It’s 9:00 a.m. and Paralegal April Stewart, a/k/a “The Terminator” is representing a landlord at an eviction hearing before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. Just another work day for this staunch advocate of landlords’ rights. But there’s one thing that stands out here. The opponent sitting across the table from her is no stranger. Stewart’s evicted this tenant before.
As the owner of Landlord Legal which represents only landlords, Stewart is frustrated at the number of times she sees the same tenants coming through eviction proceedings. “These people are professional tenants, they know how to abuse the system,” she says.
Stewart anguishes. If only she could warn the next landlord that this tenant has a bad history. Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board – in step with other Boards across Canada, does not allow the public disclosure of eviction records. That is to say in Ontario the landlord’s name is made public, but the name of the tenant is hidden, keeping future landlords in the dark.
In 2009, Stewart attempted to challenge the system by establishing a list of bad tenant names for landlords to reference. After some of those problem tenants complained, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body for the legal profession, ordered her to take it down.
Eviction horror stories abound under the new RTA rules, particularly due to the long delays in obtaining eviction orders. For instance, Ms. Stewart recounts a situation where a landlord leased out an apartment in his own home. After the tenant became abusive and stopped paying rent, the landlord filed an eviction case. The Board promises to expedite these cases, but it took more than eight weeks just to come before an adjudicator – eight weeks where the landlord lived in fear in his own home.
Along with many landlords and property managers, Stewart wants to see changes in the RTA legislation to close some loopholes and prevent some common tenant abuses. For instance, landlords should be able to gather enough information about a tenant to make an informed decision whether they want to risk entering into a tenancy agreement – a relationship she describes as a “marriage between the landlord and tenant.”
Realizing how expensive and prolonged an eviction proceeding will be, Stewart encourages landlords to rely on effective tenant screening to minimize loss of income. “Do not underestimate the power of good tenant screening, and careful management after the tenants move in,” Stewart warns.
“Landlords are too trusting,” Stewart warns. Often, they don’t realize that repeat offending tenants are targeting them, intentionally scamming in order to gain occupancy of the rental. Once they are in, they know it’s going to be difficult to get them out. “I’ve seen the same tenants do this year after year, defrauding several landlords out of tens of thousands of dollars,” she says.
In Stewart’s experience, unscrupulous tenants tend to target the smaller landlords, those who own from 1-10 units. They scour classifieds and Kijiji and look for that type of situation because the landlords’ rules may be more lax than in a multifamily unit with an experienced superintendent.
In areas with high vacancy rates, the problem is even worse because as landlords become more desperate to fill vacancies, they may be less discerning about who they rent to, or want to believe that the tenant is telling the truth.
To avoid an eviction situation, Stewart suggests doing your homework. “Most evictions are filed for nonpayment of rent,” she says. “So at the very least, obtain a credit report to see if this person has a history of not paying bills. Also, make sure to check a photo ID.” From there, Stewart suggests verifying income, and collecting as much information as possible about this person, including references. “They are about to step into a very important asset. You don’t want to turn that over to a stranger.”
Documentation is a crucial step for a landlord in protecting both their income and their property. Stewart stresses the importance of obtaining a signed tenancy agreement that lays out the rent requirements and all terms and conditions of the tenancy, including hydro, heat, Internet, phones, and the tenant’s duties.
Once the tenant moves in, keep a watchful eye. Seek legal advice early, at the first sign of trouble.
As a credit reporting agency, Tenant Verification Service can report a tenant’s bad pay habits. Letting a tenant know that their habits will be reported provides strong incentive to pay the rent on time. When landlords report the delinquent payments of these tenants it prevents them from using other landlords as a revolving line of credit. Tenancy becomes difficult for them to obtain and sooner or later they will have to change the way they treat landlords. See Report Tenant Pay Habits for more information.
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 in 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.