October 25, 2012
Avoiding Professional Tenants: Tips for Landlords & Property Managers
Professional tenants are pros at abusing the rental system. They take advantage of protections that were put in place to avoid unfair evictions, and instead use them to prolong their stay on properties without paying rent.
The biggest problem with professional tenants is that, by the time you realize you’ve got one in place, your only recourse is to follow the eviction process. These wily tenants – who have almost certainly pulled the same scam before – know full well how to create a string of appeals and objections throughout the hearing process.
They may also try other tactics to strengthen their case, such as damaging the property to show that you haven’t maintained acceptable living conditions. In addition to being stressful and upsetting, this kind of behaviour can cost you several months’ rent, and, depending on the property damage inflicted, can even cause other tenants in the building to move out.
Unfortunately for property management firms, Canada’s legal system tends to protect tenants more than landlords. These two cases, from Calgary and Toronto, demonstrate just how difficult professional tenants can be.
Protection is Possible
The good news is, most tenants are decent people who pay their rent on time and are happy to respect your rules. But it’s essential that you make sure you know the kind of people you’re letting onto your property – before it’s too late.
In most cases, professional tenants are taken on inadvertently when property owners fail to carry out due diligence. They may not have checked all references or verified the applicant’s rental history. The tenant may also have played on the landlord’s sympathies, winning favor by appearing to be down on their luck and in urgent need of a place to stay.
The best way to protect yourself and your property from professional tenants is to make sure you don’t rent to them in the first place. Here are some screening tips that will go a long way toward keeping the wrong applicants at bay.
Create ads that deter professional tenants. Make it clear that your the application process is thorough and that prospective tenants will be required to provide valid documentation. It’s a good idea to mention in your ad that there will be a credit check for all applicants. Professional tenants are looking for an easy way out – if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be averse to paying rent in the first place – so they’ll most likely move on to a property management firm that won’t conduct such a thorough background check.
Make sure you get ALL the information. Collect everything you need to determine whether your prospective tenant is a good fit. This includes information about co-applicants, guarantors and employment history. Professional tenants often provide false employment information, so you should be thorough when following up with references and past employers. PropertyVista’s Tenant Application Software can help you create a thorough, user-friendly application, complete with options to attach legal documents and submit digital signatures.
Run a credit check. Taking out an ad that mentions the fact that you run credit checks is a great step; actually running the credit check is even more important. Our Tenant Screening Software quickly and accurately analyzes applicant data, letting you know in seconds whether or not your prospect has a solid financial history.
Don’t accept cheques. It’s too easy for professional tenants to hand over fraudulent checks, causing delays and costing you money. Instead, use a secure payment system that features bank transfers, credit card payments, or other reliable, automatic methods of payment. Online Rent Payment, our web-based property management software, offers a safe and effective means of collecting payment from tenants.
A Closed-Door Policy on Professional Tenants
Conducting due diligence doesn’t guaranteed that you’ll never wind up with a professional tenant. But it’s the best way of significantly reducing the odds that it will happen. It’s well worth the time to properly screen applicants, and ensure that the ones you trust on your property are honest, reliable, and able to make timely payments.