Whether you own a small investment property or manage a multi-unit apartment tower, the problems commonly voiced about tenants tend to relate to one of two things: non rent payment or the violation of rules. On the flip side, the most common complaints from tenants about landlords are unfulfilled work orders and neighbour disputes that haven’t been effectively addressed. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along?
To help make the tenant-landlord relationship a little more harmonious, we reached out to two industry professionals for their advice on curbing tenant conflicts before they snowball into costly debacles. At the centre of their strategies? The simple act of good record-keeping.
Ike J. Awgu, B.A., J.D. has been privy to just about every type of landlord-tenant dispute. “By far the most common problem landlords face with their tenants is non payment of rent. Most landlords will never have to deal with big problems, like assault or drugs on the premises, but the chances of not being paid are enormous.”
Though your lease agreement likely states that rent collection will happen on the same day of every month, Awgu is confident that every landlord out there will receive a bounced cheque at some point. That said, if a tenant habitually misses his or her rent payment, it is within the landlord/owner’s rights to begin a legal eviction process. In Ontario a Notice of Termination can be issued, but cannot be filed until the 14th day after the notice is given.
“Most landlords have terrible record-keeping skills, so it becomes about ‘he said, she said,’” Awgu explains. “Keeping records and issuing receipts, which you are in fact required to do, is really important—and so is knowing where your tenants work. Keep your records current. When somebody owes you money and suddenly vanishes, you have to be able to hold them accountable. One quick call to their employer to garnish wages usually fixes this.”
Sometimes tenants mistakenly believe that their security deposits will cover the last month’s rent. Tenants should know in advance that the security deposit is not meant to substitute their last month’s rent as it may not be enough to cover the full amount, plus any cleaning or repair expenses incurred after move-out.
Noise violation and disorderly conduct
If a tenant hosts a loud party, you can bet you’ll be hearing from at least a few disgruntled neighbours—especially if late night revelry is a frequent occurrence. Noise violations aside, parties can also increase the risk of damage to the premises, and lead to injury.
“When a tenant calls regarding a noise complaint, insist that they put their complaints in writing,” says Jeff Birman, Senior Property Manager at Cando Apartments. “The tenant should keep a log of the specific times and dates of the disturbances. This will better prepare the landlord should an application at the LTB be opened.”
In order to evict a tenant for this reason, you will likely need documented records showing the tenant acted in a disorderly fashion. Also, to minimize rule violations, ensure the lease agreement thoroughly outlines your conditions and includes details like whether a tenant can have pets in the apartment and whether they are entitled to sublease. Having it all in writing is a landlord’s best defence.
Repairs and work orders
On the other side of the relationship, it really agitates tenants when repairs aren’t addressed in a timely fashion—or worse, when they get ignored completely. But skimping on small maintenance jobs isn’t just unfair to the tenant; it can also lead to bigger, costlier problems for the property owner down the road.
“All tenant work order requests should be made in writing,” Birman advises. “Of course, landlords should do their best to complete the requested work in a timely manner. However, I have found that many tenants do not report repairs that are required in their unit. Therefore, I would suggest that landlords complete annual in-suite inspections to ensure that the units are well maintained and that hopefully a small repair today does not grow into a large maintenance item in the future.”
Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine