The New Ontario Standard Lease Agreement – 5 Things Every Landlord Should Know

New ontario lease agreement templates
New ontario lease agreement templates

Since April 2018, a standard lease agreement template was available from the Ontario government for landlords across the province. When complete, the standard lease creates a contract between the landlord and tenant. It is also called a residential tenancy agreement.

However, this standard residential tenancy agreement in Ontario was not mandatory and could be modified and altered by landlords, and such modifications and amendments were common practice. 

In December 2020, the Ontario government released an updated standard lease agreement template to account for RTA changes that were introduced in July 2020 by Bill 184

This new standard lease will require landlords to use 15 standard clauses and limits their ability to amend, disregard and add new clauses to the contract, limiting their ability to negotiate with the tenant.

What is the point of this new Ontario lease agreement?

The point of the new lease agreement is to prevent residential landlords from including illegal and therefore, unenforceable clauses in the standard lease agreements. The intention was to create a standard framework that both large and small landlords could use. 

The new lease template also makes things more transparent, and clearer between landlords and tenants because now, both parties will be familiar with what is in the document, where to find the total rent, what is included and excluded from the tenancy agreement. 

Additionally, the new residential tenancy agreement seeks to introduce the changes made by Bill 184

Ultimately, the new Ontario residential tenancy agreement is an attempt at levelling the playing field between landlords and tenants since there’s an otherwise unbalanced rental market due to the giant gap in negotiating powers between both parties.

5 Things to Know about the New Ontario Standard Lease

1) Changes to the new Ontario standard lease agreement

There are practical changes that will take effect with the new Ontario lease agreement in 2021.

Requesting a copy of the lease

The new lease agreement includes a provision that says a tenant can request a copy of the lease agreement from the landlord. If the landlord does not supply the lease agreement to the tenant within 21 days, the tenant can withhold 1 month’s rent. If the landlord does not produce it after 1 month, the tenant does not have to pay the landlord that outstanding months’ rent. Where the landlord never gives the tenant a copy of the lease agreement, the tenant can terminate the lease agreement by serving the landlord with 60 days’ notice.

No alteration

Landlords can no longer alter or change the new template. The new agreement contains 15 mandatory sections that must be included in the agreement and cannot be removed or altered in any way. The purpose of this is to prohibit landlords from making unfair changes or assigning illegal clauses that apply to the tenant.

Additional terms section

There is a section at the end of the lease agreement that allows landlords to attach documents with additional terms. Here landlords can add additional terms to the lease agreement but only with the tenant’s consent. It is important to note that where there is any inconsistency with the standard 14 clauses in the new lease agreement, the standard clauses will take precedence over any terms added by the landlord, which, in the case of conflict or overlap, will be viewed as illegal and therefore void. This is different from the approach seen in the previous rental agreement form because now this is the only section where landlords can add additional terms.

updated ontario lease agreement

Increased fines for landlords

As enacted by Bill 184, this new lease includes an increase in fines issued to landlords if they evict tenants unlawfully or give notices of termination in bad faith. Part D outlines the increased fines payable by landlords where landlords unlawfully evict tenants. If convicted, an individual landlord could face fines of up to $50,000.

Other changes to the Ontario rental agreement form

Along with these significant updates to the standard lease, the following is further clarified in this new form:
  1. Landlords no longer have to serve new tenants with the “electricity consumption” form for sub-metered units.
  2. Additional grounds for ending tenancy added in Part D including for landlord’s own use.
  3. If a tenant rents the entire unit to a third party (e.g. Airbnb), that person is not considered a “guest” and the landlord’s permission may be required.
  4. The “Post November 15, 2018” rent control exemptions are now clarified in Part I.

The most significant updates to the new Ontario standard lease agreement are:

  • Tenants can request a copy of the lease agreement from the landlord and can withhold rent if the landlord doesn’t provide it.
  • Landlords can no longer alter or modify the standard lease agreement.
  • A new “additional terms” section allows landlords to add further clauses and documents to the rental agreement, with the tenant’s consent. However, the main 15 clauses take precedence over these additional terms.
  • Increase in fines issues to landlords if they evict tenants unlawfully or give notices of termination in bad faith.

2) What properties does this new Ontario standard lease agreement apply to?

The new lease agreement applies to all residential units in Ontario. This includes but is not restricted to condos, houses, basement units, and apartments. Those exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act are not required to use this new lease format. This includes care homes, mobile home parks, lease communities and most social housing.

3) When does the new Ontario standard lease agreement take effect?

The new Ontario lease takes effect on March 1st, 2021

This does not mean that landlords and tenants who have already signed a lease agreement before this date are required to sign a new lease. 

Until February 28th, 2021, landlords and tenants can use the old version of the standard lease agreement and it will remain valid. However, it is important to note that any clauses in the lease agreement that are not standard clauses or are clauses that may appear to be illegal in nature, will automatically become void as of March 1st. This could mean that any clauses added within the body of the lease (and not within the “additional terms” section) could automatically become void as they would not abide by the new rules.

