A recent Toronto Star story exposed a problem tenant who was successful in abusing the Ontario landlord and tenant process to avoid paying rent. It can take landlords up to nine months to evict these types of ‘professional’ tenants.
However, it would be wrong to paint all tenants with the same brush. Over 95 per cent of Ontario tenants pay their rent on time and take care of their rental units. For every problem tenant, there are also problem landlords who do not properly maintain their buildings.
Here is how landlords and tenants can avoid problems:
Qualify your tenant in advance
When you advertise for a tenant, make it clear that you will be doing a credit check and checking personal references. This will assist in discouraging potential scammers.
Ask for a pay stub or banking information. Make sure that the proposed tenant makes regular deposits into their bank account, to prove steady employment.
Call references to make sure they check out
Google the tenant’s name to see if their social media information is the same as that on your rental application
Make sure the address on their driver’s license matches where they say they live now.
Join a service such as tenantverification.com to check a tenant’s credit
Have the tenant pay for utilities, if separately metered. They will have to pass the credit check of the utility company as well.
Treat tenants with respect
Successful investors understand that tenants are your silent partners. They are a source of income and are looking after your investment. When you treat them with respect, and show appreciation, they will also take better care of your building.
Something as simple as agift card can go a long way. When the tenants leave, if they have been a model tenant, why not award them with a certificate of superior tenancy, to show your appreciation. This might help them find another unit, especially if they have other credit problems.
If things go wrong, it is better to make a deal
Sometimes bad things happen. A tenant loses their job and even though they would like to pay the rent, they can’t. Instead of rushing to the landlord and tenant board, which takes time and results in hard feelings, try to work it out.
Perhaps offer to help the tenant move back with relatives and forgive part or all of the back rent owed, in exchange for the tenant leaving early. Let the tenant know that if they agree, you will also not notify the credit bureau about this and ruin their credit rating.
The landlord can then write off the amount owing and find another tenant to take over the unit. Also, when a deal is made, the tenant is likely not to damage the unit when they leave, which is what usually happens when things end badly.
Tenants, also show appreciation to those landlords who do properly look after your buildings. Don’t change the locks without permission, or permit visitors to damage anything on the property.
When landlords and tenants work together, everyone wins.
Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.orgImage: Ecoterra Intl..