Before you decide to choose to move, share your private information or signing a lease do some background research. It’s standard practice for landlords to screen potential tenants. References, work history, banking information, and even your Social Security number are fair game. But what about your landlord’s references? How concerned should you be about trusting someone with your private information and the stability of your home without some background details? Be it a company or an individual, before you hand over your Social, you might consider doing some research of your own.
Here are four ways to screen your landlord or property manager before you sign a lease.
1. Check public records: A quick public-records search can provide loads of information on your potential new landlord — whether an individual or a corporation — as well as the property itself. When researching a landlord, look for records red flags indicating bankruptcy, general liens on all assets, criminal records, and any lawsuits. Property records will show any liens placed specifically on the building, whether there is a foreclosure in progress, and any other legal actions specific to the property. Tax records are a wealth of information as well, revealing when the building was purchased, by whom, and the purchase price. If you’re dealing with a property management company, research any recent foreclosures for their properties. Keep in mind, if the property management company is underwater or filing for bankruptcy, your lease term might be shorter than you think.
2. Consider complaints: When hunting for previous renter complaints, read critically and remember to consider the source. Begin by researching the name of the building to see if any past or current tenants have posted about their experiences. Repeated complaints by many tenants over a period of months or years are probably worth noting. If your landlord is a property management company, consult the Better Business Bureau or go old school and check with the Chamber of Commerce. You can also consider leveraging social media to see if anyone you know has had experiences with the company. If your landlord is an individual person, get your Google on.
3. Talk with your neighbors: There’s no better resource for landlord behavior than your potential new neighbors. They have firsthand experience and are probably more than happy to give you the real deal before you sign on the dotted line. Ask specific questions about the frequency of rent increases, how your new landlord handles repairs, and if they’re present around the property. Additionally, is the landlord responsive? Do they frequently stop by unannounced? Aren’t able to connect with current tenants? Don’t be afraid to ask your landlord for references from former tenants.
4. Property appearance: You can glean many clues about a landlord’s character from the physical appearance of the property. Is the building’s exterior well maintained or is the paint peeling?In the hallways, are the fire extinguishers in good working order, or are they covered in cobwebs with outdated inspection tags? A conscientious landlord will maintain the building for aesthetics as well as safety.
Inside the unit, take the time to carefully inspect appliances. Are they clean and in good working order? This is the landlord’s opportunity to make a good impression on you, the potential renter. If things are amiss, imagine what would happen six months from now when something breaks down — not a comforting thought. Entering into a lease agreement should not be taken lightly. Your landlord is dependent on you to uphold your end of the contract, just as you’re depending on them. Do your research upfront and save yourself the headache of dealing with a problematic landlord down the road. Looking to rent in the GTA view listings here