Finding a great tenant involves pricing and advertising the property, showing it to prospective tenants, interviewing tenants, checking references, negotiating and putting together a lease.
How & Where Do I Find Tenants?
DIY – Many landlords have successfully found tenants on Kijiji, Craigslist and in the local newspaper, though be prepared for a random selection of prospective tenants. If an ‘overseas tenant’ offers to take your apartment without seeing it, be cautious. As with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Use a REALTOR – Of course, you can always work with a licensed REALTOR to help you find a tenant. Many real estate agents offer leasing services that include pricing, advertising, showing, screening, negotiating and paperwork (the total cost is usually one month’s rent, half of which is typically offered to the agent who brings a buyer). If you don’t have the time (or skills) to find a great tenant, consider hiring a professional.
When Should I Advertise My Property?
Most rentals come on the market two months before they are available for rent (e.g. an apartment will go on the market July 1st for a September 1st occupancy).
How Much Rent Can I Get?
The best way to price your property is by finding out what other nearby apartments have rented for (‘comparables’). Real estate agents have access to a ton of rental history so if you hire an agent, you’ll be able to price your apartment or condo more easily.
How Important is the Lease?
The lease is the document that summarizes your relationship with the tenant – how much rent they’ll pay, the dates of the lease, rules around pets and smoking, what happens at the end of the lease, etc.
Leases are typically for 12 months and after that (unless a new lease is signed), tenants are automatically considered to be ‘month-to-month’, meaning that they don’t generally need to commit for another 12 months. Month-to-month tenants are required to give 60 days notice before moving out (counting from the first of the coming month, e.g. if they give notice March 19th, then they can move out on May 31st).
Starting April 30, 2018, landlords of most private residential rental units – from individual landlords to property management companies – must use the standard lease template for all new leases.
Understanding Rights and Responsibilities
A landlord has the right to:
Collect a rent deposit – It cannot be more than one month’s rent, or if rent is paid weekly, one week’s rent. This deposit must be used as the rent payment for the last month or week of your tenancy. It cannot be used for any other reason, such as to pay for damages. A landlord must pay interest on the deposit every year.
Increase the rent – There are special rules that limit how often your landlord can increase the rent and by how much. In Ontario, rent increases are controlled by the government. Generally speaking, landlords can increase the rent once every 12 months by up to a maximum equal to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for that year. The Government of Ontario has passed legislation to freeze rent at 2020 levels. This means that rents will not increase in 2021 for the vast majority of rented units covered under the Residential Tenancies Act. While the rent freeze will end on December 31, 2021, a landlord must give a tenant at least 90 days’ notice in writing of any rent increase and this notice must be on the proper form.
A landlord is responsible for:
- keeping the rental property in a good state of repair and obeying health, safety and maintenance standards.
- providing the tenant with a copy of the written tenancy agreement within 21 days after the day the tenant signed it and gave it to the landlord. If the tenancy agreement is not in writing, the landlord must give the tenant written notice of their legal name and address within 21 days after the tenancy begins.
A landlord is not allowed to:
- shut off or deliberately interfere with the supply of a vital service (heat, electricity, fuel, gas, or hot or cold water), care service or food that the landlord must provide under the tenancy agreement. However, the landlord is allowed to shut-off services temporarily if this is necessary to make repairs.
- take the tenant’s personal property if they don’t pay the rent and they are still living in the rental unit.
- lock the tenant out of the rental unit unless the landlord has an eviction order from the Board and the Sheriff comes to the rental unit to enforce it.
- insist that the tenant pay the rent by post-dated cheque or automatic debit. These ways of paying the rent can be suggested, but the tenant cannot be refused a rental unit or evicted for refusing to give them.
- evict a tenant for having a pet, but they can refuse to rent to someone with a pet in the first place. If the landlord owns a condo, the Condominium rules take precedence over the Residential Tenancies Act, so if the condo doesn’t allow pets, the landlord may be able to evict Fido.
What Happens if You Want to Move Back in – You may NOT move back into your condo or apartment during the term of the lease. If the tenant is on a month-to-month lease, you may provide 60 days notice in writing (counting from the 1st of the coming month) in order to occupy the unit (note: you or a family member must be the person occupying the unit – you cannot simply give notice to the tenant in order to allow someone else to move in). Note that as of September 2017, an owner wishing to occupy their unit must:
- compensate the tenant with one month’s rent or offer them another acceptable unit.
- occupy the unit for at least one year.
- if the landlord advertises the unit for rent or sale, re-rents, demolishes or converts the unit within 12 months of the tenant vacating, the landlord is subject to a fine of up to $25,000.
What Happens if You Want to Sell – If you have a valid written lease, you may NOT evict the tenant in order to sell the property. The lease simply transfers to the new owner (at the current rent and terms). If you have a ‘month-to-month’ tenant, you may give the usual 60 days written notice to the tenant, on behalf of the new buyer (assuming the new buyer is moving in themselves). When a tenanted unit is sold to a new buyer and the existing owner gives notice to the tenant on the new owner’s behalf, compensation is not required.
Also, note that all new tenants by law must be given a copy of the Landlord and Tenant Board’s ‘Info for New Tenants Brochure’ with a summary of landlord and tenant rights & responsibilities.
How Do I Find an A++ Tenant?
One of the most important parts of finding a good tenant is screening. Make sure to request:
- first and last month’s rent (ideally as a certified cheque or bank draft)
- a current credit check
- confirmation of employment letter
On the application, make sure to request:
- previous addresses and landlord names/contact information
- employment details for the last several years
- details of any other people who will reside in the apartment
- details about any pets