Finding a great tenant is not an easy task. I wish it was as simple as placing a free ad on the internet and having your dream tenant show up with post-dated cheques in hand. It’s a little bit more involved than that. You’ll have to advertise the property (smartly), show it to perspective renters, verify references and credit, and negotiate a lease. Hopefully this handy guide can help you decide if you want to do it alone or with my help.
Legal Rental Units
First thing’s first, do you have an apartment to rent? To be considered a legal apartment for the purposes of renting, there are certain by-laws the unit and unit owner must comply with. These include:
– Residential Zoning
– Occupancy and Property Standards
– Health and Safety Requirements
– Fire and Electrical Codes
If you’re renting out your condo unit check with the property management office on the rules for renting out units in the building and they will most likely want a copy of the lease. It is important to understand your obligations as a unit holder.
What’s in a Lease?
A lease is a document that outlines how much rent your tenant will pay, how long they will stay in the unit, and the rules and conditions under which the tenant agrees to occupy the property including smoking, pets, decorating, responsibilities, and so on. Leases are typically signed for one year or more in length and the tenant will switch to “month to month” once it is completed, unless a new lease is then agreed upon. If no lease is in place your tenant is required to give you 60 days notice before moving out.
Advertising Your Property
You’ll want to advertise your property approximately two months before it is truly available. This will give prospective tenants time to vacate their current premises and occupy your rental. Of course, there will also be tenants looking to rent immediately as well. Obviously the best rule of thumb is to start advertising as soon as you can.
You can go the free route with websites such as Kijiji or Craigslist but take caution. You will get everything from seemingly decent renters to “professional” rentals looking to take advantage of landlords who are renting their place for the first time. You’ll also get inquiries from people “overseas” who will send you a cheque without even seeing the property. However, they will then notify you that they cannot rent your place after all but as a sign of good faith, you only have to refund half the deposit. Next thing you know you are out those funds because the original cheque bounced. This is just one of many ways you can get scammed so please be careful.
You can also enlist the help of a licensed Realtor who will take care of the advertising for you as well as showing the property and pre-screening candidates before they ever get to you. The cost is usually one month’s rent with half that amount going to the cooperating agent who brought the renter. If you’ve never rented a property before this may make the most sense for you.
How Do I Choose a Tenant?
Many landlords simply choose the first person who shows interest in your rental unit. Before renting to anyone you should request:
– A Job letter.
– Previous addresses.
– A current credit check.
– First and Last month’s rent in the form of a bank draft or certified cheque.
– Post-dated cheques if possible.
When it comes to pets you can refuse to rent to someone due to them having a pet. However, once they are living there you cannot evict them for having a pet. Condo rules will supersede the Act.
There are many rules and obligations to follow as a landlord. The Landlord and Tenant Act is very clear when it comes to notices and right to access.
If your tenant is under lease you cannot evict them to sell the unit or to move into the unit yourself. If selling the unit the new owner must continue to honor the lease as agreed to. However, if your tenant is on a month to month lease you may give 60 days notice informing them that you are selling the unit or are moving into it yourself (or a relative). You may not give notice simply to rent to someone else.
As a landlord you have the right to enter the unit for repairs or maintenance provided 24 hours notice is given. Same applies to showing the unit to prospective buyers or renters.
In terms of rent increases, there is a misconception out there that rent increases can only occur once per year up to Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is only true if the building was built prior to November 1st 1991. If built afterwards, the landlord can increase the rent to whatever they like provided the proper 90 day notice is given and there is no lease in place.