4) What might happen if I am not using the new Ontario standard lease agreement?

It’s important for landlords to know that any lease agreement made prior to March 1st will be permitted to remain effective and will not automatically become void. This is good news because landlords will not be required to re-sign their already existing tenants to a new lease.

Additionally, there are no penalties given by the Residential Tenancy Act, and by extension, the LTB, for landlords who do not properly use the standard lease. However, landlords should be aware that where there is a failure to use the proper form, the tenant can possibly break a fixed-term lease early. So it’s best to start using the new standard lease template before the March 1st deadline.

5) Where can I find a copy of the new Ontario standard lease agreement?

If you are interested in finding a copy of the new Ontario standard lease agreement that takes effect in March 1st 2021, please visit SingleKey Lease Templates to find a downloadable copy of the lease agreement.

How to Screen for Great Tenants

“It’s none of your business what my credit score is!!” How’s that for a start?

Tenants that are soon to live in your property can come in all types : good, bad, really bad. This is why you should do your due diligence before renting out your unit.

If it sounds stressful, don’t worry!

Luckily, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to screen for great tenants and included some tips along the way. 

1. Looks are Deceiving, A Credit Report is Not

After narrowing down your potential tenants to a short list, it is time to select the best one.

A credit report reveals a detailed breakdown of an applicant’s credit history. Credit bureaus are responsible for collecting financial information and a credit report is a great tool to get this info.

An individual’s prior financial history is a good indication of what they will do in the future. Chances are that if someone consistently pays their bills on time, they are most likely to pay their rent on time as well.   

Here is what to look out for in an Equifax credit report: 

    1. Personal Information – such as tenant’s name, address, date of birth and employment information. Make sure that this information matches the info on rental application.
    2. Payment Behavior – how often the applicant is late on their debt payments. Poor payment behaviour will be reflected in the credit score. 
    3. Credit Accounts Information –  the types of accounts, when they were created, the limits and amounts for these accounts as well as payment history.
    4. Debt Type and Amount – The debt amount is not the only important factor, mortgage debt is much safer than credit card debt and as the interest rate will be much lower.
    5. Type of Inquiry –  hard credit bureau inquiries can negatively impact the tenant’s credit score if done too often, soft inquiries do not. A tenant credit check is a soft inquiry.
    6. Public Records and Collections – from public court records such as bankruptcies, collections files, convictions and sometimes past eviction judgements.

2. No Income, No Rent

Credit check looks good? Awesome! 

But how often has your tenant switched jobs and addresses? If the answer is “often”, there is a chance you may have an unexpected vacancy in the near future.

These tenants may have the risk of losing their income and not being able to cover rent.

Another thing to consider is that individuals who work for a salary usually have a safer way to make money rather than those who depend on self-employment or freelance contracts. 

So what should you do? 

Always check the tenant’s source of income, check its reliability and compare it to the required rent payments. Alongside their income, double check their prior addresses and employment history to make sure they’ll be able to pay rent on time.

Not only this, but find out the amount of debt your prospective tenant has, and the monthly interest they are paying. This is important because if your tenant is paying $1000 or more in debt payments, they may not be able to afford the rent.

This credit report will tell you exactly what their total monthly debt payments are.

Tenant rent to income ratio screening tenants credit check

Quick Tip

Create a rent-to-income ratio. Take your prospective tenant’s monthly rent and divide it by their monthly household income. If the rent is over 30% of their income, recognize they are more likely to be delinquent.

An ideal candidate should have additional income to cover the rent payments in the case of unexpected expenses. 

If your tenant has been consistently changing addresses and jobs, be wary of them doing the same with you.

3. Run a Background Check

A background check is used to investigate a candidate’s history. It generally includes employment, education, criminal records, credit history, motor vehicle and license record checks. 

So how do I run a background check? 

It’s easy! All you need is:

  1. Tenant’s Full Name
  2. Driber’s license or Social Security Number (both optional)
  3. Date of Birth
  4. Current Address

4. Contact the Previous Landlord

The more information, the better. See if it is possible to contact the former landlord. Chances are the previous landlords will happily share their experience with your prospective tenant. They will relate to and understand your questions and will be inclined to help a fellow landlord.   By reaching out, you would be surprised by what you can find out!  While respecting the landlord’s time and not being too pushy, you should look to acquire more insights on the prospective tenant. Here are some sample questions that you can ask the former landlord:
  • Has the tenant paid you all the rent?
  • Does the tenant pay on time?
  • Has the tenant caused damage to your property?
  • Were they respectful towards the neighbors?
  • Would you rent out your property to this tenant again? 

Quick Tip

It is always better to try and contact more than one landlord in case they are just trying to get rid of their past tenant.

5. Join a Facebook Group

Have a question stuck on your mind but don’t know who to ask? Join a Facebook group of landlords from your province. 

Members of these groups share stories about their experiences and will provide advice that can help you with your current situation.

They will also often share information amongst the group about delinquent tenants and it might save you hours of figuring that out on your own. 

