Congratulations! You own a home with a rental suite! Maybe you have recently upgraded from a condo or townhouse or possibly you have added the suite for extra passive income. If being a landlord is new to you, you may be a bit nervous about finding the right tenant.
Renting a suite which is located within your own home is understandably a bit of a different beast. Even though the unit is separate, there is an element of shared space. Whether that is shared laundry, utilities, outdoor space, an awareness of sounds coming from your vents or just running into each other as you come and go.
You will want to put in the added effort to ensure that you find the right fit for your home and for your family.
Here are 5 of my top tips to get you started.
Be specific with the advertising and expectations – the more specific you are the clearer the expectations. This is your home. You set the rules. Aside from the typical, quiet, respectful tenant, no smoking/vaping, no pets - be clear with what you are offering and what you are looking for in a tenant.
Don’t have room in the driveway – street parking only,
Don’t want to share your backyard – no outdoor space,
Concerned that your dog and kids will be too loud – owners are a young family who live upstairs and cannot guarantee an abundance of quiet.
The clearer the expectations the less complaints you will receive. There is no template. Lay all your cards on the table and be transparent. If they don’t agree with your terms then they are not the applicant for you.
Disclaimer * -Please note - As a landlord you cannot discriminate.
From the Government of BC website -
‘A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant based on their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, gender, sexual orientation, age or lawful source of income.’
Ensure that any advertising criteria stays well away from Human Rights requirements.
Set your price on the lower end of the price range to entice more applicants – I know you want to get top dollar and depending on the rental market you might. If however, you would like a number of candidates to choose from so that you feel you can make the best choice for your home and for your family then make your price very competitive.
More applicants = more choice. The better choice you make up front the less headaches. Finding an excellent tenant is worth its weight in gold. Also if they realize they are getting a good deal they will respect your expectations and potentially stay longer.
3. THE INTERVIEW
Keep them talking.
When you book showings for potential tenants don’t cut your timing short. The key is to keep them talking. You will be surprised what you will learn and what they are willing to tell you if you chat them up. Hand them the tenant application during the showing with a pen. This way they sit down and start to fill it out if they are interested in applying.
This is just as much an interview as it is a showing. Ask them about themselves, why they are moving, what they liked or disliked about their last place and get to know them. If possible have a second person with you during the showing. They will offer a different approach to the questions and they will also get a sense of whether the applicant would be a good fit.
4. THE INTERVIEW EXIT
After the Interview, walk them to their car – full disclosure, I read this one in a book. Believe it or not, the condition of someone’s interior of their car is a very good indication of how they will treat your suite. Think of your own car, is it approximately the same cleanliness of how you keep your house? Most very clean people have a very clean car. The reverse is also true. Walk them to their car at the end of the interview to thank them for coming and take a peek. You will be glad you did.
Check their references, employers and social media – Always. Make sure you speak with people directly. Call them, don’t email them. The trick to references is often what they don’t say. Read between the lines. Ask if they would ever have them back as a tenant. If they hesitate or skirt around your questions you may need to pass.
Make sure you not only get a previous landlord reference but also a job reference. Find out how they are as an employee. Are they respectful, on time, professional and trustworthy? These are personality traits that will cross over to being an excellent tenant.
Lastly, check their social media. I realize that no one wants to feel like a creeper. Social media is however a public platform that you can verify. The smart applicants will have private accounts however a surprising number of people still have open accounts that you can view. Just know that this tip goes both ways and be prepared to have your social creeped as well while they are deciding if you would make a good landlord.
A lot of landlords are nervous about young tenants. I understand the concerns. I will say however that in my experience young tenants have been terrific. These are young adult’s age 18 – 20 who are leaving their family home for the first time. Typically the parents are highly engaged and will often email on behalf of their children to help them apply. Connecting with the parents provides an extra layer of accountability.
Young tenants tend to be less demanding. My guess is that they don’t know what to ask for and they are just so happy to be out on their own that they don’t dare complain. They also tend to be quite respectful. I always refer to ourselves as their ‘upstairs family’. This creates an extra level of rapport and they know they have an extra set of parents around if they ever need.