Tenant Trashes Unit, Wants Deposit Back

by Chris on September 16, 2019

A Vancouver landlord recently detailed in the news how he found his rental unit after his disgruntled tenant moved out: cement in the drains, toilet, and appliances, holes in the walls, the dryer door glued shut, and the key glued into the lock.

Only three weeks into the tenancy, the landlord discovered the tenant, who at first seemed “like a good person”, broke the no-pets policy in the tenancy agreement by getting a dog — one that would not stop barking. The landlord says he gave the tenant the option of finding a pet-friendly property or another home for the dog.

The tenant agreed to move but wanted her deposit back before the landlord had a chance to inspect the property, according to the report. When the tenant left, the landlord discovered the damage.

There’s little a landlord can do when a tenant is willing to intentionally damage a property. However, there is a way to avoid bad tenants who have caused problems in the past, and prevent a repeat performance. The trick is to take a more diligent approach to tenant screening.

In a perfect world, a landlord could run a report and find out everything they need to know about an applicant: Was the person evicted, or evicted numerous times? Did this tenant cause significant property damage or disturbances? Unfortunately, finding the answers is not that easy. Even if there was such a report, there always will be cases where the tenant moves before any record of the dispute is created.

But prior eviction and property damage can be exposed. The best way is to ask for previous addresses in the rental application, including the dates those tenancies began and ended. Then, check to see if the dates add up. Does the tenant move frequently or at odd intervals? Did the applicant leave off the previous landlord’s name? These are warning signs.

Verify the dates of previous tenancies by asking the landlord to confirm when the tenant moved in and when he or she moved out. Be concerned if the information does not track or if gaps between tenancies are revealed. That could highlight a failed tenancy that the applicant is not reporting.

Look for warning signs that the tenant is in trouble: eager to move in on the spot or trashing the current landlord. Other red flags include offering cash on the spot to avoid a tenant background check.

Before agreeing to meet with an applicant, ask why this person is moving, and whether he or she has provided notice. Warn applicants that landlord references will be checked. That can discourage a problem tenant from applying.

Be skeptical of rental applicants. Each applicant is a stranger until vetted. A pleasant demeanor is not an indicator of financial responsibility or of respect for the landlord.

Not all landlords want to pursue bad tenants. That’s their prerogative. But allowing a tenant to cause damage or skip out on rent without consequences only emboldens the tenant to do it again — and again. Landlords have an option to work together to stave off bad tenants: sign up to Report Rent Payments, and expand the database provided by Landlord Credit Bureau. At some point, chronically bad tenants may realize they are running out of housing options, and that’s good incentive to do better.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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Is Your Rental Application Doing Its Job?

by Chris on September 16, 2019

There’s a lot riding on a rental application. Getting it right means staving off tenant fraud and quickly eliminating applicants who are not qualified.

To accomplish that, the application needs to contain all the requisite parts, without muddying the waters with irrelevant or illegal questions that only cause applicants to balk:

A cover letter. Do you include a cover letter or instruction sheet with the application that explains the importance of providing accurate and complete information? If not, you are missing an important opportunity to screen applicants. A simple paragraph like this can discourage applicants from providing false or misleading information:

“Thank you for applying for a vacancy with us. Please be advised that this Rental Application is a legal document. You will be asked to declare that the information you are about to provide is accurate and complete. This information will be independently verified. Providing false or misleading statements is fraud, which could result in rejection of the application or subsequent eviction, and may be a crime.”

Declaration. Although it’s at the bottom of the application, the statement that the tenant signs after completing the application declaring that the information is true and complete prevents tenant fraud. The best declaration statement will detail the consequences that the tenant will face should they provide false information. This declaration paragraph also contains the consent to run a tenant background check which includes running tenant screening reports and checking the applicant’s references.

Relevant personal information. Personal information about the applicant is necessary to verify the applicant’s identity when compared to the photo ID. This information can be used to flag identity theft or fraud in the rental application. It is important to know the applicant’s legal name, current address, cell and work phone numbers, birthdate and SIN to ensure that the tenant credit check, income references, and previous addresses line up.

Proposed Occupancy. Landlords can get into trouble by asking personal questions related to occupancy. It is important to know who will be living in the unit and to ask all adult occupants to complete a separate rental application. However, it is not necessary to ask broad questions about family relationships like whether the applicant is married or how many children the person has. The answers to these questions are not relevant to the applicant’s qualifications.