The Facebook admins assist with all questions relating to the Residential Tenancies Act and will help answer your questions!

Landlord Facebook Groups Across Canada

6. Interview the tenant

Have you taken all the steps to screen for a great tenant? Well, it still might not be enough. You can spend weeks screening a tenant but sometimes your instincts are the best judgement. 

Think of the screening as weeding through the candidates that you certainly do not want living in your property.

Quick Tip

When hiring a realtor, their objective is usually to find a tenant in the shortest amount of time. So you might end up with an average tenant rather than a great tenant, which may result in problems over time.

After thoroughly screening your prospective tenant and confirming they’re good on paper, talking to them over a cup of coffee might be the best screening of all.

“Talk to them? About what?” 

Well, first things first, ask about what you want to find out. You should ask about their past renting experience, and see if their story aligns to their references and feedback from past landlords. 

An easy way to start up that conversation is by saying “I know how difficult landlords can be when it comes to their property. How was your past relationship with the landlord?”

You might just find out that they’re in court right now for an eviction.

Final Word

As a landlord, you cannot rely on the paperwork alone to carry out a tenant background search. You have to be creative and willing to engage with tenants on a personal level. Conversations can help you better understand the way your tenants relate to others and how they handle conflict, all of which are essential to achieve the best tenant screening.

Following these 6 steps will minimize the risk involved in renting your unit. Investing in proper tenant screening pays off down the road. With SingleKey, you can get a comprehensive tenant screening report in minutes, including a background check, credit report, employment history, past addresses and evictions, and criminal record.

How Bill 184 Affects Landlords in Ontario

Bill 184 – How it affects landlords in Ontario?

Bill 184 – How it affects landlords in Ontario?

Over the past few weeks, hundreds have taken to the streets of Toronto to protest against a new piece of provincial legislation, called the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act or Bill 184, that many experts fear will allow landlords to evict tenants with ease and cause “increased homelessness” across Ontario. Also known as the “Mass Eviction Bill” by its opponents, the new amendment to the 2006 Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) has become a hot topic of discussion between tenants and landlords as the real effect of this bill remain in dispute over its lack of clarity.

Here is a summary of the key points that you need to know as a landlord for Bill 184:

  1. Bill 184 now allows landlords to retrospectively seek compensation from tenants who have remained in a unit longer than agreed, even after they have left. 
  2. Tenants who have been paying an improperly increased rent amount are not permitted to make a claim if they have already paid the raised rent price for 12 months. 
  3. Landlords will now receive hefty punishments where they are found to have acted in bad faith with a tenant. 
  4. Landlords will be required to include a sworn affidavit as part of their application to the LTB to terminate a tenancy. 
  5. Landlords can now negotiate repayment plans with the tenant as opposed to using the LTB to do so and can more easily evict a tenant who does not uphold this agreement.

The main opposition to the passing of Bill 184 is the tenant community. Many tenant rights activist groups are of the belief that this bill takes aim at individuals who have suffered heavily from the pandemic, the working class. This new piece of legislation has been perceived as giving landlords the power to pressure tenants to move out of a unit without any oversight by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Further, tenants are even more concerned that the bill fails to include a way for tenants to legally oppose the eviction. Ultimately, those who oppose the bill, see it as a collection of landlord favouring amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act that look to displace tenants.

One of the main focus of this bill is to deal with the backlog at the LTB by forcing tenants and landlords to cooperate. Bill 184 does provide some benefit to landlords; however, this is only because residential landlords are among the most vulnerable people affected by the pandemic and many are in need of immediate relief. 

Many landlords have tenants who can no longer make rental payments. In such cases, landlords are forced to carry the expense, resulting in thousands of dollars lost every month.   Ultimately, as a result of the unaffordable expense of affording multiple homes, these landlords are forced to offload real estate they can no longer afford to pay off outstanding mortgage payments. Bill 184 does a decent job of providing minimal liberation by allowing landlords to act more hastily and less bureaucratically. 

Below we have outlined in more detail the changes that can be expected from Bill 184 that most affect landlords: 

More power against over-holding tenants 

Under the current compensation scheme for landlords in the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords have the power to apply to the LTB to seek compensation for rental arrears from are tenants who overhold a unit. Overholding means tenants who have occupied a unit for longer than agreed upon. Landlords can also claim for damage caused to a rental unit where a tenant remains in possession of the rental unit beyond the expiry of the lease. 

Bill 184 expands this same power to allow landlords to make a claim to the LTB even after the tenant has vacated the unit. Provided that the claim is made within 12 months of the date the tenant vacates the unit, landlords can receive full compensation. Bill 184 further proposes that landlords are permitted to apply to the LTB to claim compensation (up to 12 months after the tenant has vacated the unit) from a tenant where the tenant interferes with another tenant’s ability to enjoy their rental unit and from a tenant who has not paid utilities. 

