Every landlord has a story about a nightmare tenant or knows someone who does. Stories of landlords with garbage and junk removal costs to clean up when a tenant abandons a property, massive damage and repairs, and night-time move-outs are not uncommon.
Selecting the right tenants is the most important step in successfully navigating the rental property business.
Following some basic best practices before renting to a prospective tenant can save months of frustration and thousands of dollars in lost rent, damaged property and court costs.
Use a Rental Application Form
A rental application form is vital. A good rental application will require information on:
- The applicant’s job
- Their income
- Current address
- Landlord, work and personal references
- Identification and SIN
- Any additional details relevant to the approval process
This information will help landlords thoroughly vet potential renters and it provides contact information to track down the tenant if they suddenly disappear.
Do a Credit Check
Always do a proper credit check using Equifax or TransUnion. The cost is approximately $20. You can also consider joining the Ontario Landlords Association where members can do a credit check for as low as $10. Your one-time membership fee also includes access to all the documents you need to successful rent and manage your property.
Check Every Reference
Call every reference on the Rental Application Form, especially former landlords. Call their current employer and verify the income stated on the application.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
When you meet potential tenants, ask questions regarding employment, whether or not they have pets and children and how many vehicles they own if those are issues specific to your property. It’s always better to know in advance to avoid potential issues later on.
Look at Social Media
Google the tenant to confirm the information on the Rental Application Form – their LinkedIn profile will probably pop up which can help you verify if they are with the employer listed on the form. Check Facebook – you can track down their profile in most cases by entering their phone number in a search on Facebook. Does the tenant have pets which aren’t allowed or like to party all night? These questions may be answered with a quick review of their Facebook page, as long as their privacy settings aren’t completely locked down.
Beware the Charmer with a Story
There are many sob stories that can cause a move, including divorce or a breakup – and a quick mention of these is usually all you’ll get from a prospective tenant. If a potential tenant is oversharing with you about their personal life in an effort to evoke sympathy, there could be potential issues down the road. The worst cons will have an explanation for anything negative that you uncover, but if it interferes with their ability to consistently pay rent, no story is good enough. It’s a business arrangement, and if a tenant starts oversharing, it’s a good idea to remind them of this to cut any further personal dialogue short.
Having a Residential Tenancy Agreement will establish the terms between the tenant and landlord. In general, this should be as detailed as possible covering everything from when is rent is due to garbage removal to the number of the parking spaces provided. Tailoring this document to your specific property will make expectations clear to your new tenant.
Consider adding a move-in inspection report. On moving day, walk through the unit with your tenant and make detailed notes of the condition of the property and any concerns. Take pictures for reference. This documents the current condition of a property should any disputes arise later.
Know Your Rights as a Landlord
Become familiar with the Residential Tenancies Act. Visit the Landlord Tenant Board website. Once a problem starts, serve your first official notice immediately. Phone calls, emails and written letters aren’t sufficient. The LTB website has the forms required to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent (N4), for causing damage to the property (N5) or for breaking the law (N6). Always deliver the forms in person, when possible, to ensure the tenant receives it.
Protect Your Investment and Peace of Mind
Carefully vetting potential tenants and knowing your rights as a landlord has never been more important. Doing the right research in advance can make your rental property investment worthwhile and financially rewarding.
If being a landlord sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Highgate has been managing properties for owners for years in the Greater Toronto Area – contact us to find out more about our services and what we can do for you.