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Tips, resources and advice for landlords and property managers

Best Practices for Finding Good Tenants

Finding quality tenants is one of the most crucial aspects of being a successful landlord. But it’s also one that can cause endless headaches, as attracting the right candidate can be a frustrating and gruelling process.

landlord tips for rental tenant screening and finding good tenants

However, if you stick with a few best practices, you can significantly increase your chances of acquiring a quality tenant. The result is timely rent payments, no damage to your property, zero complaints, and more time to spend with your family and friends.  

At first glance, finding your ideal tenant may seem like a complex and tedious undertaking, but ultimately, it boils down to two things:

1. Being able to attract quality applicants

2. Screening for the best applicants

This step-by-step article will guide you in finding a great tenant – one that can contribute to a pleasant, rewarding, and, most importantly, stress-free landlord experience.

Best Practices for Finding Good Tenants

Step 1: Say Cheese! Start with Great Photos

That’s right, take photos that people want to see! As a landlord, you need to put in the time and effort to take captivating pictures that showcase your rental unit in the best possible light.

Your photos should capture the attention of tenants – you want them to be intrigued with your listing, so much so that they can’t help but request an in-person viewing. Never skimp on photos – they’re your first opportunity to make a good impression.

Your property’s photos should offer a complete view of your unit. Ensure you show each area clearly and in a way that highlights the size of your property. Be strategic with how you take your pictures to display the space and layout of the unit properly – using the right angles is essential.

Make sure that your rental property is cleaned and ready to be rented. No one will be interested in a household with dirty laundry on the floor and paint  peeling off the walls. Remember: when people view your photos, they’ll visualize themselves living on the property – make them want to be there.

Take your photos with bright lighting, ideally during a sunny day with the lights on.

landlord tips for finding good tenants

Step 2: List Your Unit on the Top Rental Sites

Your primary objective now is to garner as much exposure for your property unit as possible to find qualified tenants ready to move in. 

Around 43 million Americans and 4.4 million Canadians live in rental housing. Thus, there’s no shortage of people looking for a solid rental property, especially in urban areas.  

Here are some of the best free rental listing sites to advertise your property: 

When crafting your ad, include all relevant information about your rental property that a tenant would find valuable and make it compelling. Don’t be afraid to inject a pinch of personality, and vigour, especially if your unit contains unique and desirable features that can spark interest in the right tenant. Flex those copywriting skills!

To gain traction, be sure to include the following in your ad:

Eye-catching headline

A memorable headline that commands attention is vital to persuade users to click on your listing and check out your rental unit. Use enticing and expressive words to describe your listing, such as “spacious”, “luxurious”, “charming”, “elegant”, and “picturesque.”

Features of your property

Don’t leave potential tenants guessing what they can expect from your rental unit – highlight everything it has to offer. Be clear and concise when describing each aspect of your property, and note any recent upgrades and renovations.

Here are some things to cover:

  •         Square footage and floor plan.
  •         Kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms
  •         Appliances
  •         Type of flooring in each area of the unit
  •         Storage space
  •         Number of windows/natural lighting
  •         Utilities
  •       Parking

Perks of the location

Location is one of the most crucial factors renters evaluate in a property. As a result, it pays to include details about your unit’s proximity to various amenities, such as:

  •         Public transportation
  •         Shopping malls
  •         Parks
  •         Recreation and fitness facilities
  •         Nightclubs and bars
  •         Restaurants and coffee shops
  •         Grocery stores

Descriptions of rental fees, rules, and other crucial details

Ensure you disclose in your ad the monthly rent and security deposit required. Be sure to mention the duration of the lease agreement (yearly, month-to-month, etc.), too.

Address the rules, regulations, and expectations for tenants, both your own and those listed under the condo corporation’s bylaws (if you own a condo unit). Some restrictions you may address include smoking, cannabis use, and pets.

Step 3: Pre-Screen Tenants and Schedule a Viewing

After hearing back from interested applicants, assemble the list of candidates, and inform them that you’ll be holding viewings on a specified date (preferably weekends). Completing property viewings over a brief period will save you considerable time and is more efficient than arranging daily viewings over a lengthy period.