In such cases, what was once intended to be a profitable investment for a landlord, would then have become a financial nightmare. This amendment allows landlords to retrospectively claim for lost rent or unpaid utilities suffered by a landlord including compensation for not being able to have new renters occupy the unit. 

Conclusively, landlords who have lost rental income, utilities payments, or damages from overstaying tenants can now seek compensation even after the tenant has left the unit.  

New Rules for Rent Increase

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, a tenant (past or present) can file an order with the Landlord Tenant Board requiring that a landlord repay a tenant any money the landlord may have collected as a result of an improper rent increase. This means where a landlord increases the rent without serving the appropriate notice of a rent increase or increasing the rent above the appropriate amount set out by the Ontario Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs in the respective guidelines. This order must be filed within 12 months of the date of the illegal rent payment. 

Bill 184 adds to the current laws by stating that, where a tenant has already paid the improperly increased rent amount for a minimum of 12 consecutive months, then a tenant cannot seek reimbursement for such an improper rent increase. This new change applies so long as the tenant did not make an application to the LTB challenging the validity of that rental increase within one year from the first charge was made. 

Ultimately, landlords and prospective lenders and purchasers are given peace of mind. Rent payment amounts are no longer subject to challenge by any tenant where they have consistently been paid for a minimum of one year. 

Increased Punishment for Landlords and Corporations 

Under the current state of the law, the Landlord and Tenant Board can conclude that a landlord has acted in “bad faith” when terminating a tenancy. This includes cases where a tenancy is unfairly terminated for a landlord’s personal use, purchaser’s personal use, or for demolition, conversion or substantial renovations to the unit. Under these circumstances, a landlord can be ordered to make payment to the tenant. Pre-Bill 184, landlords could be ordered to compensate a tenant for any portion of increased rent that the former tenant has incurred or will incur from moving into a new unit for a one-year period after vacating the previous rental unit. Landlords could also be forced to pay for reasonable expenses incurred by the tenant including moving and storage. Finally, a landlord can receive an additional administrative fine of up to $35,000.

Bill 184 increases the maximum potential penalty that a landlord can suffer when acts are carried out in bad faith. This is because the bill looks to allow landlords more power to deal with removing a tenant. However, the LTB will now have the discretion to force the landlord to compensate the wronged tenant for a maximum of 12 months’ worth of missed rent where they are found to have acted in “bad faith”. 

In relation to corporations, Bill 184 looks to increase the maximum penalty that can be imposed on corporations that are found liable for breaches under the Residential Tenancies Act. These fines will be increased from a maximum of $100,000 to $250,000. 

Therefore, this increase in punishment that a landlord may suffer serves the needs of tenants as it acts as a deterrent for landlords acting unfairly. Landlords should be cautious as the new regulations subject landlords to paying a much heftier sum than what was previously imposed on landlords. This is in addition to the administrative fine that landlords may be subject to paying. 

Ending a tenancy better come with a good reason

When landlords apply to terminate a tenancy agreement, Bill 184 will require a landlord to attach a sworn affidavit outlining and explaining the reasons in detail for the termination to the LTB. This means declaring reasons for termination including, a landlord wanting to use the unit for personal use, or planned demolition, conversion or renovations to the rental unit. Additionally, the landlord is required to indicate in the affidavit whether he or she has served any notice of termination in respect of the same or another rental unit, within 2 years prior to filing the present application. 

With the new addition to the Residential Tenancies Act 2006, the LTB will be encouraged to take a landlord’s history of serving termination into account when concluding whether or not the landlord has acted in good faith. The amount of previous termination requests filed by a landlord will act as an important indicator as to whether landlords truly have sufficient and substantial reason to end a tenancy. 

The effect of deterring landlords from ending lease agreements and terminating tenancies for disingenuous reasons is to the benefit of tenants. The LTB will now have access to additional evidence to use in favour of tenants. 

This new amendment coupled with the increased fines means landlords are to be more cautious when ending tenancies. Where ending the tenancy does not align with the affidavit or is found to serve another purpose, landlords will be subject to hefty fines for acting in “bad faith”  

Bypassing the LTB

One of the biggest points of contention between the landlord and tenant communities is the proposed changes to the way landlords can address the issue of tenants not paying rent.  

Currently, disputes between landlords and tenants over rent arrears can only be addressed by the LTB. This has contributed to the extreme backlog of cases in the LTB. Pre- pandemic, eviction hearings and cases in the LTB could take an average of 3 months to be heard. 

Bill 184 aims to provide some relief, or at the very least not make the situation at the LTB worse. It allows disputes over rent between tenants and landlords to be negotiated without LTB intervention. Landlords can bypass the LTB and are encouraged to offer a repayment plan directly to tenants, something that was originally the responsibility of the LTB. For this repayment plan to be in good faith, it should be formulated following some form of discussion and negotiation with the tenant as, in theory, the plan is to the benefit of both parties. Additionally, this new change will allow landlords to claim for lost rent and remove tenants who have been withholding payment retroactively. Where the tenant refuses the repayment plan, or accepts and fails to uphold it, this constitutes sufficient grounds for the landlord to evict the tenant. 

