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(Un)common Knowledge: For Tenants and Homeowners

Homeowners vs. Tenants

Know your rights and you should win in any confrontation without fail(?).

My belief is that you can be always be in the right, along with your intentions, but your execution can be still wrong.  What I’m trying to say is, the sensitive nature of tenant and landlord negotiations makes for greater possibility of things going awry because neither party wants to give up anything in the name of principles.  Collaborating with the opposite party, sharing information, understanding each other’s needs and motives, I believe, will always help you come to terms together faster and happier, and ultimately, create a much more favourable situation where both parties make very minimal compromises.

  1. Know your rights.
  2. Have paperwork signed by both parties to back you.
  3. Be crystal clear with the other party at the onset of signing contracts to prevent headaches in the future (it’s worth it).

For Homeowners

  1. Credit Checks.  Run a credit check on applicants through Equifax (www.equifax.ca) or TransUnion Canada (www.tuc.ca) can clear up any questionable credit deficiencies or delinquent payments.  Perhaps the prospective tenant may not even know he/she had outstanding payments, and so, you inadvertently discovered a possibility why the credit is below average.  It’s a great way to confidently confirm the applicant’s trustworthiness.  Since credit checks will cost you, always reserve credit checks for a short list of the most qualified applicants.
  2. Rental History.   Just like an employment referral call, a rental history check is just a call to a previous homeowner, which can reveal how long this tenant was at a previous address and reason for leaving.  A tenant who left on poor terms with the previous landlord can easily be discovered and may create problems for you in the future.  Try to learn more about the previous situation.  Ask open-ended questions and wait for a full response.  It’s probably the cheapest way to get the most credible responses in the quickest fashion.  Just pick up the phone and ask questions!  Some provinces even have private companies that can provide background checking services.  For example, Rent Check in Ontario, and B.C. Apartment Owners and Managers Association are reputable associations that provide services to its members.
  3. Employment History.  It never hurts to ask about your prospect about his/her employment history.  Tenants with several jobs may not be the best bet, but remember to execute a credit check and ask about their rental history.  But don’t rely only on their employment history alone to make a decision.
  4. Personal References.  New residents who are not from the city may not have many local personal references to offer.  Although it may not be the only way to learn more about your prospect, it’s always good to speak with two or three of the applicant’s supposed close friends to see whether the tenant is all he/she claims to be.
Tip #1:  There are some questions you just can’t ask.  Check with your lawyer about provincial legislation or personal privacy legislation if you have any questions on your list that may be too sensitive to ask.
Tip #2: A property owner has full discretion regarding who choose the tenant to be.  However, it is not advisable to give reasons for declining to rent to a particular tenant.

For Tenants

Let’s just say the good news is that most provinces and territories have some form of tenancy act to protect you!  It’s absolutely critical you familiarize yourself with provisions of the legislation in your province and territory – https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho/index.cfm.

Always view the relationship as one that’s reciprocal.  A landlord has a right to collect rent from a tenant, but of course, not until the tenant has received a signed copy of the lease agreement.  Providing the lease agreement is the landlord’s responsibility.  To start, there are a few rights for you to remember:

  1. Right to know.  The tenant has a right to know the name of the landlord who owns and operates the rental property, how to communicate with the landlord, and so forth.
  2. Right of refusal.  A landlord has the right to limit or refuse subletting or assignment of a rental suite.  Most of the time, the rental agreement would include subletting terms .
  3. Right to privacy.  Tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment of the premises.  If the landlord requires entry for whatever reason, at least 24 hours’ notice must be given.  A shorter period is possible, depending on the situation (ie. emergencies) or the relationship you have with your landlord.

Key provisions of most legislation in Canada will include the following:

  1.  Tenants must give at least 30 days’ notice prior to vacating a suite; the landlord must give at least 3 months’ notice when asking a tenant to vacate a suite.
  2.  Landlords will, to the best of their abilities, make themselves available in the event of significant issues.
  3.  Landlords are responsible for maintaining the property that’s habitable and in good repair.
  4.  Tenants are responsible for paying for the repair of any damage made to the property caused by themselves.
  5.  Tenants are responsible for the conduct of guests and anyone who sublets their suite.

When in doubt, trust your lawyer.  Suggestions and definitions here may change over time, so don’t rely on the content as much as the reasoning behind why you should take these steps to protect your estate.

Always feel free to contact me if you have real estate related inquiries.

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