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Archive for June, 2015

10 ways to avoid the tenant from hell

Most residential tenants are long term tenants who pay their rent on time and properly look after a landlord’s property. The trick is to do the proper research in advance so that you do not end up with the tenant from hell. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. When you advertise for tenants, always state “we do background and credit checks.” You will receive a greater percentage of qualified tenants.
  1. Do a proper credit check using Equifax or TransUnion. The cost is approximately $20. Or join a group such as the Ontario Landlord Association where after becoming a member, you can do a credit check for as low as $10, and receive use of all of their supporting materials to assist you.
  1. Call all references, especially prior landlords. Remember that the current landlord may be lying just to get rid of them. Start with the previous landlord.
  1. Check social media. Google the tenant to make sure the information in their rental application checks out with what is online. In addition, if you are concerned about possible pets, check Facebook. If the tenant has a pet, there will likely be a picture of them with the pet on Facebook.
  1. In a face to face interview, there are signs that may indicate that the tenant is not being truthful. This can include one or more of the following: incomplete answers, not looking at you in the eye when they speak, changing the subject, fidgeting or dropping names of important people.
  1. When interviewing tenants, ask open ended questions such as “Tell me about yourself or why are you leaving your current apartment?” You will be surprised how much you can learn about someone with such simple questions.
  1. Interview the tenant where they currently live. Check their car when they come to see your place. You will see first-hand how they treat someone else’s property. It is also hard to hide the smell of a pet, if you are concerned about that.
  1. Give the tenant a deal. It should not be about charging the highest rent possible. When tenants think they overpaid, they will almost immediately start looking for another place to live. Give tenants a break and they will be happier, and stay longer.
  1. Give tenants incentives. Why not a $10 gift card if the rent is paid on time? Or a Christmas present, just to show that you appreciate your tenant. Treating a tenant with respect often results in the tenant not only paying the rent on time, but they will also take care of your property better.
  1. If you still end up with the tenant from hell, act quickly to serve all notices and use an experienced paralegal to assist you. An experienced paralegal knows the tricks that professional tenants use.

By doing the right research in advance and treating your tenants with respect, you can ensure that your real estate investment continues to increase in value.


Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at

Five ways to avoid buying the wrong house

Here are five lessons to remember to make sure you do not make a major mistake when buying a home:

1.  Research your seller and the neighbourhood

Make sure you are close to public transit if that is a concern. What schools are in the area and is there a waiting list to get in? Check out the police websites to study crime statistics in neighbourhoods. Walk any neighbourhood you are interested in and talk to people. By speaking to people, you can not only get a sense of the friendliness of the community, but also as to whether there are any surprises that no one is going to advertise, such as a former grow house, or the neighbour from hell. See if there are any basement apartments in the area if that is important to you as well. Ask any seller if they have had any major floods or made any insurance claims.

2. Find the right real estate agent for your needs

Do not go into an open house alone, thinking you can save commission. The agent is working for the seller and their job is to get the seller the most money they can. While focusing on saving a few dollars negotiating commission, you may give away important information about yourself which could hurt you later in the negotiations. Start by asking family and friends for a buyer agent referral. Then study the agent’s own website. Do they offer you information that will assist you with your search? Do they have a team of professionals that they can share with you? When you interview them, ask them about their knowledge of the area; in particular, is it known for sewage backups, termites, flooding or mould.

3. How much can you afford?

You should never live just to pay your mortgage, or else the rest of your quality of life will suffer. Meet with a mortgage broker in advance to determine how much you can safely borrow, based on your income and family needs. Remember that even if you prequalify for a mortgage, the lender will still do an appraisal and if the lender believes you paid more than the house is worth, they will not give you the full amount of the loan that you expect. So, be very careful about stretching to the limit in any bidding war. Make sure you have an extra 5-10% as a down payment in reserve, just in case.

4. Choose a home inspector carefully

The home inspection is becoming even more important as it is still one of the only ways for a buyer to check against unwanted surprises after closing. Again, ask for references from any company you are considering and call these references yourself, especially those that bought older homes, where problems are more likely to occur later. There are now additional inspections that you can do, for a fee, to test specifically for mould or termites. There are video cameras that can tell you the condition of your sewage system and scanners that can look behind walls. If it is an older home, it is worth this extra investment. Remember, most inspection firms have a limitation of liability clause, which states that they can only report on visible defects, so if they miss something behind the wall that costs you money later, they are not responsible.  Ask the company if they have ever been sued by a buyer. Consider paying for an inspection before making any offer if you are in a bidding war.