Landlords and tenants are forced to work together to reach a solution where the landlord can expect some percentage of rent to be paid regularly, while also taking into account the difficulties that a tenant may be having to repay the rent. 

The introduction of increased compensation for tenants for evictions done in “bad faith” as discussed above, restrict landlords from imposing unfair repayment plans on tenants. Having to compensate a tenant for up to 12 months’ worth of missed rent in Ontario will cost the average residential landlord substantial financial hardship. Tenants are also given the right to appeal to the LTB where they believe their repayment plan or eviction was handled unfairly. The alternative to Bill 184, which is the current state of affairs, is for landlords to have to continue to shoulder the burden of tenants who continue to not pay rent.  

Conclusively, Bill 184 allows landlords to act with more urgency than being forced to wait in a three-month long line at the LTB. However, this solution does not protect landlords from having to shoulder thousands of dollars’ worth of lost rent as the repayment plan must be given a fair chance to work before steps can be taken to remove the tenant.  

The Current State of Bill 184

What this bill means for tenants and landlords is that, there is to be expected a drastic change to the Residential Tenancies Act that aims to force landlords and tenants to communicate, compromise and work together. 

While this new amendment to the RTA looks to provide relief for the LTB, the truth of the state of affairs at the LTB is that they face backlog and a lack of organisation that this bill fails to address. There are still many steps in between tenants not paying rent and a tenant being evicted including negotiating a payment plan and providing the tenants a chance to pay out on their repayment plan. These new amendments do not protect the average landlord from suffering thousands of dollars, and several months’ worth of missed rent. Additionally, claims for damage (on top of lost rent), brough against a tenant can still be expected to eat up landlord time and money because of the ongoing pandemic. 

As a result of the increased risk that comes with being a renter, many landlords are turning to insurance options such as SingleKey to guarantee rental income and protect landlords from delinquent tenants. The SingleKey Rent Guarantee provides landlords peace of mind knowing that they will are protected against tenants who do not pay the rent and who may damage their property.

Advice for Landlords: How to Work with Tenants during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Keys in hand in black glove. Use alcohol spray to corona virus and kill germs at the key of the house or office regularly. Covid-19 ncov or coronavirus quarantine concept.

Keys in hand in black glove. Use alcohol spray to corona virus and kill germs at the key of the house or office regularly. Covid-19 ncov or coronavirus quarantine concept.

In Canada, several individuals and businesses are reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent poll, a jaw-dropping 44% of Canadian residents report that either themselves or someone living in their households has lost a job. Alarmingly, an additional 18% of people expect to lose their employment or have their hours cut in the near future as well.

The impact of these immense layoffs or reduced work hours on rent payment is likely to be felt from April 2020 and expected to linger much longer, due to the expected economic slowdown in the next 12 months. With recurring bills such as mortgage payments, utility bills and other financial obligations, how can landlords and their tenants weather this storm without rancour?

Tenants who are having difficulty making their rent payment can utilize the Canadian Government’s Emergency Response Benefits (CREB) to supplement their income. As well, landlords can also consider utilizing the Mortgage Deferral Program to defer rental payments. Certain provinces are also providing additional support to counteract the economic impact of the pandemic on their residents.

Government Funding Available to Renters who have been impacted

The COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, introduced to provide Canadian residents with temporary income to handle obligatory expenses.
Some of the relief measures which renters can take advantage of include:

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which makes provision of $500 weekly for up to 16 weeks for Canadian residents who qualify
  • The Canada Child Care Benefit Boost of up to $300 per child for the 2019-2020 year
  • Delay of debt payment without interest or penalties, to the Canada Revenue Agency until August 31st
  • Six-month interest-free reprieve on student loan payments
  • Provision of relief measures by Canadian big banks, including postponing line of credit payments
  • Reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings. This will provide flexibility to seniors that are concerned that they may be required to liquidate their RRIF assets to meet minimum withdrawal requirements.

Additional Provincial Support

British Columbia: The B.C. emergency benefit for workers will provide a one-time, tax-free, $1,000 payment for B.C. residents whose ability to work has been affected due to COVID-19. Additionally, a $500/month rent relief is being provided as part of a Temporary Rental Support Program. This rent relief will be paid directly to landlords to ensure they continue receiving rent.

Ontario: Parents of children who have been affected by closure of schools and daycare are being offered a one-time payment of $200 per child.

New Brunswick: One time payments of $900 is to be made to eligible workers who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19.

Alberta: Emergency isolation support has been provided for Albertans who have to self-isolate. Other supportive measures for Albertans include a 90-day payment deferral for utility bills and a 6-month interest-free student loan repayment deferral.

I am Worried about Mortgage Payment; What Can I Do?

As a landlord who relies on the rent for mortgage payment, you might be worried about how non-payment of rent by your tenant(s) could affect your ability to make mortgage payments. In this case, the new Mortgage Deferral Program offered by Canadian banks and mortgage lenders can help increase your flexibility to accommodate tenants having difficulty making their rent payments. 

