Scammer landlord gets house arrest
30 victims handed over damage deposits for already-rented suite
A Saanich woman who scammed 30 victims through a bogus apartment-rental scheme was sentenced yesterday to house-arrest for 12 months, followed by three years’ probation.
Charmaine Roy, 48, is banned under the terms of the conditional sentence from taking part in any rental or real-estate transactions. She can only leave her home during one four-hour window each week.
While Roy sobbed as she told the court Monday she was sorry for her crimes, Judge Adrian Brooks said yesterday that her remorse didn’t ring true: “It was as phony as the rental agreements she signed.”
Roy and her husband rent a house on Ferndale Road for $2,800 a month and have permission from the owner to sublet a secondary suite. The two-bedroom suite was advertised on the Internet for $875 to $900 a month and attracted many inquiries from University of Victoria students.
The suite was, in fact, occupied by a long-term tenant with no intention of moving out. Still, while the tenant was not home, Roy showed the unit to prospective tenants and had them sign rental agreements in exchange for cash damage deposits of $425 to $475.
Many expressed surprise at the “surprisingly low” rent, said prosecutor Barbara Penty. Roy told them “she knew what it was like to be a poor student and she liked to help people out,” said Penty earlier.
Roy would not accept personal cheques, saying “she had been burned in the past,” said Penty.
A day or two before the would-be tenants were due to take possession, Roy would contact them to say the suite was unavailable, citing a range of excuses: there had been a suicide in the suite, a fire had broken out, her mother had died, or people in the dwelling were suffering from H1N1.
In some cases, tenants were en route with their belongings when they got word the suite was no longer available. Roy promised to return damage deposits but only returned one, keeping the remaining $13,600.
Brooks also sentenced Roy on two counts of breaching a court order for taking more damage deposits after she was released from custody. She was handed a day in jail plus the 56 days she’s been incarcerated, unable to make $5,000 bail, as well as three years’ probation.
Outside court, Penty said she was “not displeased” with Brooks’s decision. “I think Miss Roy is going to have a difficult next year complying with all the terms he has placed her on.”
The case serves as a cautionary tale for people looking to rent apartments, said the investigating officer, Const. Kathleen Brandsma of Saanich police. “Never, ever, ever leave cash with anyone,” she said outside court, advising tenants to knock on neighbours’ doors and ask about a prospective landlord.