Avoiding the nightmare tenant

Observer writer

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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RENTING is a very personal thing. Not only are you allowing someone into a space that is uniquely yours, you are also trusting them to care for it as you would yourself.

That's a lot of faith and trust to place in someone who got your number from the classifieds section of the newspaper while flipping through to find the crossword puzzle.

Or worse, the person may have come 'highly recommended' from a mutual friend whose judgement you're now questioning.

Now, it is often difficult to determine who will be a bad tenant because everyone presents their best selves when applying (just consider how much effort you would put into that interview for a well-paying job knowing you aren't entirely qualified for) but this is where screening helps.

It may seem like a costly and time-consuming exercise to do due diligence just to rent someone an apartment, but contemplate what the possible costs could be if you don't.

The Rent Assessment Board, which advocates the rights of landlords and tenants, clearly speaks to the basic expectations of both parties entering such an agreement.

The first two agreements for tenants are perhaps the most important to the property owner; maintain the premises and paying rent on time. The best assurances of these are to know exactly who you are renting to.

When a prospective tenant seems to checkout in person, ensure they also checkout on paper, and then do your own checks to verify all they have shared.

Ask them about their rent history and why they are leaving their previous residence. Find out if it's OK to speak with their current landlord to confirm information provided.

Check references. Do a Google search; it may seem obvious or unhelpful but you may be surprised at the things that come up including social media accounts which may help you determine what type of person you would be renting to.

Verifying place of employment and income are also necessary as you do not want to find out down the road that your renter was recently laid off or does not make enough to pay the agreed rent.

Don't take “I am a teller at a bank” at face value. Seeing the last three payslips is a start, but it is insufficient in an age where most paperwork can be recreated on apps and websites.

Call the bank to verify their employment status and the income stated, it's always better to err on the side of caution.

It is also important to state and measure expectations by having a lease or rental agreement.

Using the Rent Assessment Board's tenant covenants as a basis, and with the assistance of someone who has expertise or experience in similar matters, an agreement can be crafted that speaks to everything from how the property should be kept, the rent due date, issues related to subletting and the provision of notice when vacating the premises. This will serve as a guide to the tenant while doubling as a source of reference should the landlord need to evict the tenant.

Also, remember that you are not obligated to rent to the first, second or even the 'fifty-leventh' person who indicates an interest. Your comfort with a prospective renter is of great importance in such matters, and while a security deposit goes some way to allay fears, there is no guarantee that it will deter an occupant from damaging your property or maintaining it to your liking.

Do note that none of this guarantees you will find the ideal applicant as things happen and people change, and the most impeccable candidate may turn out to be your worst nightmare; it's just the risk you run. However, taking the time to carefully probe a prospective will go a long way in removing some bad candidates and making the process more seamless.

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