This month we’re going back to basics and revisiting some of the duties and responsibilities that you have as a landlord. I will also be sharing my thoughts on where the best sources to advertise an apartment for rent are, as well as look at how you can maximize your chances for finding good tenants.
Many folks buy income properties and are happy to collect the rent every month but sometimes they forget the responsibilities that go along with being a landlord. The first thing that every new or prospective landlord should do is get intimately familiar with the Tenant Protection Act. You can find the complete TPA at this link:
I can’t repeat everything that is in the T.P.A. but I will highlight some of the key topics that this legislation addresses. As a landlord you are entitled to collect rent provided you meet the following basic obligations:
i. A landlord has to keep the rental property in a good state of repair.
ii. If something is not working because of normal wear and tear, the landlord must fix it.
iii. A landlord must obey all health, safety and maintenance standards in any provincial laws or municipal bylaws. For example, a bylaw may require the heat to be turned on and kept to a minimum temperature between the fall and spring.
As a landlord you are also responsible for the supply and continued unfettered access to vital services. A landlord cannot shut off or interfere with the supply to a tenant of hydro, fuel (such as natural gas or oil) or mess with the hot or cold water. You are also responsible for making sure that the rental suite is insurable and meets all the requirements of the local fire code.
I believe that it is important to be dutiful to your tenants. I consider my tenants to be like clients. I have a space that is available and they pay me every month to live in it. It’s really no different than the relationship that a business has with its customers. Appreciate the fact that your tenants give you business and do not ever treat them like second class citizens because they rent.
Another area that is subject to misinterpretation is your right as a landlord to enter the rented premises. Even though you own the rental suite, that doesn’t mean that you can walk in on your tenants whenever you please.
A landlord can enter a unit without written notice if:
*there is an emergency, like a fire,
*the tenant allows the landlord in, a care home tenant agreed in writing to let the landlord do ” bed checks.”
A landlord can enter a rental unit without written notice, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. if:
*the rental agreement requires the landlord to clean the unit – unless the agreement allows different hours for cleaning,
*a notice of termination has been given by either the landlord or tenant, or there is an agreement to terminate the tenancy, and the landlord wants to show the unit to a potential new tenant (although notice is not required, the landlord must try to tell the tenant before entering for this reason).
A landlord can enter between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and only if 24 hours written notice is given to the tenant:
*to make repairs or do work in the unit,
*to allow a potential purchaser, insurer or lender to view the unit,
*to allow an inspection by an engineer or architect or similar professional for a proposed conversion under the Condominium Act, for any reasonable purpose allowed by the rental agreement.
Another misunderstood area is what rights you have for evicting a tenant. If a tenant has a valid signed lease you cannot evict them until the end of that lease and you have to give them at least sixty (60) days written notice. Some of the reasons for eviction allowed by the Act relate to the tenant’s behaviour or actions or that of their guests. These include:
*not paying the rent in full,
*often paying the rent late,
*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”),
There are also the following circumstances under which a tenant may be evicted through no fault or action of their own, such as:
*the landlord wants the rental unit as their own residence, or that of their spouse or same-sex partner, or a child or parent of one of them,
*the landlord has agreed to sell the property to someone who wants all or part of the property for their own residence, or that of their spouse or same-sex partner, or a child or parent of one of them,
*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 occupied for the sole reason of receiving therapy or rehabilitation, the rehabilitation or therapy program has ended, a tenant of a care home needs more care than that available in the home, or no longer needs the level of care provided by the landlord.
The next topic I’d like to address is some of the best ways to advertise your empty suite to prospective renters.
Craig’s list: this is a relatively new medium but it seems to work wonders. Local on-line classified ads (updated daily) are read by many prospective renters
View-it.ca: this is an on-line site dedicated to renting apartments in the GTA
Weekend Papers: the Saturday Star, the Globe and the National Post all have real estate and classified sections.
Community & Local Bulletin Boards: these can work very well too. If you are close to a University, then put up a notice in the Student housing building. People often go looking in the areas that they are interested in so if you could catch them with an ad at the local grocery store or bowling alley, you may find success that way.
MLS: a lot of residential rentals are found on MLS using the services of a realtor. Please note that this can be the most expensive marketing as it often costs the landlord one full month of rent.
Now how do you know if a potential tenant is going to be relatively hassle-free and not cause you too much grief?
Credit Check: this is the most common way that landlords find out how credit-worthy an applicant is. At least you’ll know if they can afford the rent each month.
References: I really like to talk to other people or acquaintances of the applicant. You’ll be surprised how friends and family, despite their connection to an applicant, will give you honest feedback
Old-school gut feel: Like anything in life, what’s your initial reaction when you meet the potential tenant? I don’t always like to judge a book by a cover but sometimes there are sure-fire signs that a tenant may be trouble. You just have to pick up on clues during your initial meeting with them.
Being a landlord can be a very rewarding and profitable experience. If you follow these simple guidelines your chances for success will be improved. Next month we will look at how the market has been performing over these past few months and start preparing for our year-end wrap up.