How to find (and keep) a good tenant!

I’ve been blessed; the folks that rented my investment condo are absolutely terrific.

But I hear horror stories about  landlords whose tenants are destructive, demanding, and either late paying rent or stop paying at all.  Ontario laws are heavily weighted in favour of tenants. It’s very difficult to remove even bad tenants who don’t want to go,  and can take months (without any rent) to get an order for an eviction.

How much better to avoid those problem tenants before they move in! Here are some tips when it comes to screening prospective tenants:

Reliability. Do they call you when they say they will; show up at the rental unit for viewings on time? A person who treats your time like it doesn’t matter probably won’t look after your property either.

Openness. Are they forthcoming with information about their needs, their employment situation? My tenants moved here from another city, but I’d certainly want some information if they’d been living here already about why they’d left their last rental.

Communication. Do we communicate well? This is essential. If I don’t hear from my lovely tenants,  I can assume everything is fine. But if something breaks, I want to know about it right away. If talking to them before we sign the lease is like pulling teeth, it won’t get better later. And conversely, someone who texts me every five minutes to confirm I’m meeting them may just be anxious, but may also prove to be a pain in the rear.

Great references. You don’t want a weak or tepid reference, you want to hear these tenants  kept the home immaculate and paid their rents promptly.

Do not rely on reference letters. Sometimes a difficult tenancy comes to a premature end with the landlord getting rid of the problem by agreeing among other things to give the bad tenant a  reference.

I know of a situation, for example, where to get rid of the tenant,  the landlord agreed to provide the tenant with a letter that said the tenant paid their rent. In fact, they’d paid the rent, yes, but it was constantly late. You need more  than a letter that says “So and so paid their rent. ”

You need contact information for previous landlords, and you need to call them. You need to know if there were any issues and not just about rent. Was there anything beyond ordinary wear and tear when the tenant moved out that the landlord had to deal with? Any other problems?  Did they have pets? Did they smoke? Were they loud?

Pets.  Do they have any? You can say no pets are allowed, but unless it’s a condominium with specific rules against them, your tenants are permitted to have them under Ontario human rights law.I know some tenants who lie about it, knowing that once they get in, the landlord has no recourse. If you really don’t want pets scratching up the new hardwood, say so. But don’t be unreasonable. A well-behaved pet should be welcome in any rental property. A crazy barking dog that scares the hell out of the neighbours, not so much. (Maybe  meet the dog first; I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all!)

Do a credit check. Ask for details about employment and do a credit check. It only costs a few bucks to get  onefrom Equifax ($ 10, when I order it through my office) and it will tell you volumes! Someone who pays down their student debt and pays all their bills promptly is conscientious. You can assume they’ll be just as conscientious when it comes to your rental property. Someone with a poor credit history, or a patchy one, may be a problem.

Follow your gut. If you don’t like the person, don’t assume you’ll get along well in a landlord-tenant relationship. Tell the prospective tenant the truth: that you’ll be reviewing all applications before you make a decision, and keep looking. This is your property, your investment, and your nest egg. You want to make sure the people you allow into your property  are ones you’ll be happy to have there, ones you don’t want to have to worry about getting out.

Treat the good ones well. My best tip is this: when you find a good tenant, look after them. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them!  I left my tenants a bottle of wine and a card and some chocolates to welcome them when they moved in. When they called me to let me know the baseboard heaters not working and there was a leaky hose to the washing machine, I sent my trades over ASAP. Good tenants need to know you’re reliable too; if you don’t look after them properly, they’ll leave. I want my tenants to know that they are in good hands, and how grateful I am to have them!

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