Eviction: Practice Makes Perfect?

by Chris on August 16, 2010

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.

To contact April Stewart, visit www.LandlordLegal.ca. Ontario landlords are also encouraged to contact www.ontariolandlord.ca for landlord information and advice.

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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor Leung August 17, 2010 at 6:36 am

Dear TVS,

Thank you for the newsletter. It always give us a precaution on choosing our tenants.
I had a delinquent tenant who was 2 months behind in rent in Vancouver, B.C. The tenant refused to move out until I had to hire a eviction service to get them out of the house. The tenant still owned me over $4000 and there is a court order for them to pay me. I would like to share my terrifying experience with other landlord. I also want to put their names on your bad tenants’ list. Would you tell me how to do so?

Sincerely,
Victor Leung.

Marv August 17, 2010 at 8:08 am

Victor as you are a TVS member, you can log into the website, go to Report Tenant Pay Habits which is directly under Contact Us in the top light blue bar. Click on the link and proceed to complete the report. Over 52,000 TVS/ATS members in Canada and the USA will then have access to the pay habit report.

The TVS/ATS database is searched each time that YOU submit a query for a credit report. If a record is found then it is returned to you the same as a credit report.

Every landlord should also use the Notice to Tenant form found in forms section on the websites, this form advises the prospective tenant of consequences for late rent, non payment of rent and damaged rental property that results in debt. This form will minimize risk of income loss, there is no cost to use this form, all TVS/ATS members are urged to use this form and other valuable forms available in the TVS or ATS websites. Prevention is the answer to minimizing risk of income loss!

Mary August 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

I have used Tenant Verification services for at least 6 years. I have found them to be an invaluable resource. It is important not to trust only your own instincts. Twice we had very pleasant people who said all the right things apply to rent from us. After doing our verification through TVS, it turned out one group was apparently part of a criminal organization and the other was a front for a biker gang. Thank you TVS for invaluable service.

Marv August 17, 2010 at 8:21 am

Further to the above note I should add that GOOD PAY HABITS can be reported and should be reported as well. At the end of the lease period the tenant can be issued a CERTIFICATE OF SATISFACTORY TENANCY by the landlord which is found in the forms section. This benefits tenants with a not so good credit history and is an incentive for the tenant to pay rent on time and abide by the terms in the lease agreement. Tenants can create a good tenant history for themselves, this is important to them and to all landlords. TVS/ATS and you the issuing landlord can confirm satisfactory tenancy.

Trevor P August 17, 2010 at 8:24 am

I just wanted to share my experience. I had a family rent one of my properties and this was my first experience with a family. I guess I assumed that we two kids, these adults would be responsible plus they had just sold their house. This should have been a red flag. After about 3 months of positive payment, it started. Every two weeks they would give me half the rent then a month of ful rent and then it started again. Luckily I refused to resign their lease and they moved out without doing any major damage to my house. All I can say is that I will always use a lease, even if it’s for a short period and if they don’t pay their rent on the first, they immediately get an eviction letter from me stating they either pay or leave in 14 days (Alberta).

Frank Valente August 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

What about tenants that bring in disruptive visitors, and cause all kinds of noise on an ongoing basis. I am in the process of removing two tenants that have been horrifying my life here at home. I did the checks and everything came out good but then one of them invited a cousin to stay without consulting me. When the noise started I learned that it wasnt even the tenants but the visitor. It eventually came down to a point where I banned the person from the property and then the tenants pro0ceeded to call the police claiming I threatened them. The police then arrested me and banned me from visiting my own home while the tenants had this disruptive visitor that I had banned from the property stay with them. Fortunately after four weeks the guy left and I was able to visit my home again only to find that all of my plants had died due to lack of care, along with everythign in the fridge having expired. How do we report such (tenants) like that?

Marina August 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm

April Stewart helped me through a terrible and ridiculous eviction. Her comments sound very close to what we endured while we were trying to evict our tenant. It took us 7 months to evict this person. The apartment was filthy (like a hoarder), he was smoking drugs in the unit daily, didn’t pay rent, almost set the place on fire, assaulted a family member, we had to pay to tow his car out of our driveway, left used furniture strewn in our mutual driveway which we had to remove at our expense…the list goes on. He couldn’t have been a worse tenant and it still took us 7 months to get him out without any rent and having to pay for legal fees. we truly were living in fear in our own home as he squatted in our basement. The Landlord Tenant Board was absolutely no help. They certainly lean on the tenant’s right’s side. On one occasion, they had “no record” of a fax we had submitted weeks prior about the assault even though I furnished a copy of it and the fax confirmation that it had been submitted and wouldn’t allow it to be discussed at our hearing until another date was scheduled! It was a true nightmare! I HIGHLY recommend April Stewart if legal support is needed. She was amazing and did all she could to help us!

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