Police are investigating an alleged scheme in St. Henri where at least seven people say they paid the first month's rent but were never able to move into their new apartment.

Dave Burt is trying to warn fellow apartment hunters about what happened.

Burt said he tried to rent an apartment on Bourget St., and paid the first month's rent after signing a lease.

However when he tried to collect the keys to the apartment and move in, the people who had posed as landlords, or agents for the landlord, had disappeared.

The phone numbers Burt had in his possession had been disconnected, and he discovered the people who told him they were working for the landlord were living in the apartment he had visited.

Mervyn Hernandez is the actual landlord. He says the woman never paid rent and admits he should have checked what turned out to be fake references.

“I let my guard down. I didn't do what I was supposed to do and that's how I let her slide in,” he said.

Burt made a complaint to police and the Regie du Logement, and learned the people involved are already the subjects of a criminal investigation.

He has since learned that several other people have gone through the same thing, and he is trying to warn other apartment hunters.

"Somebody... posted a link to a government portal where you can see information on who owns what building so you can potentially check there, but checking ID, that kind of stuff, it's hard," said Burt.

Burt said every other possible solution he has heard involves double-checking who owns a building.

"One person suggested landlords bringing the deed when they come but it all takes time and no one wants to take time. Landlords want to rent it for their own well-being and tenants need to find a place to live," said Burt.

Police say apartment rental problems crop up during the first few months of the year, when more tenants are trying to find new places to live.

They've seen online schemes asking for deposits to secure and apartment, but say this one is very unusual.

“In that case, it’s very rare that people have access to an apartment and they get to visit,” said Michel Leduc of the SPVM’s fraud division

Officials say people looking for apartments should check up on their potential landlords, including asking to see picture identification, and to see previous utility bills to confirm who was renting the place previously.