How Does the Mortgage Deferral Program Work?

Through the Mortgage Deferral Program, the Canadian Government aims to help homeowners whose monthly source of income (e.g. rent, a job) has been affected by the pandemic and as a result, are unable to make monthly mortgage payments.

This program ensures that mortgage payments can be suspended for up to 6 months once an agreement has been reached between the lender and the homeowner. Once the agreement period has elapsed, all missed payments are repaid- inclusive of any accumulated interest and mortgage payments resume as previously scheduled.

Any homeowner who wants to use the Mortgage Deferral Program should realize however, that it does not result in the cancellation of any amount owed on mortgages, and any interest accrued will be repaid. Hence, if you can make your mortgage payments without getting mortgage deferral, it is advisable to do so.

As a landlord, if your mortgage is insured by the CMHC, you can simply contact your mortgage lender to take advantage of this benefit, as CMHC-insured homes have been cleared to get mortgage deferral on request. However, if your home isn’t insured by CMHC, you would have to contact your lender to find out what options are available to you.    

“Can I Charge Interest or Late Fees on Late Rent?”

The answer is that in some provinces, Yes, you can charge late rent fees, but you probably should waive these fees for tenants during this difficult time.

Residential tenancy agreements are province specific. In British Columbia for instance, landlords can charge certain fees for late rent payment, this is also dependent on the lease agreement that the tenant signs with their landlords. As an adjustment to the pandemic in Alberta, late fees or interest cannot be applied to late rent payment until June 30th. In Ontario on the other hand, landlords cannot charge penalties on late rent, instead they’d have to issue an eviction notice if payment is late. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no new eviction orders can be issued, and scheduled enforcement of current orders has been postponed.

More importantly, despite your ability to charge penalties for late rent, we do recommend that landlords be sympathetic to the circumstances that many tenants are facing and waiving these fees is a great way to build goodwill with your tenants and to not add to their financial strain.

I Need to Find a New Tenant; What Extra Precautions Should I Take?

Since this is a difficult period for many tenants, the Landlord and Tenant Board has been closed and evictions halted. What this means is that until the quarantine period is over and the courts re-open, you would be unable to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent. When the courts reopen, we expect that there will be a backlog of eviction hearings which will likely result in hearing delays of 6 to 8 months or more. All of these factors increase the risk that landlords take on, so if you must get a new tenant, be sure to run a very thorough background check.

For tenant verification, you can conduct a thorough Credit and Background Check with SingleKey, so that you have all the information you need to make a decision.  This report also includes a scan of the applicant’s social media public accounts; and a public document scan that searches for criminal records, negative press, court decisions, public biographies and past employment records of the applicant to help you determine if you’d be comfortable proceeding with their tenancy application. We also strongly suggest getting proof of income from tenants and ensuring that the rent does not exceed 45% of the gross household income as this is the best indicator of the tenant’s ability to pay rent.

Going through this process can be quite tasking if you are a busy person. This is why we recommend to hire an experienced realtor to help you find and sign a quality tenant.

Is there a way to protect my rental income from tenant non-payment of rent?

As a landlord, if you are relying on rental income as your primary income source, or relying on rent to cover mortgage costs, you can use insurance to mitigate the risk of non-payment of rent by your tenant.  With The SingleKey Rent Guarantee program, you can secure your rental income and also protect your property from vandalism or willful damage. 

Since many tenants unfortunately live paycheck to paycheck, we are seeing a spike in tenant rent payment default due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the resulting job loss and reduced work hours. Therefore this is a great time to consider enrolling in a Rent Guarantee Program. 

Note that tenants are required to have employment in order to be approved for this program; so make sure to enroll in the Rent Guarantee Program as soon as possible, before your tenant(s) are impacted by the slowing economy.

Conclusion

With many tenants having to delay their rent payments and laws enacted against eviction in most provinces, it is very important to make some adjustments as a landlord during this pandemic. Take advantage of government benefit programs and if you have to, utilize the Mortgage Deferral Program to delay your mortgage payments over the next few months. If you need to fill a vacancy, make sure to conduct a thorough background check, preferably with the help of an experienced realtor. Finally, most people are going through a difficult period now, and showing empathy towards tenants is very admirable in these uncertain times.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with SingleKey. Give us a call at 1-877-978-1404 or email us at info@singlekey.com. You may also fill out the form on our Contact Us page!

5 Tips For First-Time Landlords

Tips and advice for first time landlords
tips for first time landlords

Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to rent that property of yours. As you’re most likely already aware, you’ve made a wise investment – one that is bound to bolster your income for years to come. But, before you pop the champagne, it’s vitally important to recognize that becoming a landlord for the first time is no easy feat. It’s certainly not as simple as collecting a fat cheque once a month.

Without being prepared for potential hardships, being a landlord can be quite difficult. To avoid headaches and make your new venture as a landlord a successful one, it’s wise to take a few very important steps.

