Landlords, look out! In search of the few, the good, the proud: screening for reliable tenants

Proper applicant screening goes a long way towards securing just such a tenant.

According to the pros, the most crucial component of screening is gleaning as much information as possible about applicants, and not rushing the process.

"Many landlords don't want to lose a month's rent; so they ignore some of the obvious signs that may get themselves into trouble and end up paying for it after the fact," says Gerry Miller, a Toronto real estate lawyer and managing partner with Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP.

"For example, it's August 20 and someone wants to rent out an apartment for September 1. They put out an ad and the first person who comes along and offers them a cheque, they'll go, 'Sure,' without doing any due diligence."

Worst case scenario: six months later, the tenant has defaulted on the rent and the landlord cannot (yet) evict them.

Another six months pass and, upon eviction, having incurred lawyers' fees and the continued loss of rent, the landlord discovers a ruined dwelling. A great investment has suddenly turned into an enormous waste of time, energy and, most importantly, money. Had the landlord been thorough in selecting the tenant in the first place, however, the risk would have been immeasurably minimized.

Defining your tenant

Consider what kind of property you have, the types of neighbours and its location. This will help determine what tenant is best suited to the place.

For instance, if you own a condo in a building with young families, the young urban professional with a penchant for loud music on weekends and coming home late from after-work socializing may not be the ideal fit.

Conversely, the urbanite with the freshly launched career may treat the rental property as her first home -possessing the maturity to take time to decorate, furnish and maintain it.

She'll also be trying to build good credit since she is likely considering a home purchase in the near future, so you can be fairly confident that she's going to pay her rent on time.

Some landlords don't mind children and will not prohibit pets; still others are aghast at any little creatures running amok. When it comes to a business proposition, the parameters tend to change.

"Children? I love them, but they put their fingers in the walls and things like that," says Richard Morrison, a Vancouver real estate agent specializing in investment properties and residential homes. "That's something that (varies) person to person."

Be sure to eliminate any confusion by establishing your guidelines from the start. It's up to the individual to decide what kind of risks (and headaches) they are willing to take on. Create a list of conditions for your ideal tenant, but remember that there are always exceptions to the rule.

For the full article pick up a copy of the October issue, on newsstands now.

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