Rental properties are an excellent investment but they can be a lot of work. Here's what you need to know.

Converting your basement into an apartment can be a lucrative move, no question, but there are perks and perils to using part of your home as a rental property. Here are eight things to keep in mind before taking the plunge.

1 Rental properties: Do it legally, or don't do it.
Just because you have space for a renter doesn't mean you're allowed to get one. Some municipalities don't issue permits for secondary suites. If you build one anyway (there's always a contractor out there who will do work without permits), and you're discovered, you can be forced to pay fines and even dismantle the rental property.
Besides zoning issues, "a prospective landlord must verify that a second unit meets the requirements of the fire code," says Rebecca. For example, are there two exits, and is the ceiling high enough? If something goes wrong—a fire, for example—in an illegal dwelling, the landlord is on the hook.

2 You probably won't pocket the entire rent—it's taxable and there are expenses.
You'll need to issue a receipt to your tenants for the rent they pay on their rental property, and they may use it to claim a deduction on their income tax. Even if they don't, you're expected to declare the rent as income and pay tax on it accordingly.
Tax aside, landlords face other expenses. On average, plan to spend the equivalent of a couple months rent every year on home maintenance and upkeep of the rental property (painting and cleaning services when tenants move out, appliance repairs, and fixture upgrades or replacement).
3 The space you have might not attract the tenants you want.
Especially if you share common areas like a driveway, foyer or yard, you want to be extra careful about who you get in there.
To preserve your family's privacy, your rental property might need more than drywall and a new shower stall. "A tenant in a fourplex we're familiar with was exposed to all kinds of noises from their neighbours directly above. They could even hear them sneeze. Some sound-proofing would have helped that situation.

Make sure your electrical service can accommodate more people (you might have to upgrade from 100 amps to 200); consider a larger water tank so the tenant won't knock on your door because they can't shower when you do laundry.

4 Once they're in, it's hard to get tenants out.
Rules vary across the country, but all renters are protected by provincial legislation and governing bodies, and the requirements for eviction are high for good reason: No one should feel their home could easily be taken away. "As a landlord, you should be knowledgeable of the Residential Tenancies Act," says Helene. "Tenants are very knowledgeable of their rights under this act."

Also, tenants can leave before a lease is up (usually by giving two months notice), so you want to ask questions to determine that they're staying a while. Why? The longer you keep a tenant, the cheaper it is for you in the long run:
5 Showing your space and finding the right tenants is tough work.
A prospective landlord, especially a first-timer, should consider the services of a realtor.

You'll pay her the equivalent of a month's rent, but the agent will assess your space to determine a realistic price; she can draft a listings write-up and post it on and MLS, which is accessed by tens of thousands of real estate professionals, many with clients who'd like to see your space. "letter and contacting prior landlords to see if there is a history of NSF cheques, too."

We'll screen all the inquiries about your apartment and the applications,including credit checks, getting an employment letter, etc.
6 A rental unit won't necessarily add to the value of your home.
Some home renovations are almost always worth the investment: an updated kitchen or bathroom, for example, or new paint and floors. But some aren't: swimming pools or saunas, usually. So if you love and use them, go ahead and install them for your own enjoyment, but don't think of them as an investment. Same goes for a rental unit.

7 Landlords should be handy.
You don't need to be able to re-wire your home, but if you can't deal with a blown fuse or a clogged toilet, if standing on a ladder or bending under a sink freaks you out, you could have problems.

Here's why: if tenants confront even a small a problem (a leaky faucet, say, or a light that won't go on), they don't have to solve it, they just have to call the landlord. If you can't handle the work yourself, you need to find someone who can. 

8 Being a landlord isn't a lottery win—it's a part-time job.
But work can be rewarding, so if you do it right, it can pay off—and not just with the extra cash (although that's the main reason, let's be honest). Finding the right tenant is key, and as realtors, that's our goal.

***3 worthy resources for prospective landlords***
Check out the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheet for rental authorities in your province, covering guidelines for eviction, as well as rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.
2 Landlord's Self Help Centre
Membership allows you to access copies of rental applications and tenancy agreement forms.
3 Rent Check Credit Bureau
If you're not using a realtor, you may need to pay to access the information you need on prospective tenants. This is a good place to start.
Jackie Dall'Orso

Jackie Dall'Orso

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Miller Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage*
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