Every landlord’s nightmare is a tenant that destroys their property either during their stay or during eviction. Pet owning tenants are more likely to cause damage to rental property. Dog damage to rental property is a common complaint. Sometimes, tenants become hostile during an eviction and may rip up the place or steal appliances. The most probable damage includes smashed windows, damaged walls, ripped carpets and flooring, damaged and missing fittings. Tenant damage to property may run into thousands of dollars especially if the structure of the property is compromised. Many landlords have lamented the torment that they have experienced in the hands of bad tenants.
Evicting a tenant from hell is often confusing, frustrating, and expensive. You must make use of the legal system to avoid encountering challenges. In Ontario, the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (RHEU) is mandated to handle disputes between landlords and tenants and any other offenses emanating from the Residential Tenancies Act 2006.
Most landlords believe that the legal system favors tenants who often get free legal advice whereas landlords find themselves on their own and pay through the nose to get legal help. Additionally, cases in court will drag on forever through appeal, counter-complaints, and adjournments. All a landlord has to do is to remain patient and persevere through months of unpaid rent as the case drags on.
Under Ontario law, landlords have a few options. The following are tips to help you when a tenant damages rental property Ontario.
- Handle the entire process of renting your property like a business. Make sure that you have screened a potential tenant. Some landlords fail to screen a tenant eager to get them in the unit and paying rent. A background check with their financial institution and/or former employer or former landlord will help weed out bad tenants who end causing damage. It may be a lengthy process but doing your due diligence will be helpful over the long run. Read here to learn more about how tenant insurance can help in such cases.
- Once you have settled for a potential tenant, make them sign a lease before moving in. The lease is a legally binding contract that spells out the roles and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant. Keep in mind that the lease will be the first document to be asked for and reviewed by a court of law when problems arise at any point in the future. The lease will help get rid of all assumptions that would lead to problems and prove costly later on.
- Be responsive to tenant queries and issues. Many landlords have soured the landlord/tenant relationship through slow responses to issues raised by the tenant or even ignoring them completely. Whatever the issue brought to your attention such as problems with locks, accidental damage to rental property, leaking and faulty faucets, or mice in the residential unit, it is recommended that you deal with it effectively and fast. Being responsive helps to prevent damages to rental property by the tenant.
- Inspect and identify the level of damage to the property. You will need to gain access to the property to assess the damage. Landlords are only allowed to enter a rental unit for specific reasons. You will need to provide 24-hour notice of the intention to access the property and assess the damage. In the majority of cases, the landlord may only enter the rental unit between 8 am and 8 pm.
- Eliminate or address the issue which may not necessarily mean evicting the tenant. You can still get to the bottom of the issue and repair to prevent further damage. A landlord is not allowed to raise rents arbitrarily or force a tenant to pay above the guideline or other additional charges to cover damages before approval by the Landlord and Tenant Board.
- Eviction from the rental property is yet another option available to landlords. The eviction must be legal and in accordance with the processes outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act 2006.
Prepare for the worst with insurance
While the vast majority of tenants you deal with will be respectful of your personal boundaries and the property itself, it’s always worth having a financial security blanket in place in the event of an accident caused by less respectful and mature tenants.
While insurance isn’t a requirement for tenants looking to rent a property, a landlord or property manager can see significant benefits from encouraging applicants to apply for comprehensive tenant insurance. You can sell this as security for both parties in the event of flooding, house fires, and other preventable accidents, while also protecting you both from the worsening of minor structural issues developed throughout the life of the property.
This is a wonderful way to complement your own insurance coverage and encourage a more mutually beneficial relationship with your tenants.
The provisions set out in the act make it an offense to:
- Take back possession of the rental unit without following the due process as outlined in the act.
- Threaten, harass or interfere with the ability of a tenant to enjoy living in the rental unit to force them to move out.
- Take possession of a tenant’s belongings without following the due process.
- Stop the tenant from forming or taking part in a tenant association.
- Using a false reason to issue a notice of termination to a tenant to make them move out of the rental unit.
- Replacing the locks to a rental unit without availing the new key to the tenant.
- Giving notice to terminate the tenancy of a rental unit so that you can convert it into a condominium without obtaining necessary permits.
- Evicting a tenant to undertake major repairs/renovations and failing to provide compensation or offering them an acceptable place to live.
- Failing to provide a tenant the right of first refusal after undertaking major repairs/renovations or after converting a unit into a condominium.
- Stopping a tenant from securing their belongings within 72 hours of an eviction enforced by the sheriff.
- Withholding the supply of vital services such as heat, hot or cold water, electricity, fuel and natural gas.
- Move on. Don’t expect a payout from the tenant. An eviction process may take between 8 and 12 weeks or more even after you have acted promptly, filed all paperwork perfectly, and the tenant doesn’t introduce counter claims or other frivolous complaints. The legal process of evicting a tenant will often drag through the motions costing the landlord both time and money. All through the process the landlord will be faced by months of no rental income and mounting legal fees. Sometimes, the best outcome will not lie in getting a payout for damages caused but in seeing a tenant vacate the rental unit to stop further damage and legal expenses.