What to Look for When Screening a Tenant

On the surface, being a landlord seems simple enough and should be a good source of income. There are pitfalls to be aware of for the first time and long-time landlords. It is a good idea to be familiar with a couple of topics before renting your property.

Being aware of the provincial laws and guidelines, you will be better prepared for your interview with a possible new tenant. In your face to face interview some things to help decide if this is the right tenant:

  • Do a pre-meeting screening. Some of the questions which will be answered in the application form can be asked before actually meeting. Such as how long have they lived in their current location, expected move-in date, job information and income, etc. Asking the questions ahead will provide you with information to make your decision.
  • Don’t forget the documentation. Having a copy of the Landlord Responsibilities and Tenant Responsibilities shows you know the rules.
  • Rental Application Form. If at all possible, have the tenant complete this form before the meeting. It should provide you with information such as the applicant’s job, job reference contact, the current level of income, current address and references from their current landlord, references, etc.
  • Make sure to check the references and verify the information given before agreeing to rent your property.
  • What does your gut say? People tend to appear on their best behaviour and dress decently. Watch the interaction between couples. If there are children, how are they behaving? If you have a no pet policy, is there pet hair on their clothes? Paying attention to even the smallest details can provide you with a good sense of who this tenant will be.
  • What type of Tenancy Agreement will be signed? A Fixed Term Tenancy states when the dates the rental begins and ends. No notice from either the tenant or landlord is required. A Periodic Tenancy Agreement has a start date but no end date. Either party can end the agreement by giving notice – usually a month to month situation.
  • Make sure – in writing – pet policy, number of occupants agreed on, smoking (remember cannabis smoking) or non-smoking is stated and agreed on before signing the rental agreement.

The best you as the landlord can do is to be informed and have everything in writing. There is no guarantee as you are dealing with people and relying on their good nature. There are groups available to you, the landlord, which will provide you with helpful resources. A few are: 

  • Rentfaster.ca – help to get your property rented, forms, and other tools
  • Alberta Landlords Association – they can also help with credit checks
  • Google or Internet search – What does the possible tenant’s online presence look like?

Having a successful experience as a landlord doesn’t just happen. Being proactive by knowing the laws of the province, and using the tools mentioned can help towards your experience.