Before inviting a rental applicant to a viewing, take the time to ask a few pre-screening questions. By doing so, you can narrow the pool of tenants to only those who show genuine interest in renting your unit and meet your qualification criteria. 

Some key areas you should inquire about include:

  • Their monthly income (to determine whether they can afford to rent out your unit)
  • Their credit score (to assess the risk of them failing to meet their rental payment obligations)
  • Their preferred move-in date (to know how quickly to arrange the proper paperwork  

Keep in mind that many tenants decide whether or not they’d like to rent out your property based on the impression they get from the viewing. Thus, make sure to:

  • See that the appliances, light bulbs, doors, etc., are in working order
  • Declutter each area of unnecessary furniture and other items for a more spacious look.
  • Air out the unit with some fresh air before your showing.
  • If necessary, repaint the walls of the property.

Step 4: Follow the Fair Housing Act

As you shortlist candidates, ensure you adhere to the Fair Housing Act. This federal law prohibits discrimination against individuals in all aspects of the sale and renting of housing in Canada. 

Similar laws are enshrined in provincial and territorial Human Rights Acts, which you must observe, too.

Under these laws, you cannot reject an individual seeking tenancy in your rental property based solely on traits like:

  •  Race, colour, and ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Sex and gender
  • Gender identity and gender expression
  • Disability
  • Marital and family status
  • Ancestry
  • Citizenship, including refugee status
  • Sexual orientation

In addition, be mindful of how you phrase particular questions during the screening process. Some questions may be outright illegal, so you should avoid asking them or risk facing a discrimination lawsuit or penalty.

Examples of questions that you’re not allowed to ask include:

  • “Are you receiving social assistance?”
  • “Have you ever been involved in a dispute reviewed by the Landlord and Tenant Board?”
  • “Are you pregnant?”

Step 5: Rental Application Form and References

Knowing what to include in a rental application form can be challenging. Without the correct details, you can potentially run into issues and disputes with your tenant.

For this reason, we’ve created a list of the most critical things to have as part of the rental application process.

Applicant information:

  • Personal details (name, address, date of birth, contact information)
  • Credit score
  • Pets
  • Smoking
  • Employment status/occupation
  • Income
  • Identification (Drivers licence, passport, etc.) 

Consent for credit check: Running a comprehensive Tenant Background & Credit Check in Canada is standard practice before finalizing a rental agreement, and most tenants will expect it. However, you’ll still need to obtain the tenant’s consent before you can access their credit report.

Proof of income: To verify a tenant’s income, you can ask them to submit a recent pay stub, letter of employment, or bank statement. This step is crucial to confirm that they earn a reliable income and have sufficient funds to cover the rent.

Employment references: An employment history and relevant references can give you an idea of whether or not the applicant is financially stable.

Previous rental history: More often than not, you can dig into applicants’ rental history, which will provide you with details about their rent payment habits, personality traits, and behaviour. You can obtain references from previous landlords, who can supply you with additional information, including the presence of delinquent payments if any. 

By collecting such details about prospective tenants, you can gain valuable insight into their character and tendencies. You can then decide whether or not you’d like to have them live in your rental property.

Step 6: Select the Best Applicant

Carefully evaluate each application and choose the best one from the bunch. Once you’ve made your selection, inform the applicant, and have them sign the lease agreement.

Not sure how to draft a proper contract? No problem, we provide copies of legally valid lease agreements for each province and territory, which you can download for free on our site!

Final Thoughts

Finding good tenants is a marathon, not a sprint. Invest the time and effort to find good tenants because it will save you a lot of stress and headaches that can result from dealing with a problematic tenant. Sometimes it may be worth losing a month of rent due to a vacancy to ensure you find the right tenant.

Evicting a delinquent tenant can cost a landlord thousands of dollars in lost rent, damages, legal fees, and significant time and stress. If you want to avoid these headaches and have complete peace of mind, consider enrolling in our Rent Guarantee Program.

Good luck, and happy renting!

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