When people ask me about problems with rentals they are usually surprised when I tell them that the majority of the issues I have had with rentals are caused by the Landlord.
Some Landlords don’t realize that a good Tenant is like money in the bank (literally), and you need to take good care of them and respect their rights. I’m sure there are some bad Landlords out there, but in most cases, I think the Landlord probably isn’t aware of the rules and regulations of tenancies in Ontario and what his/her responsibilities as a Landlord are.
Being a good Landlord starts before the Tenant is in place. A good Landlord should properly screen Tenants (or have his agent do so). There are many questions one cannot ask prospective Tenants as they contravene the Human Rights Code so a Landlord should be aware of what they can and cannot ask. For instance, in Ontario you cannot ask a prospective Tenant about their ethnic background, sexual orientation or whether or not they have been or are on public assistance. You can (and should) ask questions about income, employment, why they left previous residences and who will be living in the rental unit. A Landlord should ask thoughtful open-ended questions to get a feel for what the Tenant is really like and should ask for (and check) personal references, references from previous Landlords, verify employment and check the Tenant’s credit report.
A good Landlord should have a good lease agreement. The agreement should document the responsibilities of each party and should include the names of the parties, the possession date, the term of the tenancy, the rental amount, the deposit required as well as all terms and conditions of the tenancy. Landlords in Ontario should keep in mind that the lease agreement will be superseded by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). That is, if the lease agreement contains rules that contravene the RTA, the rules of the RTA will apply.
A good Landlord should keep his/her word. If the lease agreement says the unit is to be professionally cleaned (or painted or whatever), it should be done and the work should be done in a professional manner. I have had 2 tenants complain to me in the past few months of taking possession of a rental unit to find it filthy inside. In both cases the Landlord had agreed to have the units professionally cleaned. In both cases the Tenants ended up cleaning the unit themselves and it definitely started the tenancy off on the wrong foot.
A good Landlord should fix problems quickly. According to the RTA, the Landlord must make repairs in a reasonable timeframe. “Reasonable” is a bit of a grey area but it’s in the Landlord’s best interest to fix problems quickly for 2 reasons. It keeps the Tenant happy and it prevents further damage from happening. A leaky roof or leaky plumbing, if not fixed quickly can end up costing thousands more in drywall and flooring repairs.
A good Landlord will keep a rental unit properly maintained. When you buy a house you typically look for signs that the home has been properly maintained. Similarly when Tenants rent a home they look for signs of good maintenance because they know it’s a sign that the property will be well maintained in the future. Preventive maintenance such as painting, furnace inspections and tune-ups, etc, will help attract better Tenants and will end up saving repair costs in the future. There will be some wear and tear on a rental unit over time and Landlords should be aware of this and be prepared to maintain and repair as required to protect the value of their asset.
A good Landlord should not bother the Tenant. When a Tenant rents your property they in effect have some ownership rights to the property for a set period of time. In legal terms they have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of the property which means the Landlord cannot show up at the property unannounced for no reason. According to the RTA, the Landlord has two visits per year and must give the Tenant proper notice for each visit. These visits are above and beyond the times the Landlord has to come to the property to make repairs. While it is a good idea to visit the property twice per year to ensure it is being maintained properly by the Tenant, the visits should be quick and unobtrusive.
A good Landlord should be aware of the rules and regulations of tenancies by becoming familiar with the Residential Tenancies Act (or the appropriate legislation in your area). The RTA is available to read online and it is well worth the time to become familiar with what your obligations and rights are as a Landlord.
If you screen prospective Tenants thoroughly, keep your word, fix problems, maintain your property well and respect your Tenant’s rights, you will be a good and, in most cases, successful Landlord.