Income. Questions about income should contemplate different sources and not focus solely on employment. For instance, “additional” or “supplemental” income should be given equal status. Requiring employment income only, or a specific length of employment, may be deemed discriminatory. Allow an applicant ample space to explain his or her specific situation. In addition, be sure to request supplemental documentation that establishes that income, regardless of the source.

Previous rental history. Going back two or three years on previous addresses provides an opportunity to catch a professional tenant who may have been evicted recently. Any addresses that appear on the tenant credit report should match those provided by the applicant. Ask the applicant to include the reasons for leaving and whether notice was provided to those landlords. Remember, the applicant must answer truthfully.

Vehicle information. A helpful bit of detective work when screening tenants is to see if the car the tenant drove to the property tour is the same one the person claims to own. The licence plate number also is necessary to regulate parking at the property, and may be useful when collecting tenant debt.

References. Previous landlord references are a must-have for any applicant under serious consideration. Those names must align with the previous addresses. Emergency contact information is necessary for property management and also can be useful when tracking down the applicant.

Previous Eviction. While it’s nearly impossible to discover a previous eviction — or a long string of evictions — without reading between the lines, it never hurts to ask an applicant if that is the case. Provide room for the applicant to answer and explain his or her side of the story. Confirm this with the landlord reference.

Because of all the rental application must accomplish, it is as important as the tenancy agreement. For that reason, ask an attorney to review your rental application to ensure it is doing its job without creating any potential liabilities.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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Pet Policy Basics: What Works (and What Doesn’t)

September 16, 2019

Whether to allow tenants to keep pets is an important decision for every landlord. The decision requires a balancing act, choosing between happier tenants versus the potential for more property damage at the end of the tenancy. The benefits of pet-friendly properties include a larger renter pool, higher tenant retention, and a tendency to attract […]

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British Columbia Announces Rent Increase Guideline for 2020

September 16, 2019

The annual rent increase guideline for 2020 in British Columbia is set at 2.6%. That figure represents the maximum most landlords can increase rent throughout the year. To increase rent, a landlord must provide notice to the tenant three months before the increase is to take effect, on a notice form provided by the B.C. […]

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Manitoba 2020 Rent Increase Guideline

September 16, 2019

The 2020 rent increase guideline for Manitoba is set at 2.4 percent. That figure is slightly higher than the previous year. In comparison, the 2020 rent increase guideline for British Columbia is set at 2.6%, and the 2020 guideline for Ontario is 2.2%. To increase rent, Manitoba landlords must provide written notice at least three […]

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10 Worst Landlord Blunders

August 26, 2019

Let’s face it: we all make mistakes. The best thing we can do is set things right, forgive ourselves and move on. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from other people’s missteps: 1. Frustrated over an unauthorized pet, a landlord entered a tenant’s apartment when she wasn’t home, without notice, and took her cat. […]

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These Lease Add-Ons Help Prevent Evictions

August 26, 2019

Standard lease agreements can work when enforcing a landlord’s rights, like in the case of an eviction. But enforcement is not the only goal. The lease agreement can be a deterrent — and prevent the actions that give rise to evictions in the first place. For the lease to serve as a deterrent to eviction, […]

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5 Easy-to-Fix Tenant Screening Mistakes

August 26, 2019

Make tenant screening as stress-free and effective as possible by avoiding these easy-to-fix mistakes: 1. Demanding cash rather than check for rent deposits or application fees. Some landlords prefer cash for application fees or rent and security deposits. The theory is that it takes two or three weeks to confirm that the checks cleared, and […]

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Small Landlords Battle Tenant Relocation Fees

August 26, 2019

A couple from Oakland, California are taking on that city’s new eviction ordinance that required them to pay $6,500 to a tenant for the right to move back into their primary residence. For many local landlords, that amount will be higher. Oakland is one of several California cities to pass what are dubbed “just cause” […]

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Nightmare Tenant Leaves Behind Trash, Starving Dogs

August 19, 2019

A landlord in Ontario is reeling after he evicted his tenant for failing to pay rent and then found two abandoned dogs and heaps of trash inside the apartment. According to a news report, the landlord estimates he is out $20,000 in lost rent and property damage. The cabinets were broken and, along with animal […]

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