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‘He looked like a magazine cover’: Renters allege man bilked them of thousands in rent-to-own scam – Toronto

In 2015, Josh Hira was trying to find an affordable home in Toronto — on a tight budget, for a family of four.

He recalled meeting a “well-dressed” man at a Coffee Time in Vaughan after spotting a Kijiji ad about rent-to-own services.

Hira said the outgoing, talkative Chris Parik promised he could find the low-income family — including Hira’s girlfriend, mom, and sister — a house to rent for $1,600 a month, through a deal where part of the monthly payments for rent would go towards a down payment for a mortgage on the house in 10 years.

The 22-year-old dishwasher said he paid Parik $500 for his services. In the months that followed, Hira claims Parik didn’t find the family a suitable house, didn’t give back the money, and has since been impossible to reach.

A CBC Toronto investigation has uncovered multiple people who also claim they have lost hundreds of dollars to Parik while he was allegedly offering to help them find apartments and operating a rent-to-own scheme that is being investigated by the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).

RECO, the regulatory body for real estate in the province, told CBC Toronto it “opened an investigation into his conduct” after receiving complaints about Parik in late 2016 and 2017 while he was registered as a salesperson under the Real Estate Business and Brokers Act.

In a statement, RECO alleges Parik operated an independent rent-to-own scheme out of York Region targeting people “who could neither afford, nor qualify to purchase a home.”

6 complainants to real estate regulator

So far, six complainants have alleged to RECO that Parik charged an initial fee of $595, failed to provide any further service, and then refused to return the fee — a total loss of more than $3,500 to the complainants (Hira is not one of them).

On Jan. 31, after the RECO investigation was already underway, Parik terminated his registration under the Real Estate Business and Brokers Act, which means he’s not currently legally permitted to trade in real estate.

The act explicitly states that “trade” includes real estate transactions involving not just sales, but also leases or rentals.

CBC Toronto has learned Parik was previously affiliated with several real estate companies — including Century 21, RE/MAX, and Delgro Capital Corp. — and all three separately confirmed Parik is no longer connected to their companies.

What is a rent-to-own arrangement?

​It’s exactly what it sounds like: A tenant signs an Option to Purchase agreement with a homeowner to pay a fee in exchange for the right to buy the home later, at a predetermined price. When the tenant pays the rent each month, a portion of that goes to the fee — and, in theory, a down payment on the future mortgage they’ll obtain at a set point in time.

It’s meant to be a win-win situation. A tenant who might not be able to buy the home right away, either because of a lack of funds or a low…

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