Here are five tips for first-time landlords:

1. Get familiar with Ontario’s housing regulations.

As an Ontario home owner who plans on renting his/her property, your first step should be to learn as much as you can about the province’s housing regulations, namely the Residential Tenancies Act. You should also become familiar with the Landlord and Tenant Board, which is one of the governing bodies that uphold the regulations.

By becoming knowledgeable about Ontario’s housing regulations, you will fashion yourself a fair and capable landlord. Not to mention, you’ll avoid the legal ramifications of trying to impose rules on your tenants that are unlawful. For example, were you aware that unless your property is a condo (where rules are set by the condominium corporation), you cannot prohibit a tenant from keeping a pet on your property?

2. Carefully screen your potential tenants.

Employers perform background checks on their candidates, right? As a landlord, you have every right to put your potential renters through a thorough screening process. Naturally, you should meet and interview the people who wish to rent your property. Just as employers do, you should perform credit and reference checks. This will ensure you’re renting your property to someone who will be reliable with their monthly rent payments.

In many cases, you’ll also have to trust your gut instincts. Be sure to have friendly conversations with your would-be tenants to get a feel for their personalities. Are they people you’d feel comfortable living in your property? Are you confident they’ll maintain the home and avoid causing any damage? Do you feel they can be trusted to pay your rent on time? Positive answers to these questions are a must.

3. Be diligent about collecting your rent on time.

If you’ve successfully completely step number two, it’s likely you’ve rented your property to someone you could possibly consider a friend. Naturally, it’s wise to welcome a tenant who you can get along with. However, the start of a new and friendly relationship doesn’t negate the fact you have a job to do. As a landlord, it’s imperative you collect your rent on time.

Make clear to your tenants when the rent is due by stipulating the day of the month when a payment is expected. Many first-time landlords find it difficult to ask for their rent when it is missed. However, allowing a tenant to get comfortable with the bad habit of either paying late or not at all isn’t something you should accept. Be sure to contact the Landlord and Tenant Board for information about the hopefully-avoidable task of filing eviction paperwork.

4. Learn all about landlord taxes and your eligible deductions.

Your new job as a landlord is just that – a job. Clearly, you’ll have new revenue to report come tax time each year. It’s important to remember that, as far as the Canada Revenue Agency is considered, it doesn’t matter what type of property you own – as a landlord, you’re making rental income. You must declare all of it.

That also means you can list some expenses that are eligible for deduction on your tax return. You are eligible to list such short-term expenses for your rental property as repairs, maintenance and painting. You’re also entitled to declare such long-term expenses as driveway paving, installing new windows and HVAC replacement. Remember that when your property expenses exceed your rental income, it’s considered a loss.

5. Keep all of your documentation in order.

To be a successful landlord, you also need to be a master bookkeeper. At the very least, you need to make sure your documentation is organized. There are particular forms you’ll need to keep handy at all times. They include rental applications, condition reports and locally required disclosures (such as the presence of radon, lead or mould in the property). Be sure to keep several copies of your documents. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have them saved to a hard drive or in an online database. And, under no circumstances should you give away your only copy of any document. If you need to have your tenant sign something, be sure to have the form returned to you right away.

SingleKey is your go-to platform for everything rental. If you’re a first-time landlord, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-877-978-1404 or email us at info@singlekey.com . You may also fill out the form on our Contact Us page!

4 Simple Tips For Finding Yourself The Perfect Place To Rent

SingleKey Blog How To Find a place to rent
Tips for finding the perfect place for rent

For one reason or the other, not all of us can start off our independent living situations as home owners. In fact, the majority of young Canadians become renters long before they buy their first houses or condos. Rooming with friends, family members and/or love interests are all part of the plan for most people leaving the nest. But the majority of first-time renters often get hit with a hard reality: finding a place to live isn’t as easy as it may seem!

Here are four simple tips for finding yourself the perfect place to rent:

1. Be on the lookout for “For Rent” signs in your favourite areas.

There’s nothing like a little (and literal) legwork to get the ball rolling on the whole “finding a place to live” thing. If you’re interested in a particular area of your city – perhaps, because it’s close to where you work – take a walk through the neighbourhood. Be on the lookout for properties that are up for rent and be sure to inquire within. There’s nothing like seeing a place for yourself to determine if it’s the right spot for you.

This do-it-yourself practice is encouraged by Stacey Sleightholm of BlogTO.com. Among her tips for finding an apartment in Toronto, she suggests that you walk around neighbourhoods of your liking. “If you know the general area you’re interested in, take a stroll around the neighbourhood and keep an eye out for ‘for rent’ signs,” she advises, “Not only will you get the jump on any great units in the area, but you’ll also learn where local amenities exist.”

2. Try an age-old tradition: contact a real estate agent.

Sometimes, it’s best to leave it to the experts. If you’re one of those individuals who would rather let a professional find a rental space for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to one. After all, there should be no cost to you for using a real estate agent. They generally receive commissions from the owners of the properties they find tenants for. Lauren Pelley of CBC News recommends real estate agents and cites Toronto-based renter, Ben Singer as an advocate for them.

