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Home > Blog > Top Renters Tips. How to be a Great Tenant!

Top Renters Tips. How to be a Great Tenant!

Updated on Wednesday, April 27, 2022


The tenant-landlord dynamic is just like any healthy professional relationship - built on mutual respect and a common goal (most of the time!). But like all other relationships, there can be times where expectations aren't 100% clear, communication breaks down, or you're just not sure where you stand. Lucky for you, we went to the source to find out what landlords are looking for in an ideal tenant. Read on to find out what you can do to make your rental experience a positive one from the minute you submit your application to the day you move out.

Before You Rent

1. Do your research

Before you walk into your first rental office, it's helpful to have a clear understanding of your own expectations as well as the typical conditions within the area. Some questions to consider are:

  • What does the neighbourhood look like?
  • What amenities are nearby?
  • What's the average rental rate for that area according to housing laws?1

Knowing what you want up front and communicating any questions to the property owner will help avoid any confusion or frustration later.

2. Read the rental agreement

One of the most important aspects of renting is understanding the rental agreement, so make sure you read the entire document before signing. Some important details to keep in mind:

  • How long is the lease?
  • Can the lease be renewed?
  • What does the rental payment process look like?
  • What's included in the rent (e.g. parking, utilities, extra storage)?
  • Is the unit furnished or unfurnished?
  • Is there a washer/dryer in the unit or a common laundry facility on the property?
  • What is the policy for pets?

Don't be afraid to ask questions if any aspect of the agreement is unclear. Things will go more smoothly if both you and your landlord are starting off on the same page. And more importantly, if there's ever a dispute, the rental agreement helps settle it.2 Just consider it your golden rulebook for your entire experience at that property.

3. Prepare your financial paperwork

Once you've submitted your application for a rental, the landlord will most likely run a credit check or ask you to verify your income before communicating their decision. While this may seem like the most awkward part of applying, being prepared with copies of pay stubs, a record of employment, or a T4 slip from your bank can keep you one step ahead of the process. Property owners are usually looking for you to have about 30 percent of your monthly income set aside for rent.3 And remember it's nothing personal - this is all a normal part of the landlord's job to ensure you can make your payments on time.

4. Provide references

Were you really close with the tenants in your previous apartment building? Did you have a friendly relationship with a former landlord? Were you the resident cookie baker or board game night coordinator of the neighbourhood? That's great! Asking your former landlord or neighbours to provide a reference can really help you stand out from the crowd. Even if you weren't close with anyone at your previous property, your landlord will still be able to comment on how reliable you were at paying the rent or how quickly you reported maintenance issues.

While You're Renting

1. Pay the rent on time

This is the number one tenant tip for a reason. On-time rental payments ensure the landlord can pay the mortgage on the property. If you are consistently late on your payments, it becomes much more than just an inconvenience. Luckily, most landlords have accessible payment systems already set up for their properties. This could include automatic bill pay online or flexible payment submission via cheque or Interac.4

2. Treat the property like it's your own

Not only will taking good care of your unit get you your security deposit back, but it will also communicate to your landlord that you are a trustworthy tenant who values your opportunity to live there. This could mean everything from establishing a consistent cleaning schedule to putting felt pads on the bottom of furniture to protect flooring. If you're wanting to make larger improvements to the property - like painting, appliance replacement, or landscaping - be sure to check your lease agreement first and follow the proper procedures.

3. Report maintenance issues right away

Small leaks or appliance malfunctions may not seem like time-sensitive issues, but they can often be indicative of much larger problems in your individual unit or throughout the building. Letting your property owner know about maintenance issues immediately will not only allow them to fend off more serious (and more costly!) repairs, but also puts you on the same team when it comes to taking care of the space.

4. Fix what you can yourself

While your landlord does need to be made aware of major repairs as soon as possible, it's likely that they have multiple properties they are managing simultaneously. If you are calling them to change every lightbulb or tighten every loose screw, they're going to feel understandably frustrated. For small repairs, don't be afraid to take care of them yourself - and earn some major responsibility points!

5. Get renter's insurance

This tip might sometimes be overlooked by many tenants but can be a vital safety net when renting. In case of a fire, severe water damage, or other major disaster, renter's insurance helps to repair or replace your individual possessions within the unit. This is why rental insurance providers suggest signing up for coverage equal to the value of items within your rental.5 Owners typically have landlord insurance as well, but this only covers repairs to the building or general property. While it may seem like a daunting task to pick a policy with the right coverage for you, there are many affordable options available.6

Before You Leave

1. Give plenty of notice

The best way to ensure your tenant-landlord relationship ends amicably is to let them know with plenty of warning when you intend to move out. Depending on your rental agreement and the province or territory where you live, this could mean submitting written notice two to three months in advance.7 This gives your landlord ample time to find a replacement tenant for the unit and plan any updates or repairs that might be needed.

2. Leave the space in better condition than when you found it

Getting your security deposit back is a fine goal here, but you also want to leave things on a high note between you and your landlord (remember those references we mentioned earlier?). Before your landlord comes for a final inspection, make sure your rental has been thoroughly cleaned and any small damages - like holes in the drywall from picture hooks - have been repaired. When in doubt, try to think about what you would want to walk into as a new tenant for the property.

The Keys to Success

Navigating the ins and outs of renting can be a complicated feat. But approaching the task from a foundation of timely communication, responsibility, and trust can help make things much more pleasant between you and your landlord. Follow these tips, and you may even earn a reputation as the Ultimate Ideal Tenant. Best of luck!

1 Rego, Anjali (2021, January 5). Your Rights as a Renter in Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.prepareforcanada.com/after-you-arrive/living-in-canada/what-are-your-rights-as-a-renter/
2 Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (2020, May 6). Renting your first apartment or house. Retrieved from the Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/renting-first-apartment.html
3 Gallant, Kandace (2020, November 19). Tips on how to find good tenants. Retrieved from: https://www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca/landlord-issues/tips-on-how-to-find-good-tenants-334353.aspx
4 Levine, Bruce (2020, February 19). 3 Ways to Develop And Maintain Strong Landlord/Tenant Relationships. Retrieved from: https://www.singlekey.com/blog/3-ways-to-develop-and-maintain-strong-landlord-tenant-relationships/
5 Aha Insurance Why do I need renters insurance in Canada? Retrieved from: https://blog.ahainsurance.ca/prepareforcanada-insurancefornewcomers/why-do-i-need-renters-insurance-in-canada/
6 Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (2018, March 28). Home insurance. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/insurance/home.html
7 Rentals for Newcomers (2021, April 11). Here's What You Need to Know When It Is Time to Move Out. Retrieved from: https://www.rentalsfornewcomers.com/blog/heres-what-you-need-to-know-when-it-is-time-to-move-out

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The information provided on our blog is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good faith, however we make no representation of any kind, express or implied, and should not be considered professional financial investment advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial professional.

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