landlord signing sheet

October 5th, 2018

6 common mistakes to avoid as a landlord

Being a landlord isn’t always the walk in the park that many envision. Being a responsible property owner requires great communication skills, organization and ongoing maintenance.

In this post, we’re going to go over some of the worst landlord behaviours in hopes that you will not repeat them. Some of the points on this list can land you in trouble with the law.

Not screening tenants

This is a preemptive measure taken before you hand the keys of your rental over to a stranger. Screening tenants and running the adequate checks ensures you get a responsible renter who pays their bills on time. Never rush this process, no matter how badly you want your unit filled.

When you get interested renters, give them an application form to fill out first. This forces them to provide personal information that you can go on to verify and scrutinize. Call the references they’ve listed and go the extra mile by doing an online search for their workplace. Does it exist?

Next, ask them for a credit report or process this yourself so you can judge their level of financial aptitude.

Even if the tenant can make the rental deposit on the spot, do your homework first and give yourself enough time from the beginning. Mistakes here could cost you in property damage or unpaid rent.

Thinking the property will never be vacant

Sometimes, tenants move out! It’s a part of life. And no, another tenant won’t just magically move in the next day.

You’ll need to employ the above step – screening tenants – and make sure you have enough savings (in advance) to cover a vacant month if it occurs.

Are you able to pay the mortgage if you have to fix or update a unit between tenants and potentially forgo a month of income? Don’t risk any financial hardship or possible foreclosure on your property by neglecting the numbers.

Run a simple cash flow analysis that calculates all your income, your costs and mortgage payments for any interim period.

Underestimating the costs of ongoing property maintenance

In order to attract and keep tenants, your property needs to be well maintained. This is why you charge just enough rent to cover a portion of any continual property maintenance.

Consider costs for painting and cleaning between tenants, landscaping or lawn care in the summer, and snow removal in the winter.

Have an emergency fund for bigger fixes, like if an appliance breaks.

Treating it as a hobby

Being a landlord is like running a small business, so you have to stay logical and attentive at all times.

You’ll need a business account for deposits, expenses and tax purposes. Make sure you’re keeping all your records, providing rental receipts and making copies. There is an administrative burden with this job, something you may wish to offload to a property management company.

Hire a tax professional so you know you’re handling your expenses properly and paying all the proper taxes.


If you discriminate against a tenant, by perhaps asking illegal questions during the screening or interview process, you could face legal consequences.

The Human Rights Code of Ontario states that discrimination in housing means:

“Being treated unfairly because of your race or colour, your birthplace, citizenship or ethnic background, your religion, age, sex, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression … [if] you are pregnant or have children, or you receive social assistance or welfare.”

You cannot refuse an application or opportunity based on any discriminating factor above.

Neglecting tenant concerns

Neglecting the property or any tenant concerns ensures that you will have to pay more when something major goes wrong.

A good landlord checks on the property regularly, perhaps on an annual basis with any long term tenants. Make sure things are in working order and inquire about any tenant concerns they may not have told you.

Remember, there are laws that prevent you from entering your tenant’s unit without notice, so make sure you’re not violating anyone’s privacy.

Not writing things down

This is a big one. Having clear evidence of conversations, property visits and any emails or texts back and forth will come in handy if you’re ever taken to court by a tenant, or if you need to take them to court.

Take notes on any interaction you have with them that goes beyond pleasantries, so you can have something to back you up in case things get contested.

Know your rights

Being a landlord is an actual business venture that requires you to be responsive, communicative and fair with your tenants.

Stay on top of your administrative work so you can produce documents when called upon, and make sure you have enough savings to cover costs during any vacancies.

Whether it’s one unit or twenty, being a landlord can surely feel like a full-time job.