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Landlord 101: the dos and don'ts

Seminar covers the basics of owning rental property


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Every landlord likely has at least one horror story involving clueless tenants, but most probably don't compare to an incident in Duncan, B.C.

"The tenant decided that the master bedroom would be the perfect spot for a small, above-ground pool — it was a very hot summer," said Landlord BC's Hunter Boucher, during a seminar for landlords at the Whistler Public Library on Oct. 13, to laughs and gasps from the audience.

"It was a small pool. It fit in the room, but it fit in a way that they actually had to take the door off because it wouldn't open in anymore," Boucher said ("Oh my God," was the response from one exasperated landlord).

But the landlords knew their rights and had their bases covered.

"The fact of the matter is they had a clause in their agreement, it was easy for them to resolve," Boucher said.

"You probably could have resolved that anyway without that clause in your agreement, because it's rather unreasonable, but nonetheless, it was in the agreement and they were protected."

The takeaway from the seminar — hosted by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Housing Authority as part of their response to the current housing crunch — is just that: be thorough, be professional and be sure to cover your bases.

"The most important thing you can do as a landlord is know your roles and responsibilities underneath the Residential Tenancy Act... and then also know the roles and responsibilities of your tenant," said Landlord BC's Kimberly Lachuk.

"You need to know what you're allowed to do as a landlord, you need to know what your tenants are and aren't allowed to do, and that's how you can manage that relationship."

Some other key messages: Use application forms (never hand a prospective tenant a tenancy agreement before you're certain you want to rent to them), never take or keep copies of a tenant's personal ID (if it gets stolen, you're liable) and don't discriminate, lest you want to be written up for a human rights complaint (rather than listing "families only," list things that might attract your preferred tenant: close to schools, parks, etc.).

What many landlords don't realize is that they are essentially running a small business, Lachuk said.

"Where some landlords get into trouble is they kind of take a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude, and they don't educate themselves on their roles and responsibilities," she said.

"And if you have to go to arbitration, or a tenant takes you in front of the residential tenancy branch, the government loves the opportunity to say 'Well you're the business owner, you should know what you were doing, right?'"

Rent increases are only permitted once a year, to a maximum set by the province (in 2017 the maximum increase is 3.7 per cent, up from 2.9 per cent last year).

There are a lot of small details to keep track of, but Landlord BC is there to help you navigate the do's and don'ts of property management.

With over 3,000 members representing 150,000 units of rental housing in B.C., Landlord BC is the province's top resource for owners and managers of rental housing.

"Our mission is to provide you with the support and resources you need to succeed in your rental property business, and together with our members we work to professionalize the rental housing industry through education, support and government advocacy," Lachuk said.

Memberships to the not-for-profit cost $150 (plus $7 per door) per year.

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