselves and their family.
He then confirmed the couple was illegally subletting to eleven tenants and claiming to be landlords. As he explains, an eviction notice was served because this was a breach of material term and a mutual agreement to end tenancy has been filed for the end of the month.
The property manager says the real monthly rent for the home was set at $6,500. The tenants say they paid over $11,000 in total and claim the couple would have pocketed the difference.
The majority of tenants are new to Canada and say this experience has been a horrible introduction to their new lives in the country.
“I just felt like as a newcomer to Canada, who arrived in September with no friends or family or network, with nobody to ask for advice,” said Ong.
“I felt really helpless.”
The Burnaby RCMP says this was an instance of unauthorized subletting, which they say falls under the Residential Tenancy Act and isn’t a criminal offense.
The couple has filed for a dispute resolution with the Residential Tenancy Branch, but the housing ministry can’t share any more details on the situation for “privacy reasons.”
However, the ministry tells CityNews that an arbitrator will “address any issues that the tenants bring forward.”
The property manager says the owner of the home doesn’t want anyone to be unhoused and has extended the possibility of a new temporary rental contract with those who need somewhere to stay in the meantime. As for the long term, there are more questions than answers on where the tenants will call home next.
“I’ll try to prevent other people to be falling in such kind of fraudulent scheme and I think it is important for our community to understand that there are a lot of scammers who are trying to get your money,” Nezhyhai added.