5. Understand the bidding war rules

(While this is generally not a major concern in our Ottawa market, it can and does occur. Robert)

This is the main reason you will overpay, when you panic while you are caught up in a bidding war. Find out first what the house should sell for, as some sellers deliberately list for a price below market value to attract a high number of buyers. Do not tip your hand. If you give your offer too early in the day, the seller’s agent will call everyone immediately to try and encourage a bidding war. Bring in your offer around 7 pm and make the irrevocable period no more than 4 hours. Put the pressure on the seller, not on yourself.

Instead of panicking, if you follow these steps and buy with your head instead of your heart, chances are you’ll get the house you want at a price you can afford, with no unwanted surprises later.

Mark Weisleder is an author and speaker to the real estate industry and Partner at the law firm Real Estate LLP.

Cottage time

Buying a house in the city or suburbs can be complicated enough, but buying a cottage or vacation property outside of town requires even more due diligence.

In town, you probably wouldn’t ask if the water coming out of the tap is drinkable. Nor would you wonder if the plumbing was hooked up to the sanitary sewer. But these are exactly the sorts of questions you should ask when buying a cottage, plus a few more.

1.  Get an inspection: Cottages are usually occasional residences and so may not be as properly maintained as they should be. This is why every purchase should be conditional on a satisfactory professional home inspection. If the cottage has a wood-burning stove or fireplace, then a certificate must be requested from a Wood Energy Technical Transfer specialist, to confirm that the system was installed and is operating correctly. To find out more about this, go to

2.  Is the water drinkable? There are two areas of concern when it comes to water — the quantity and quality. .

Ask the sellers for these things:

A potability certificate from the local health authority, confirming the water is safe to drink;

Confirmation that the well, the pump and related equipment have performed adequately during the seller’s occupancy;

Confirmation that there is an adequate rate of flow for normal household use;

Provision of a well driller’s certificate, if available; and

The location of the well.

A separate inspection may be needed. If nothing else it gives you an idea of what it would cost to replace the well if it fails.

3.  How’s the septic system? Septic systems present their own difficulties because it is usually difficult to tell during an inspection how long the system may last. The replacement cost can be up to $20,000, especially if there are stringent environmental regulations in your area.

You want to know whether:

  1. The system was installed with all necessary permits;
  2. The system has been adequately maintained and is working properly;
  3. The seller will provide copies of any inspection or approval reports;
  4. The seller agrees to pump out the tank at their expense prior to closing; and
  5. There are no work orders on file with the Ministry of the Environment or the local municipality.

The buyer should arrange for their own separate inspection of the system itself.

4.  What’s the road allowance? Even if your cottage fronts on water, this does not mean you own the land up to the lake. The first 66 feet fronting onto the lake is typically owned by the local municipality and is referred to as the shore road allowance.

Although you have access to the water, you can’t stop others from using it. Nor can you build anything on that 66-foot piece of land. Many cottagers have found out afterwards that either all or part of their cottage was built on land that they do not own.

You may be able to buy the land from the municipality or the province, as the case may be.

5.  What about Hydro easements? Check to see if there are any hydro poles or lines on the property. It is possible that Hydro has easements which could affect where your cottage can be built that are not registered on title.

6.  Access to the cottage: If you do not have year round access by a city road, then you must ask how you get from the road to your property. If it is a private right of way over a neighbour’s land, you must understand the terms of this agreement to ensure it is year round access and it is clear who is responsible for maintaining the road.

If there is no registered right of way, it can be a nightmare, with owners fighting over who owns it.

In addition, check the local zoning by-laws to make sure the property is not zoned only for “seasonal” use. In these cases, the municipality may not be providing road maintenance, snow removal, garbage pick up or emergency services during the winter.

By being properly prepared before buying a cottage, you will avoid unwelcome surprises after closing.

By: Mark WeislederReal Estate,Published on Fri Jul 25 2014