A landlord tenant relationship is fragile like a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law love - hate bond. Both insist on their rights when it comes to property. However, unlike mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, a landlord is conveniently placed as he can avail of the opportunity to choose and pick. Though there is no winning formula to determine a potential tenant's goodness, there are certain steps a landlord can take to prevent conflicts and unrest and avoid being stuck with an unruly or disruptive tenant.
You have to be aware that there are laws that prevent landlords for evicting tenants if they're not paying on time, which were put in place to protect the renters. But bad renters have found a way to take advantage of the system. And when a horrible tenant comes along, get ready for a long, hairy ride, like this one u/Bisoux wrote about in a Reddit discussion:
My parents had a tenant like this. They only saw two weeks worth of rent from him, and it took 9 months to evict him, and another 3 to return the house to livable condition. I'm talking holes in the walls, marks everywhere, doorknobs all literally ripped off, basement floor coated in dog urine and feces. It was awful because it's a lovely little house.
The Act allows a landlord to give a tenant notice if the tenant, the tenant’s guest or someone else who lives in the rental unit either does something they should not do, or does not do something they should.
- not paying the rent in full
- persistently paying the rent late
- causing damage to the rental property
- illegal activity
- affecting the safety of others
- disturbing the enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord
- allowing too many people to live in the rental unit ("overcrowding")
- not reporting income in subsidized housing.
In some cases, a landlord can give a tenant notice based on the presence or conduct of a pet the tenant is keeping, such as where a pet causes damage to the rental property.
There are some other reasons for eviction that are not related to what the tenant has done or not done:
- the landlord wants the rental unit for their own use or for the use of an immediate family member or a caregiver,
- the landlord has agreed to sell the property and the purchaser wants all or part of the property for their own use or for the use of an immediate family member or a caregiver,
- the landlord plans major repairs or renovations that require a building permit and vacant possession,
- the landlord plans to demolish the rental property,
- in a care home that is occupied for the sole reason of receiving therapy or rehabilitation, the tenant’s rehabilitation or therapy program has ended,
- a tenant of a care home needs more care than the care home can provide, or no longer needs the level of care provided by the landlord.
If the tenant does not move out after receiving the notice, the landlord can ask the Board to end the tenancy by filing an application. The Board will decide if the tenancy should end after holding a hearing, which both the landlord and the tenant can attend to explain their sides of the story.
But the best would be to avoid going through this tedious procedure.
So how do you do it?
1. Advertise on reputable sites
It is advisable to advertise your property on reputed websites such as MLS, gottarent, viewit, GSCrentals, apartmentcorner, etc. Avoid craiglist or Kijiji as it has invited flack by attracting many notorious elements. However, wherever you advertise, make sure to mention that you conduct both reference and credit checks; especially the latter as not all landlords carry out credit checks. This will ensure to keep those with notoriety at bay.
2. Speak to the previous landlords
During reference check of the potential tenant it is often advisable to speak to previous landlords and not just the current one. There is a good possibility that the current one is trying to get rid of his tenant and thus not be forthcoming with many unpleasant details. After speaking to multiple landlords you can make an accurate and just assessment of the personality traits of the potential tenants and thus arrive at a balanced and correct judgement.
3. Do a credit check
A credit check is a step further to reference check as it not only reveals financial consistency, stability and predictability of the prospective tenant but also acts as an extra help in case the potential tenant has provided fake references. Many times people give names of their friends as their previous landlords who give laudatory credentials and certificates making landlords think they are getting an ideal tenant. In order to find out if the prospective renter has reviews that make landlords provide the right references, you can also Google the names of the landlords and the phone numbers associated with them. While going for credit check it is wise to use TransUnion or Equifax, which will charge between $20-$25.
In addition, one can also join Ontario Landlord Association (OLA) where a member pays about $10 for credit check and avail the facility to use their materials and reports that not only provide landlord tons of information on how to choose a right tenant but also empowers them with knowledge and information about how to deal with unruly tenants. OLA with its sister organization The Canada Landlords Association (CLA) are provincial and national organizations respectively for private small residential landlords. They provide free access to information, resources to residential and commercial landlords, tenants, realtors, property managers and other professionals.
