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For Rent

You have a property for rent and you want to find a quality tenant. Where do you start?

Finding tenants or renting a property is a multi-step process that involves:

  1. Advertising for tenants
  2.  Pre-screening tenants
  3. The residential tenant application
  4. Screening your references
  5. Running a credit check


Advertising for tenants

Define the type of tenant you’d like to live in your property and write the ad to that tenant, while leaving out exclusive language. The human rights act extends to housing in Canada. If you have a downtown condo, mention the features and benefits most attractive to your ideal tenant. For example, walking distance to work, shopping, and nightlife, 24-hour handyman. Think carefully about your tenant, because your ad can change greatly if you are advertising a three bedroom house for rent, two bedroom apartment for rent or a a condo for rent.

  1. Writing a catchy, specific title. Describe what you’re renting? A two-bedroom furnished condo in the heart of downtown? A four-bedroom, unfurnished home in suburbia? A furnished basement suite?
  2. Write the ad from the tenant’s perspective – what is most attractive to them? Proximity to schools, church, recreation centres, lake access? What about the interior – does it have a fantastic kitchen, an additional family room or man cave, and heaps of closet space?
  3. Place the ads in a popular online platform such as Facebook Marketplace, Rentfaster, or Rentboard.
  4. Place a “For Rent” sign outside the property where it is visible to potential tenants.
  5. Tap into your personal network including friends, family, or colleagues to spread the word about your rental property.

Pre-screening tenants

Once tenants start calling or messaging to book showings, you’ll want to make sure you’re only showing your rental to people qualified to rent it. You can streamline the process by:

  1. Composing your pre-qualifying questions in advance of the phone calls. Questions can include; how many people will be living in the property? Is the property for you or someone else? How many pets do you/the tenants have? What date do you want to move in? Can you qualify your income?
  2. Set a time to talk to your potential tenants. A phone conversation will give you an entirely different impression than a text message or email. Take the time to learn about your potential tenant/s.
  3. Tell your potential tenants about your application process. If you require a credit cheque and identify verification, it’s better to be up front and tell people in advance. If they don’t want to follow your process, you’ve saved time that would have been wasted on a showing.  
  4. Once you’ve scheduled a date/time, send a verification text providing the address and that you require them to call/text you one hour before the appointment to confirm they are coming. No text, no showing.
  5. During the showing – you can ask your tenants the same pre-screening questions you asked during your phone call – let them talk and notice whether their answers are consistent.

The residential tenant application

Whether you choose a paper or online application, there are six areas of information your form should request:

  1. Personal information- as for identification (driver’s license, passport, Rentpanda has advanced tenant screening tools to verify identity, and you can also pay a small fee for a judgment search at the Court of the King’s Bench).
  2. Landlord references- check current and previous two.
  3. Previous addresses –  check a history of three to five years.
  4. Employment history and references – recent pay stub (30 Days).
  5. Permission to run a credit check and, if needed, a criminal record check – make sure they sign and date a document.
  6. Documentation to support the application, such as government-issued identification, a recent pay stub, or proof of income from a financial institution or accredited authority such as an accountant or lawyer.

Tenant References

 Screening your references

Many people are honest; some are not. How can you screen references to weed out the fakes?

  1. Run social media checks on all references to cross reference identify and place of employment.
  2. Arrange to speak to references over the phone and ask them questions about the tenant’s dependability, reliability, how they interact with their colleagues, how they deal with conflict, etc. Remember to stay silent and let the reference do the talking. The less you say, the more they’ll talk.
  3. Look up landlord references online, and call the number you find listed, not the number the tenant provided. For private landlords, run a title search on the property, run social media checks, or pretend you’re a tenant looking for a place to live. If the “landlord” says they don’t rent properties, you know they’ve provided a fake reference.
  4. Once you’re convinced your tenant’s references are legit, ask them questions about the length of time they rented the previous property, whether they paid on time every month, whether there was any damage or complaints, if they brought in unregistered guests or pets etc.

Running a credit check

A credit check provides a wealth of historical information about a tenant’s spending and payment habits and creditworthiness. Credit reports provide a FICO score between 1-100. The higher the score, the better the tenant’s creditworthiness. They also provide an overview of current and previous addresses, employers, bankruptcies, and liens.

This is very valuable information to support landlords in making an informed decision about whether or not to admit a tenant.

Many property management software programs include credit reports such as Tenantcube and tenant screening and reporting services such as Frontlobby, where landlords can pay a nominal fee for a comprehensive credit report.

Landlord Tenant Board

When it comes to renting, many new landlords think they can wing it and hope for the best. Unfortunately, many professional tenants are waiting to take advantage of naïve landlords, and landlording falls under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), which has rules for tenants and landlords. Violating the rules comes with legal consequences that can be easily avoided by spending time learning the business of landlording.

To take advantage of a proven tenant screening process  – take the Find the Best Tenants masterclass. To save time and grief wondering if you’ve had your tenants complete the right legal documents buy the 10 Essential Editable Landlord Forms.

Are you wondering where you’ll find the time to craft landlord-tenant memos on smoking, parking, what can/can’t be flushed into the sewer, how to prevent pests and rodents, home hygiene, what can/can’t be put on the balcony, how to forward mail and keep mail safe? You don’t have to – click the link to these 11 – Be Smart Forms.

To have access to all the resources in one place – buy my book!  Canadian Landlords Handbook.

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