Tips for Getting Good Tenants (and Avoiding Bad Ones)

Michelle Hopkins
August 2, 2013

Dennis Hoy has been a landlord for more than three decades. The retired teacher rents out his summer home on the Gulf Islands, as well as two other residences he owns in the Lower Mainland.

"It's been my way of being an entrepreneur and making extra income," says Hoy. "I've had very few issues with renting out my island home but I've had several with the other two homes."

Hoy tells tales of the renter who skipped out on a month's rent; the one who let his dog defecate in the house, and another who left the home in such a filthy mess it took him days of professional cleaning services to get it ready for rental again.

So why does he continue to be a landlord?

For Hoy and a lot of Greater Vancouver homeowners, having a rental property or a rental suite in their home is the difference between owning a home and being renters themselves.

Over the years, the veteran landlord has learned a thing or two about renting, and he has tips for anyone considering leasing out their premises. Hoy says that he does a tour of the premises with the tenant, and videotapes the whole thing, so that if there's ever a dispute about damage, he has proof.

"I always get the tenants in the video too and I also videotape my expectations of them, such as maintaining the home in the condition they found it in, as well as the grounds," he adds.

Tom Durning, of the Tenant Resource and Advocacy Centre (TRAC), has one piece of advice for landlords: "Treat your rental as an active business."

He constantly reminds landlords that if they deal with their rental property as any other business, they will have far more success and fewer headaches.

"I can't tell you how often we need to remind landlords that this isn't a passive business," says Durning. "Like any business, if you don't nurture it, it can get costly.

"More than one-third of our calls come from tenants who tell us that their landlord isn't maintaining the home," he says. "If a landlord does the necessary repairs, they can deduct them from their taxes so I still shake my head and ask why they wouldn't?"

"I also tell landlords that they can avoid potential rental damage by simply conducting monthly inspections."

In addition, he says, too often landlords of one or two properties don't educate themselves well enough about the provincial laws that govern this type of business transaction. His tip: "A good landlord is an educated one; one who knows the rights of his tenants and his own."

Rental Housing Council president and COO Amy Spencer agrees. She says that most landlords and tenants live up to their rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Act. However, Spencer recommends that landlords exercise due diligence in screening tenants, such as checking past rental and work references. And visa versa.

"I encourage renters to ask their potential landlords whether they are members of a professional industry association," she says. "The BC Apartment Owners and Managers Association; Rental Owners and Managers Society of BC and Professional Association of Managing Agents all require their members to adhere to a code of ethics."

In the end, both the prospective renter and landlord need to exercise due diligence before entering into any contract, otherwise it can be a miserable experience for one or both of them

Tips on how to screen potential tenants:( Courtesy of Rental Housing Council)

A landlord must not violate a person's rights when checking for suitability as a tenant.

A written contract signed by both landlord and tenant ensures that both parties are agreeing to the same set of expectations. The BC government's Residential Tenancy Agreement is available free online at This six-page document lists everything from the landlord's pets policy to rent increases, to repairs obligations and policies on overnight guests, as well as much more. By going through it together before signing, you set a businesslike tone to the relationship.

Vancouver has the highest rents in Canada for a two-bedroom unit, at $1255 per month. With so much money at stake, scammers like to target the rental market. Be aware of common frauds. Don't risk losing your money, or even worse, your identity and banking information to a scammer. The Rental Housing Council gave us these examples of common scams.

Scams on landlords

Scams on tenants

The BC government has a number of good resources to help ensure a successful tenancy for both landlords and tenants.

For a free copy of TRAC's Tenant Survival Guide, visit

Got any more tips or know of more scams? Tell us about them in the Comments box.

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