Credit checks can go a long way. Being a landlord means responsibility and taking precautions. If you fail at that one bad tenant can cause a lot of stress. Well known case of Alan and Lloy-Ann Shields versus Nina Willis proves just that: "My parents saved up for their retirement, not this," said Ron Shields, son of Alan and Lloy-Ann, whose experience with the trouble tenant Nina Willis apparently shattered their post-work years quietude.
Willis was sentenced to six months in jail and one year of probation in 2015 for defrauding two of her former landlords. She owes them $9,000 which is the equivalent of roughly six month's rent.
The Shields said it all began shortly after she moved in. She started paying them late to stop paying them at all and they filed for an eviction. Willis was verbally aggressive according to witnesses during her stay at the apartment.
When she first applied to rent the property, she identified herself as "Nay Lancelot", which should've been suspicious from the start.
"I did all the reference checks and everyone said she was fine . . . I’m a trustworthy soul"
Said Lloy-Ann Shields in The Star article as a proof that underestimating credit checks is a bad, bad idea. And if someone tells you their name is Nay Lancelot, please check every document they have.
4. Check Your Tenants Social Media Profiles
A report by the Media Technology Monitor states that one in three Canadians won’t let a single day go by without checking into their social media feeds. This provides an excellent opportunity for landlords to know about their potential tenants and investigating more by digging in their social media sites. A person's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts could reveal a great deal about them, their lifestyle, etc without even talking to them. Landlords should look for photographs; if they have any pet or if they smoke or any other issue that a landlord prohibits. There is a good chance that people with pets will put their pet pictures; if they smoke, it is probable they have their puffing picture on their Facebook and or Instagram.
However, as per the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), 2006 Section 14, any provision in a lease that prohibits the presence of animals in the unit is not enforceable against a tenant. This means the landlord cannot do much unless the pet is creating problems for other residents. But when it comes to condominium rental units, there are condominium corporation's governing documents, which many times have restrictions and prohibitions on the keeping of pets in the units. They might restrict the number of pets per unit or there might be a restriction on their type or size too. The condominium corporations have right to even prohibit pets altogether.
5. Pay attention to the body language
Last but not the least, there are many traits, which should be carefully observed when speaking to a prospective renter face to face. Often when people lie they avoid eye contact, appear nervous, talk fast and act fidgety. Especially when you cross question them, they try to change the topic or exaggerate their appreciation for things about your house or about you. Sometime they even try to offer free assistance in your household like helping in renovation, etc and tell stories how in past they had contributed to household of previous owners not for money but out of the 'goodness of their heart'. There are times these shady renters will throw big names at the drop of their hat showing off how well connected they are. All these are signs of trouble and not characteristics of a truthful tenant. More over their body language will speak volumes about them that a landlord should be able to gauge and take appropriate measures.
On the other side of the spectrum there is Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), which educates tenants about their right and duties. The organisation protects renters who are subjected to undue demands of the landlord.
Rules and regulations are made by the law for both landlords and tenants. Both have to exercise their rights wisely to maintain a peaceful and cordial atmosphere. While it may be hard to find an ideal tenant, it is not impossible to find a good one. A landlord has to go an extra mile in search of one and play the role of a private detective and that also a good one to find a right fit.
A tenant too can play his part well by following some simple rules like paying rent on time, observing cordiality with the neighbours, etc, always asking for a written permission from the landlord when making any kind of changes and last but not the least, treating the dwelling as they would treat their own home. Landlords too should be cooperative and friendly towards their tenants by giving ample notice to the tenant when visiting the property, listening to the grievances of the tenant and making sure anything that has to be replaced in the house or condo is done without delay. In order to run the social framework of the society smoothly and successfully, it is the duty of both landlord and renter to work at their end effectively to promote happy and joyous living.