Finding the perfect tenant can be difficult for any landlord, no matter how long you’ve been in the game. Tenants can be unpredictable and can’t always be accurately judged based on the information they give you – unfortunately, almost every Toronto property owner has heard horror stories about bad tenants or dealt with them personally.
The CBC recently published an article about this exact scenario – a Hamilton landlord had to fight tooth and nail in order to evict a criminal after months of unpaid rent. Many bad tenant experiences like the one highlighted in the CBC article could have been easily avoided by running professional and personal background checks on prospective clients, with a focus on criminal history, credit history, and previous experience as a tenant.
Running criminal background checks in Canada
One of the best ways to ensure that you rent only to safe and reliable tenants is to run a criminal background check on all prospective clients. While you don’t want to give the impression that you are discriminating against those with a criminal record, doing a background check will determine if the applicant is a career criminal, and whether they have faced charges for fraud. Those with a criminal history but who have been reformed should be treated the same as any other tenant applicant.
Canadian law states that landlords can’t demand tenant information that is considered to be beyond what will reasonably protect the landlord’s interests. In order to avoid a time-consuming investigation from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, it’s important to conduct background checks in accordance with the law.
Canadian landlords are allowed to have criminal background checks run on prospective tenants with the express written consent of that person. Many Canadians will already have up-to-date criminal background checks for the purposes of job and volunteering opportunities, so they can share this previous check with you, or show you the results of a requested criminal check. Remember that you cannot legally single out any particular candidates with a background check, so it’s important to request criminal background checks from every serious applicant.
A criminal background check will reveal information on whether the applicant has been convicted under Canada’s Criminal Code, if they have charges pending, is on probation, or if they are subject to a prohibition order. If your prospective applicant denies your request for a criminal background check, you can safely move onto other applicants more willing to reveal important information about themselves, and save yourself a headache.
Request a credit history check
The importance of a credit history check cannot be overstated. As with criminal background checks, you’ll have to obtain permission from applicants to legally view an applicant’s credit report. Once you’ve obtained permission, you’ll get an idea of what the applicant’s current debt load looks like, and see whether they make a habit of making late payments, have filed for bankruptcy in the past, or have collections on their account. This information will allow you to judge whether or not you believe particular applicants will pay rent on time and in the full amount, and will save you from having to constantly pester tenants for rent and utility payments.
Do your homework
Outside of running official criminal and credit background checks on applicants, there’s a lot that you can do to protect yourself and your rental properties. Basic tenant applications are a great place to start – asking about current and past employment, lifestyle information, and personal references will get you started. From there, you will have the information needed to contact previous landlords and employers to find out more about their behaviour and reliability. Landlords can also confirm the identity of applicants by searching for them on major social media platforms – these online accounts can also give you a good idea about their behaviour as a whole.
Selecting ideal tenants should not have to be a gamble for landlords – your property, reputation, and wallet are at stake, and one nightmare tenant can turn you off from property investment forever. Requesting legal criminal background checks, credit history reports, and doing your own investigating will mean the difference between a dream and a nightmare. Taking the proper precautions and being proactive in your search for the perfect tenant will save you time and money, and save you from being the subject of future news articles.