YOU CAN PROTECT yourself from this kind of rental scam by asking the landlord for a Certificate of Rental Suitability before paying any money.

As of September, every landlord is required to supply a tenant with the certificate, which confirms that he or she has the required rental license and that no major code violations are on record.

"The rental suitability certificate is a way for a new tenant to get an official document vetted by the city," said Dave Perri, chief code official at the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

The intent was to make sure rentals don't have major code violations, but it's also a way of "sorting out illegal landlords from legal landlords," Perri said.

It isn't fail safe. The certificates could be forged. But it could provide some protection from scam artists who take your money and rent you a property they don't own. *

Jill Porter