“Singer…swears by the real estate agent who did all the legwork,” she reports, “And he didn’t have to pay a penny for the service — the fees are actually paid by whoever is trying to rent out their unit.” Singer adds that real estate agents “have the capacity to filter out a lot of stuff and save you a lot of time.”

3. Seek out referrals.

Today’s consumer is very savvy. He/she will often look for word-of-mouth recommendations before making buying decisions. As well, most people will take to the internet to read online reviews about businesses before giving them their support. When looking for a place to live, this is a great strategy. Ask around. Try to attain information about living spaces from a variety of sources you trust, both online and offline.

4. Find a landlord who is a Single-Key customer!

At Single-Key, we make it so that once you’ve found the perfect place to rent, the rest is easy. That is, of course, if your landlord is a Single-Key customer. If so, we offer you payment flexibility like no other rental agreement can. At no cost to you (the monthly fee is paid by your landlord), you will be able to postpone your rent for a month and also be able to choose between cheque and Interac as your payment method!

What Are The Necessary Steps To Evicting A Delinquent Tenant?

Evicting a delinquent tenant can be a stressful process. It doesn't have to be. Check out this blog post to learn how.

Being a landlord certainly has its benefits. Among the most obvious are the ability to earn a steady income through your investment property and the potential of making new friends through the people who rent your space. Owning and renting a property, however, does have its disadvantages. No matter how thorough your vetting process may be, you always run the risk of renting your property to nightmarish tenants.

Are they constantly throwing parties and damaging your unit? Do they elicit constant noise complaints? Are they regularly late with rent? Have they not paid their rent in months? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve likely already contemplated taking the steps to evict your tenants. How do you go about it? If we’re being perfectly honest, it can be a super annoying process. What steps are necessary to evict a delinquent tenant?

1. Fill out a Form N4.

For Ontario-based landlords, a Form N4 must be completed. This is also known as the “Notice to End a Tenancy Early for Non-payment of Rent”. The form requests of you to provide information pertaining to the issues you’re having with your tenant. It also informs that your tenant has until midnight on the day his/her rent is due to pay the rent and that you must wait until after that day to give the tenant notice of his/her eviction.

It’s also vital you carefully check your math. The form will eventually be submitted to your tenant and it is imperative that the exact amount of the past due rent is listed in the tables provided. Of important note: “If your tenant pays rent by the month or year, you must give at least 14 days notice. If your tenant pays rent by the day or week, you must give at least 7 days notice.”

2. Fill out a Form L1 if the tenant does not make a payment within 14 days.

If you’ve provided your tenant with your completed N4 notice and he/she still doesn’t pay the rent within 14 days, you’ll need to complete a Form L1 – Checklist. It is also known as the “Application to Evict a Tenant for Non-payment of Rent and to Collect Rent the Tenant Owes”. There is no less than seven-part of this application. Completing them requires you to provide information about the address of the rental unit and the total amount owed by the tenant.

As well, you are asked to provide information about the tenant’s rent amount, the rent deposit and whether or not the tenant is still in possession of the rental unit. You’ll also need to show how you’ve calculated the amount owed you. 

3. Hire a lawyer and to go a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant board.

If you believe this sounds expensive and time-consuming, you’d be right. Not to mention, hearings can often take months to schedule. The process is generally a long and drawn-out one that also tends to be very tenant-favouring.

4. Book the Sheriff to evict the tenant.

This step is only necessary if you’re successful at your Landlord and Tenant board meeting. It will also cost you $500 to book the sheriff. Keep in mind that, on average, it takes approximately 89 days to successfully evict a tenant in Ontario. Unfortunately, most bad tenants are known for their tendencies to keep their homes in disarray. If this is the issue you’ve encountered, you’ll likely have to fork out thousands of dollars for repairs and renovations.

How can you avoid these headaches as a landlord?

SingleKey proudly offers Rent Guarantee. This program has helped many an Ontario landlord to evade unnecessary headaches and time-wasting stress. By taking advantage of Rent Guarantee, you put the burden on SingleKey to manage the time-consuming, tenant-evicting hassle for you. So, how does it work?

Firstly, we invite tenants to apply online for your rental property. After receiving their pertinent information, we screen them for you. As part of the process, we pull credit reports, call references and verify employment and income information. We also collect your rent for you! Rent is collected via pre-authorized debit and is deposited directly into your account. This has been proven to be much faster than either cheques or Interac e-transfers, guaranteeing you an end to late payments.

We don’t use the word “guarantee” lightly, by the way. We ensure that your rent is paid for up to 12 months or $60,000 – even in the event that your tenant misses his/her payment. In fact, we guarantee payment of your rent up until the tenant is removed from your property. We even protect that property of yours. We cover up to $10,000 in property damage due to tenant vandalism. Finally – and this may be the best part – we handle evictions for you!

For more information about SingleKey’s Rent Guarantee, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 416-518-3489 or email us at contact@single-key.com.