How to be a Better Landlord: Part 1

Published on April 29, 2013 by in Landlord/Tenant

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Credit Check

In the first of a series of posts on this topic, I will address some of the things that I see regularly in the Landlord and Tenant Board.  These are just simple things that, if done, you are well on your way to manage the relationship that you have with your tenants.

Have your Prospective Tenant Complete a Tenant Application Form

Good tenant application forms contain lots of verifiable information to you to help you screen for the best tenants.  Here is a sample list of questions you can ask on your form:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Driver’s Licence number
  4. Occupation
  5. Names of other occupants and their relationship to the prospective tenant(s)
  6. A list of pets that the prospective tenant or other occupants own
  7. Last 2 places of residence, including name of previous Landlords with their telephone numbers (If the say no, always ask “Why”)
  8. Present and past employment, including their spouse
  9. Banking information (including account numbers)
  10. Current financial obligations
  11. Personal references
  12. Do they own a vehicle? (get their make, model, year and license plate number)
  13. Social Insurance Number (special conditions apply before asking this one.)

The most important thing to do with the information that you have collected on your prospective tenant is to follow up on each element, in order to confirm the tenant’s information.  Check, double-check, then check again.  Doing your due diligence before signing your tenant to a new lease pays dividends in the future, should any problems arise.

Of course, in an age of protection of privacy, how far you can go with your inquiries is limited.  For example, if you decide to contact your tenant’s employer, all you need to do is to confirm that your prospective tenant works there and how long that tenant worked there.  If they just got the job, you should be following up with the previous employer to find out how long the tenant worked there.  Short terms of employment should concern every Landlord.

More information can be gleaned from their previous Landlords.  Here, you can verify phone numbers using Google, Canada 411, or even the phone book.  You can find out if they were ever late on their rent payments or any other difficulties that the Landlord had with your tenant.  If the prospective tenant refuses to provide this information, always ask why and ask for their side of the story.

Asking for the prospective tenant’s driver’s license is a simple check on whether they are giving you their real name.  For just $2, you can check online to see if the license number is valid with the Ministry of Transportation.  If it comes back as “Not Found”, then there is an identity issue that you have to consider.  If it comes back as “Not Valid”, their license may be suspended and some more questions will need to be asked.  For $12, you can get a full driver’s abstract that comes back with their registered name and last address.

Social Insurance Numbers are tricky, legally speaking.  There is no obligation on the part of the prospective tenant to give you their SIN number.  However, SIN numbers are the best way to get information on tenants by way of a credit check.  There are a number of different companies that provide this service to Landlords, and can be easily found on the major internet search engines.  If you ask for a SIN number, always state that this is optional and that the purpose of the SIN number is to obtain a consumer report containing their credit and/or personal information.  Landlords should have the prospective tenant confirm this in writing and have the prospective tenant’s signature and date.

Lastly, why ask for bank account numbers and automobile license plate numbers?  This is your insurance policy when a tenant either stops paying rent or does a disappearing act.  If the tenant is evicted for not paying rent, and you have an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board, that decision can be turned into an enforceable judgment in Small Claims Court.  The banking information will allow you to get a garnishment against the former tenant’s bank account.  If the former tenant drops off the radar screen and does not leave you a forwarding address, the license plate is a valuable piece of information to skip tracers, as all Ontario drivers must provide a new address within six weeks of moving.

For your Landlord and Tenant matters, please don’t hesitate to contact me.