How to get – and keep – the best tenants for your rental property

What you need to know to attract a tenant who values your home as much as you do

Anyone who’s rented out a portion of their home, or indeed their entire home, knows that it’s not always a comfortable thing. On the pro side is extra income; this might be a luxury (your 20-something moved out and now the basement apartment is vacant), or a necessity (you bought a duplex and rely on rental income to make the monthly mortgage payments). Everyone’s situation is different, but there’s one thing every Ontario landlord knows: to put it kindly, not all tenants are created equal. It’s no wonder people are anxious about renting property when we have all heard horror stories about renting to tenants.

The good news is that with some due diligence and effort, you can find the right tenant for your property – one who will be happy with their unit, pay their rent on time, and protect your investment into the longer term. Here’s how to find and keep a great tenant.

  1. Be a good landlord first.
    • Don’t discriminate based on race, religion, gender or disability; it’s illegal, and it can also seriously limit your choices when it comes to good tenants.
    • Make necessary repairs and renovations to Ontario Building Code standards before attempting to rent your unit.
    • Be sure to obtain adequate rental property insurance to protect your investment.
  2. Diversify your advertising.
    • It’s easy to advertise your rental property, complete with gorgeous pictures, online.
    • Don’t forget free sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, not to mention posting on all your social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
    • Not everyone goes online to look for apartments, believe it or not. Advertise in your neighbourhood newspaper, put a sign on your property, and spread the word to everyone you know.
  3. Be available.
    • Reply promptly to email and phone calls
    • Be willing to show the property on weekends and in the evenings, when most people have time to look.
    • When showing the property, make sure it is clean, de-cluttered, aired out, and that the exterior is kept neat and tidy.
    • If possible, make parking convenient for prospective tenants.
  4. Know your property.
    • Even if you don’t live there, be sure you can answer prospective tenants’ questions, such as when is garbage day and what utilities are included.
    • Set out in the lease what extras you will and won’t be responsible for (for example, if your tenants will have shared access to laundry facilities, state any house rules clearly).
    • Knowing extra information that might appeal to your tenants (such as the school district, public transit information, nearby shops and services) will demonstrate your level of involvement and responsibility as a good Ontario landlord.
  5. Check out your tenant.
    • To ensure the tenant is able to afford the rent, ask to see proof of their income, such as pay stubs or a job letter that includes the employer’s name and contact information.
    • Ask to contact their current and past landlords to find out why they left and what kind of tenant they were.
    • If this will be a first apartment for your tenant, you can ask for a co-signer as well as first and last.
    • Because there is a correlation between credit history and default, you’ll want to check your tenant’s credit through Equifax (do NOT ask a friendly Realtor or mortgage broker to run the check, or it could adversely affect their credit rating and get you into trouble). If you want to opt for deeper checks, such as criminal record checks, it’s best to seek advice from a professional body, such as the Ontario Landlords Association, first.
  6. On a final note, keep your tenants happy.
    • A good tenant is hard to find, keeping a good tenant happy will be far less stressful for you than having to find a new one.

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