Looking to Rent? How to Verify a Property Owner

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While it’s easy to get consumed with location, size, and cost when looking for your perfect rental, make sure that you also consider the person you are renting from.

Landlords have many resources available to them to help them determine the suitability of tenants. Unfortunately, those same tools are not available to tenants looking to verify landlords.

Even though there is no official process to make sure you are renting from a reputable person, there are still ways that you can protect yourself and your sanity when entering into your first rental agreement.

Ask Questions

Of course you will ask questions about the rental unit, but you also want to make sure that your questions focus on the landlord him or herself.

Honest and diligent landlords should be happy to answer your questions and will likely view them as a sign that you are an honest and diligent tenant.

You should make sure to ask the following questions:

  • How long were the previous tenants here?
  • Why did they move?
  • Is it possible to speak with them?
  • Can you tell me about the neighbours?

Talk to the Previous Tenant

If you can determine the contact information for any of the previous tenants, make sure to contact them. Ask them their opinions of the rental unit and the landlord. Also, ask them about why they left to ensure you received an accurate answer from the landlord.

Landlords often check references for potential tenants; you should make it your duty to do the same.

Check the Land Registry

Check the Land Registry to make sure that the person claiming to be landlord actually owns the house.

This will help you prevent being scammed by someone looking to steal security deposits from potential renters. This will also help you determine if the person you are renting from is authorised to rent the house to tenants.

You don’t want to be in a situation where you sign a lease as a sub-letter and the actual homeowner doesn’t even know you’re there.

Request Proof of Ability to Rent

After you determine the status of the person claiming to be the landlord, you should investigate any legal barriers to them being allowed to rent you the space.

For example, some mortgages are not designed for investment properties and may contain clauses that preclude the owner from renting them out. If this is the case, and the owner forecloses on the home, you could be in a position where you have limited rights as an unauthorised renter.

The homeowner may also be bound to Homeowner Association rules or other community or local agreements that preclude them from having renters.

If you are not completely sure that your potential landlord is legally permitted to rent his or her property, ask for a statement of proof for verification.

Do a Face-to-Face

These days, it’s easy to accomplish most things online without ever having to do a site visit or face-to-face meeting. And while this is convenient, it’s not the best way to handle renting a new house or apartment.

When considering a new rental, it’s always best to visit. You want to physically inspect the property to ensure it meets your expectations and fits your needs. Check to see if there are any obvious issues with the place, as you don’t want to be caught off guard.

You also want to visit the neighbourhood of the rental. How is the traffic? How is the noise level? Does the neighborhood seem safe? What’s it like during the day, and later at night? Some streets are quiet during the day, while neighbours are at work, but transform into a very different atmosphere once the sun goes down.

It is equally important to get a face-to-face with the landlord. Generally, you can get a better character assessment if you meet with someone in person. Furthermore, you want to make sure that they have access to the rental unit and are familiar with the home and community.

Evaluate the Payment Method

When talking with your landlord, make sure you understand their desired payment methods.

You want to ensure that you are able to accommodate the type of transactions they require, but more importantly, you want to make sure that their payment requests don’t raise any red flags.

If a landlord asks you to wire them money through a money transferring service or wants you to provide your bank account information, they might be part of a rental scam.

Common ways to pay rent are:

  • In-person cash exchange
  • Cheque
  • Bank deposit
  • EFTPOS
  • Credit Card

In all payment arrangements, make sure you get a receipt for each transaction and keep accurate records.

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