Marketing Your Rental Unit

Every landlord wants to find the ideal tenant — the person who always pays rent on time, never disturbs others, doesn't complain or cause conflicts and keeps the premises in better condition than when he or she moved in. While this theoretical ideal may be unattainable, the way you maintain and market your property will affect what type of tenants you attract.

Effective marketing involves differentiating your property from others. In a tight rental market, advertising may not be as critical, but when renters have many places to choose from, you need to let them know why your place is better than others. Is it newer, bigger, cheaper, cleaner or safer than comparable units in the area? Does it have better appliances and amenities for the price?

Effective marketing will increase your chance of attracting the ideal tenant for your situation. The more clearly you state the benefits of your premises, the greater the odds of attracting appropriate prospects.

Where to Advertise a Rental:

  • Place a for rent/lease sign at the rental property.
  • Advertise in newspaper classifieds and specialty publications that list rental accommodations. Remember community newspapers.
  • If you are interested in attracting students, campus housing offices often provide a free listing service.
  • Post a flyer on bulletin boards at libraries, community centres, grocery stores, and places of worship.
  • Talk to friends and family members, letting them know that you are looking for tenants.

Advertising Online:

  • Internet mail lists
  • Electronic bulletin boards
  • Specialized Canadian apartment listing Web sites
  • Web sites of community newspapers (classifieds section)
  • Central community Web sites, typically in a classifieds section

Caution

When paying for an online ad, don't get tricked by a report of thousands or millions of "hits". Web-page hits can be an inflated, misleading reporting method. Instead, ask how many unique users visit the relevant section of the website each day. Also, ask how many page-views — entire scrollable pages — the site gets each month.

Finding Tenants

Someone offering a tiny bachelor apartment will have a different market than someone renting a spacious penthouse with extra features, such as a fireplace and a fantastic view. Consider the profile of the people you are trying to reach and then advertise in the places where they would be likely to look for a rental premises.

If you are renting a fairly basic basement apartment, you have a good chance of attracting people willing to live in a basement for the benefit of a lower monthly rent. University campuses, postings in local supermarkets or "accommodations available" advertisements in community newspapers might be the best place to advertise this type of rental.

If you have an expensive condo to rent, advertise where people with the appropriate income might search. The local condo news, business-focused newspaper classifieds, or working with a rental locator at a real estate agent's office might work best.

If you are not sure where people look for rentals, ask! Talk to several people in the same demographic as prospective tenants.

Evaluating Prospective Tenants

Every landlord wants to find good tenants — ones who pay the rent on time and take care of their rental property. Finding the best tenant can be offset by the need to have the premises rented within a narrow timeframe. While time to show the unit, accept and review applications and do background checks may be limited, a hasty decision could cost you money in the long run. If the wrong tenant moves in, you may end up losing money due to damages or disputes.

NoteChoose Wisely

If you can afford a possible rent loss while waiting to fill the unit, take the extra time to make the right choice of tenant.

You should thoroughly research a prospective tenant before making a final decision. Getting candidates to fill in a rental application and properly screening for applicant suitability before accepting a new tenant are vital. If you accept tenants without screening and verifying their information, terminating the rental agreement may be difficult even if you discover that they provided false information.

As a landlord you can ask As a landlord you cannot ask

You can ask questions that will help you assess the suitability of a tenant, as long as you do not infringe on his/her rights. For example, you can ask a prospective tenant:

What is your income? Where do you work?

How many people will be living with you and what are their names?

Do you have pets? Do you smoke?

Could you provide written permission for a credit check?

May I see your references and their current contact information?

You cannot ask questions that infringe on the rights of the tenant under the Human Rights Code for your province. For example, you cannot ask a prospective tenant:

Do you plan to have (more) children?

What is your ethnic background, religion, or sexual preference?

Will your family be visiting?

What is your social insurance number? If you don't provide your SIN, I won't rent to you.

Are you married, single, or divorced?

You will want to find out as much as you can legally about prospective tenants. Check their financial suitability through a credit bureau report. To access a credit report on a prospective tenant you must be a member of a credit bureau.

NoteChanging Times …

In many areas information beyond basic financial data was previously available in a credit bureau report. However, in many areas this information is no longer being collected. There are private tenant screening service that will provide information that can be used to assess potential tenants that goes beyond the basic financial data. Such information may include rental payment habits and judicial decisions from landlords, non-profit housing corporations and collection agencies, and a scoring tool.

Beyond credit information, try to discover what kind of tenant will be living in your unit. Ask former landlords about the tenant's character and past rent-payment patterns. Consider talking to even the last two or three landlords to get a clear idea.

In some provinces, landlords can easily access information compiled by order registries and landlord advocacy groups. A landlord unsure about a tenant's suitability can turn to these groups for more information. These registries include information about unlawful tenants and help landlords when they face difficult tenant situations. Provincial offices can also offer assistance to landlords who are experiencing tenant problems. They may also be able to pass along information on registers and advocacy groups in your region, if these organizations exist.

Checks for Screening Tenants

  • Check the applicant's credit bureau history and banking history.
  • Confirm the applicant's employment situation.
  • Check the applicant's tenancy history/evictions, if available.
  • Check court records, if available.
  • Check the applicant's references and consider contacting previous landlords going back two or three tenancies 

Human Rights Considerations

While you will want to know as much about a rental applicant as possible, provincial and territorial human rights legislation prohibits certain factors from being considered by a landlord when choosing who he or she will rent to. These factors include race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, age, marital status, family status, handicap, or the receipt of public assistance.

Each province and territory upholds its own human rights legislation that spells out what landlords are allowed to ask prospective tenants and what they are not permitted to ask. You might think it is acceptable to ask personal questions to determine a tenant's suitability, but demanding answers as a condition of renting may contravene human rights. You cannot refuse to rent an apartment based on these conditions.

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