Have you heard the horror stories of tenants who slink into rental units without ever paying their rent, racking up thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the unsuspecting landlords and property managers who let them in? You may have already come across one of these tricky fraudsters. But even if you haven’t, you should beware—they’re out there.
These people are known as professional tenants, and one Toronto landlord describes dealing with them as “a living hell.” The property owner fell prey to one who moved in after promising to pay first and last month’s rent, as well as provide proof of insurance, and a credit and criminal background check. Of course, the renter never came through on any of that.
The landlord took action through the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. But the tenant threw up appeals and objections throughout the hearing process, delaying any attempts at eviction—and living rent-free all the while.
What’s Their Damage?
Professional tenants can cost you many months’ rent and countless hours of lost time. Some even inflict property damage in an attempt to allege landlord neglect, adding to the expense they inflict, not to mention potentially chasing away other tenants.
The biggest challenge with professional tenants is this: By the time you discover one living on your property, it’s too late. Canada’s legal system, well intentioned though it may be, protects tenants more than landlords. And that spells trouble for property management firms and landlords because professional tenants know how to play the system.
Professional tenants are experts at delay tactics and will exploit their current landlord as long as they can. When they finally run out of options and face eviction, they disappear—usually without paying whatever they were ordered to pay—and move on to the next unknowing property owner.
Use Protection: The Best Defence Against Professional Tenants
So how can you avoid living your own property management nightmare? One word: Screen!
Place ads that send the right message – Professional tenants are looking for easy targets; as rent-dodgers, they aren’t interested in hard work and an honest living. By creating ads that make it clear that your application process is thorough and requires prospective tenants to produce valid documentation, you’ll most likely chase professional tenants away—they’ll move on to a property management firm that won’t conduct such a rigorous background check. Also, be sure to mention in your ad that all applicants will be subject to a credit check.
Collect ALL the information – Don’t take any shortcuts when it comes to gathering information on prospects. Look into co-applicants, guarantors and employment history, and never take potential renters as their word. Professional tenants tend to provide false employment information, so be thorough when following up with references and past employers. Property Vista’s application module can help you create a comprehensive, user-friendly application, complete with options to attach legal documents and submit digital signatures.
Conduct a credit check – Mentioning in your ad that you run credit checks is important. Following through with running the credit check is essential. With our leasing software, you can automate credit checks and get instant approvals. You can also quickly and accurately analyse applicant data, so you’ll know within seconds whether or not your prospect has a solid financial history.
Say NO to cheques – If you can’t rely on professional tenants to provide accurate information, you definitely can’t trust them not to write fraudulent cheques, which will cause delays and cost you money. Forgo the cheques in favour of a secure payment system that accepts e-transfers, credit cards or other reliable, automatic methods of payment. Our web-based property management software offers a safe and effective means of collecting payment from tenants.
Shut the Door on Professional Tenants
When it comes to professional tenants, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Conducting due diligence is your best bet for reducing the odds that one of these dishonest people will wind up on your property.
Take the time to properly screen all applicants so you can be confident that the ones who wind up as your tenants are honest, reliable and able to make timely rent payments. You won’t regret it.
To learn more about Property Vista’s online solutions for tenant applications and screenings, as well as our tenant payment solutions, sign up for your free account today or give us a call to learn more.