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Information Gathering on a Candidate Seeking to Rent an Apartment is a Capital Step in the Rental Process

Information Gathering on a Candidate Seeking to Rent an Apartment is a Capital Step in the Rental Process

Whenever an apartment becomes vacant, be it at the end of the lease or because of premature departure of a tenant, most of the landlords take all measures possible to re-rent their apartment as quickly as possible in order to avoid financial loss, and this rightly so. On the other hand, this haste does not mean, however, that one should blindly sign a lease with a candidate without taking any precautions in order to know the history of your future tenant. Neglecting this stage is very risky and even audacious in 2008 in Quebec.

Indeed, in the framework of this selection process, one should never forget that it is imperative to gather all information possible on the candidate in order to obtain a clear picture of the latter and decide whether he is a good candidate or not.

This way, you must, firstly, proceed with an investigation on the credit-worthiness of the candidate in order to know the payment habits of the tenant. In view of a bad report you should not hesitate to immediately refuse the candidate, by writing if possible in order to avoid any confusion. On the other hand, in order to abide by the rules of access to information, you must, before acting, have the candidate sign a form of agreement allowing you to proceed with this credit investigation. The Quebec Landlords Association suggests that you use the most recent form in order to avoid any problem as to the kind of agreement given by the candidate. Information necessary to do an investigation are the name, the address and the date of birth. Any other information would be superfluous and the tenant cannot be forced to give it.

Also, you should verify the candidate’s behaviour as a tenant with references from the former landlord. On the other hand, such information may sometimes be biased because the landlord may want to disengage from the troublesome tenant or a set-up may be fabricated by a friend of the candidate impersonating a former landlord. These references must thus be considered as a whole together with other information and thus not as the only source of information.

Finally, a detour to the Rental Board is called for to verify if the candidate does not have any cases rendered against him on his record since this could justify the refusal of his candidacy. Computer workstations are made available for you to check this out in all regional offices of the Rental Board.

Not to proceed in one or the other of these steps could cause you to miss out on important details to decide in an enlightened way if you are dealing with a good candidate.

Finally, if our candidate seems to be acceptable to you, we suggest that you would ask for payment of the first month of rent when the lease is signed. It is your right to do so; so use it. Take your time to write in the lease that the first month of rent must be paid at the time of the signing of the lease. This clause will then become a condition of validity of the lease. Should the tenant not pay his first month’s rent in advance before the start of the lease, you can refuse him access to the apartment and find another candidate. Indeed, if payment of the first month is a condition for the lease to be valid, not respecting this clause allows the landlord to state that the lease is not valid and refuse access to the future tenant.

In all of these cases, it is absolutely necessary not to sign the lease or to give the keys before making these verifications because a reversal of the situation would be next to impossible.

You may notice that you have several tools at your disposal to verify the history of a candidate. Use them, because this will allow you to perhaps avoid plenty of annoyances.

Certain situations may be less evident than those shown here. That is why we suggest you to communicate with a lawyer in order to assist you adequately in your decision-making.

About the author

Me Jean-Olivier Reed, avocat

Me Jean-Olivier Reed graduated from Collège l'Assomption in legal technology in 1997 and then from the University of Montreal in law in 2001. Member of the bar since 2004, he was a lawyer and building manager from 2004 to 2006.

Lawyer with Messier Soucy lawyers since 2006. He works in real estate law and more particularly in rental law and co-ownership law.

He has written several articles in the newspaper "Le Propriétaire" on various topics dealing with rental law.
He lectures to members of the Quebec Landlords Association on current topics in rental law.

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