Finding and selecting a tenant for your rental property

You’ve acquired a rental property. Maybe you’ve moved into a new home, and have decided to rent out your old one. Or maybe you’ve purchased a condo, or completed a basement suite in your home, solely for the purpose of getting that extra rental income. Now, how do you find and choose a good tenant?

Finding a tenant with an advertisement

Preparing the right ad can help you find a tenant online. You’ll need to write an ad that not only describes your property, but also sets it apart from all the other rental properties being advertised. Be as descriptive as you can. Use language that will create an emotion:

  • “Enjoy the sunset from our unique rooftop deck.”
  • “Be a part of a vibrant community.”
  • “Leave your car at home and walk to all your favourite shops and restaurants.”

Include details, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the type of suite (basement, top floor, bachelor), laundry (in-suite or shared), parking, when the apartment will be available, rental terms (1 year lease or month to month), amount of damage deposit, and whether pets are allowed or not. This will save you a lot of unnecessary phone calls.

When possible, remember to include photos of your property and location. Lots of people will skip right over any ads without them.

Don’t forget to include your contact information: name, phone number, email address. You want to make it easy for potential renters to contact you.

Place your advertisement

If you’re looking to find a tenant without using an agent, the best way to get the word out is to advertise in a variety of places. But also consider your target market. If you’re renting out a luxury condo, you likely won’t be advertising in the same places as when you’re renting out a basement bachelor suite.

  • Craigslist or Kijiji: Advertising through online sites, such as Craigslist and Kijiji, will reach a broad audience, and it’s free. The sites make it simple and convenient to place your ad, and it’s easy for potential tenants to search. And, there’s no space limit. It is now the time to use your creativity, and really make your ad stand out. Use descriptive words, like “Spacious,” “Sunny,” or “Immaculate.” Attach at least four colour photos; 1 of the outside of the building, 3 of the inside. If the unit has a great view, be sure to include a photo. This will definitely attract attention.
  • Social media: Put postings on your Facebook page and Twitter account to let everyone know you have a property to rent. Posting on social media also get’s your property in front of potential tenants for free.
  • Newspaper: Many people still go to the newspaper, especially on the weekends, to look for rental properties. Advertising here is NOT free, but you can keep the cost down by abbreviating common terms. Use BD for bedroom, W/D for washer/dryer. Newspapers will sometimes have package offerings, giving you two days in print as well as two days online, for instance. There are usually a certain number of lines included in the base price, with an extra charge for each additional line.
  • Sign in the window: It may sound old-fashioned and low-tech, but consider placing a sign in the window of the unit you have for rent. Someone may be interested in moving to the area, or they have a friend who’s interested and will spot your sign when walking or driving through the neighbourhood. The more information you can include on the sign, the better, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, monthly rent, and the move in date. This will prevent people calling just for information. Be sure to include your phone number in large print, visible from the street.
  • Word of mouth: Tell everyone you know that you have a place for rent. They may know somebody who’s looking to move to your area.
  • Local bulletin boards: Put up a sign, or flyer, at your neighbourhood community centre, grocery store, or library. Again, consider your target market. Are you going to post your ad in an upscale specialty supermarket, or in a college cafeteria? Make your flyer eye-catching by including colour photos, and don’t forget to include tear-offs at the bottom of the sign with your contact information and the address of the property.

Wait for responses from potential tenants

With the right ad in the right place, you’ll have no problem finding someone who’s interested in renting your property. Then it’ll be up to you to choose the tenant you want to entrust with your valuable real estate. You may want to get your property rented quickly, but don’t jump at the first person who’s interested. You want tenants who are responsible, pay their rent on time, and will take care of your property as if it was their own.

Once you start receiving responses to your ads, now what?

Prepare a tenant application

You can do an initial telephone screening right off the bat. Ask how many people would be living there. If you have a one bedroom home for rent, and there are six people moving in, you may want to end the discussion right there. You may find out in casual conversation, what the person does for a living, whether they have any pets, and so on.

If they pass the telephone screening, you can arrange for them to look at the property. If there is a lot of interest in the home, you may want to set up viewing times, on specific evenings, maybe 15 minutes apart. Then if someone doesn’t show up, you haven’t wasted the whole evening.

If someone is interested in renting the property, have them complete an in-depth application form, such as the one provided by tenantsbc.ca.

Please note that when screening prospective tenants, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation advises that you can only ask questions that will help you assess the suitability of a tenant. You cannot infringe on the rights of the tenant under the Human Rights code for your province. For instance, you can ask:

  • Where they work.
  • What their income is.
  • How many people will be living in the residence and their names.
  • Whether they have pets or if they smoke.
  • If they will give you permission in writing for a credit check.
  • If they will provide references.

On the other hand, you cannot ask prospective tenants:

  • If they plan to have (more) children.
  • What their ethnic background or religion is.
  • What their sexual preference is.
  • If their family will be visiting.
  • To provide their social insurance number.
  • Their marital status.

Review applications and conduct background checks

Even if you’re in a hurry to your property rented, take the time to review the applications and do background checks. Any time spent now will save you time and money in the long run.

Your rental application should include a release allowing you to obtain information from employers, previous landlords, and credit bureaus. Once you obtain the signed application and release, don’t just accept the information provided. Contact previous employers and landlords.

  • Credit history: In Canada, with the consent of the prospective tenant, you can obtain a credit check from Equifax Canada or Trans Union Canada. You can also contact Rent Check Credit Bureau, a credit bureau strictly for the housing industry. (You need to be a member of a credit bureau to obtain a credit check.)
  • Employment: Contact the prospective tenant’s employer to confirm their employment status. How long have they been employed? What is their current position? Full or part-time? What is their salary?
  • References and rental history: Check any references provided. Get the contact information for the previous landlord, and if possible, the previous 2 or 3 landlords. When was this person your tenant? How long did they live there? Were they late paying the rent? Did they own any pets? Was the home damaged, beyond normal wear and tear? Did they give you proper notice when they were moving out? Would you rent to this person again?

For more information, or to get a quote, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933. Or, visit tenantsbc.ca for samples of various forms you’ll need as a landlord.

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