Every British Columbia landlord has heard horror stories about so-called tenants from hell. Also known as ‘professional tenants’, they make an excellent first impression (personally and on paper) but once they’ve moved in, rent cheques bounce, the property is destroyed, or both. By the time the courts get involved, they’re gone.
Anyone unlucky enough to encounter a tenant from hell will say that dealing with them takes a major financial and emotional toll. Fortunately, when you use the right screening processes, the risk of approving a bad tenant is substantially reduced.
Tenant Background Checks Explained
Running a tenant background check consists of verifying the information that the person provides on the tenant application form. When confirming the details below, look for anything that either seems suspicious or does not tally with what the prospective tenant has said or written.
Please note that while you are legally permitted to ask for personal information to conduct a reference or credit check, a landlord-tenant guide called the Residential Tenancy Act confirms that you are required to protect these details and comply with the Personal Information Protection Act.
Landlord references are an important part of the screening process. To get a better overview of the tenant’s rental history, call their present landlord and their previous one. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for landlords to lie in order to get a problem tenant out of their building. Previous landlords are more inclined to be honest about what you may be getting into.
You also want to be sure that you really are talking to one of the applicant’s landlords. Tenants with a questionable rental history often get friends to assume the role over the phone. Find out what property management company was responsible for their previous address and call it directly.
You want to confirm that the tenant has a reliable and steady source of income, so checking employment references is another vital screening step. This is usually done by-
- Asking the applicant to give you copies of recent pay stubs
- Contacting the employer directly to confirm employment
If you call the employer, do not use the number provided on the tenant application form, as bad tenants have been known to get friends to play the role. Research the company’s phone number online. If you can’t find a record of the employer, be extremely wary.
The importance of credit checks cannot be underestimated. You must obtain permission from the prospective tenant before running one. If they refuse, you can consider your tenant background check a success, as a good tenant would not be bothered by this reasonable investigation into their background.
You can run a credit check using Equifax, TransUnion, or another online provider. After inputting information taken from the application form, you will see the person’s credit score, financial history, and employment information. Confirm that the latter corresponds with the information provided. If it doesn’t, you will appreciate the importance of credit checks even further.
As a landlord, you need to screen every potential tenant thoroughly, as there’s too much you stand to lose if you don’t. More information about your rights as a landlord can be found in the Residential Tenancy Act, BC’s landlord-tenant guide, which is available online.