Landlord's rights and responsibilities - how to find new tenants for your rental unit

All landlords want to find the perfect tenant to rent their units—someone who has no problem paying the rent on time, does not cause problems for other tenants and keeps the property in pristine condition. Even though this ideal picture of the perfect tenant may not be entirely realistic, the way that you go about maintaining and marketing your property can have a dramatic effect on the kinds of tenants that apply for your unit.

The basic thing to remember about marketing your unit is that you will need to make it as attractive as possible to others. In a rental market where there aren’t many other options, marketing is not quite so important, but because renters have so many different options, it is imperative that you set yourself apart from the other choices they have. What makes your rental unit/property better than the competition? Is your rental safer, cheaper, bigger, or offers more amenities than some of the others in the area?

By effectively marketing your unit, you will be able to increase your chances of finding more tenants that will pay their rent on time and cause minimal problems. The clearer you are when advertising the benefits of your rental, the better your chances will be of attracting good potential tenants.


Where to Advertise your Rental

  • Sign in front of the property that says “For rent/For Lease”
  • Classified section of local newspaper and certain other publications where people looking for rentals commonly browse through.
  • If you want to attract student tenants, campus housing offices can be a good free resource to utilize.
  • Print up and post a flyer on bulletin boards at grocery stores, libraries, community centres and similar places.
  • Let your friends and family know that you are currently looking for tenants


Online Resources

  • Online mailing lists
  • Electronic bulletin boards/forums
  • Websites designed for helping tenants find properties and landlords to find tenants
  • Community newspaper websites with classified section
  • Websites of local community centres with classified section
Caution! - Scammers

If you pay for an online ad to spread the word about your rental, don’t be tricked by inflated website “hits”, as many of them are a lie to keep people paying for ads on their sites. Make sure to ask how many unique users visited the section of the website that you post on as well as many page views the site gets every month.

Finding Tenants

It is important to keep in mind that you when you advertise your rental, you will be targeting a specific market of people. Take the time to think about the kind of people you are trying to reach with your ads and where they would most likely look to find them.

If you are trying to rent out a basic basement apartment, you will most likely attract those who don’t mind living in a basement in exchange for a low monthly rent. In this case, one of the best routes you can take is to advertise on college and university campuses as well as in local grocery stores and newspapers with classified sections.

If on the other hand you are trying to rent out a much more expensive condo, you will need to consider the fact that your target demographic will be people who make more money, so you will therefore need to take a difference approach when advertising. With this type of rental, you will most likely want to advertise in the classified sections of business-related newspapers as well as working with a rental locator at a real estate agent’s office.

If you do not know where to start advertising your rental because you don’t know where people look for these kinds of ads, talk to some people in your target demographic.

Evaluating Prospective Tenants

It is important that you carefully and thoroughly evaluate each of the prospective tenants you meet with to determine whether or not they are a good fit for your rental. And even though it can be tempting to make a hasty decision because you have a narrow time frame, it could cost you quite a bit of money in the long term. There are a lot of things that need to be done when evaluating prospective tenants, including reviewing applications and background checks, but it is not a process you want to speed through.


TIP: Choose Carefully

If you can afford to take a rent loss, use the time you have to meet with prospective tenants and thoroughly evaluate each one before making your final decision.

You will need to take enough time to do your research when it comes to evaluating prospective tenants, because the last thing you want to do is make the mistake of choosing the wrong one. The screening process required for finding the right tenant may take a while, but in the end it will be worth it. Always make sure to verify the information that prospective tenants give you, because simply trusting their word will not be enough.


A Landlord can ask

Questions to help you determine whether or not a prospective tenant is a suitable fit, as long as your questions do not infringe on their rights in any way.

  • How much money they make and where they work.
  • How many people will be living with them and what their names are.
  • Whether or not they have any pets and if they smoke.
  • Written permission for a credit check.
  • References and current contact information.


A Landlord cannot ask

Any questions that infringe on the rights of the tenant under the Human Rights Code for the province in question. Some of the things you cannot ask a tenant include:

  • Do you plan to have more children in the future?
  • What is your religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference?
  • Will you have family visiting at any point?
  • What is your social security number? You cannot refuse to rent your unit if the tenant will not provide you with their SIN.
  • What is your marital status?

You will need to find out as much as you can without infringing on the legal rights of prospective tenants. You can determine whether or not they are financial suitable by looking at a credit bureau report. You have to be a member of a credit bureau to access a report on a prospective client.

TIP: Changing Times

Information that goes beyond basic financial data used to be accessible in a credit bureau report, but in many areas this information can be accessed. There are certain private data screening services that landlords can use to gather useful information on prospective tenants to determine whether or not they are suitable applicants. Some of this information may include things like rental payment habits as well as judicial decisions from landlords and even a scoring tool.

Other than credit information, you will need to determine what type of tenant will be renting your unit. Take the time to ask former landlords of the prospective tenant what they are like to better evaluate their character. You should also think about talking to some of the tenant’s former landlords to get the information you need to make a final decision.

There are some provinces where landlords can easily get information that is compiled by order registries as well as landlord advocacy groups. If you are unsure about a certain tenant’s suitability, these groups can offer you the information you need to make a final decision of some kind. These registries can provide you with information about tenants who have broken the law in the past, and provincial offices can offer some assistance as well.


What to check for when screening Tenants

  • The applicant’s credit bureau and banking history
  • The applicant’s employment status/situation
  • The applicant’s history with landlords, including evictions, if available.
  • Court records, if available.
  • The references given by the applicant, including previous landlords.


Human Rights Considerations

Even though you will want to know as much as possible about prospective tenants that apply for your rental, you will need to avoid violating human rights legislation by not asking them certain questions pertaining to things like race, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation, marital status, handicap status, age, etc.

Each province and territory throughout Canada has its own set of human rights laws that details what landlords can and cannot ask prospective tenants, so you will need to know what the laws in your areas state before you begin interviewing them. While you may think that it is perfectly acceptable to ask tenants certain questions, it may actually be against the law to do so.