Leader columnist Frank Fourchalk offers security tips for landlords who rent basement suites.

Basement suite security: Living with strangers

The number-one concern when searching for tenants should be your family’s safety and security.

With today’s increase in basement suites as “mortgage helpers,” homeowners need to focus on the importance of their home security.

Let’s face it, renting to strangers can be a “crap shoot,” so homeowners need to take certain precautions to assure everybody living under the same roof stays safe.

When searching for a tenant, most homeowners are aware of the basic requirements like job security, good credit, and of course cash for the damage deposit and first month’s rent.

But the number-one concern when searching for tenants should be your family’s safety and security. It’s important to take the time to do a thorough screening of each and every applicant.

Don’t just do phone interviews. You need to meet and interview the person face to face. You can learn a lot about a future tenant by observing their body language.

For instance, do they make eye contact with you when discussing their past tenancies?

Make sure you have your potential tenant fill out your own personal rental application form that asks all the questions you need to know about the applicant before renting the suite.

For example, you need to know about current and previous employers, particularly how long they’ve been at their current job.

Run a background check, this will give you a detailed report of the tenant’s past. You may want to investigate the applicant’s eviction history as well as criminal history.

Don’t accept anyone with a criminal history where you may be putting yourself or your family in harm’s way.

Frank FourchalkYou may not want to give tenancy to someone whose switched jobs several times as this may raise red flags on the person’s temperament or ability to get along with people.

Make sure you request contact information from previous landlords as well as addresses and reasons for leaving.

Always check for loopholes on the application because you never know if the applicant is trying to cover something up. For instance, there could be holes in the rental history where a landlord is missing.

List exactly how many folks will be living with the applicant. There should be a clause in the rental contract stating that any other person wanting to move in needs to be approved by the landlord.

All personal references should include names, phone numbers and the length of time they have known each other.

Make sure your tenant application form states that a background check, credit check and most importantly, a criminal record check, will be done.

Always check to see if the person applying for tenancy has been involved in a legal battle either in the past or present. Often legal battles can highlight a problem person.

When talking to previous landlords often the questions centre around rent payments. Don’t hesitate to ask previous landlords about the tenant’s lifestyle to get a good sense of who will be living in your home.

Always get a copy of the applicant’s pay stub to verify income. This will not only assure they can afford the rent but that they are employed in a legitimate career.

Once your respectful tenants have been chosen, don’t hesitate to discuss the importance of home security to you and your family.

When you have two families living in a home together, you’re obviously at a higher risk somebody will breach the security. So make sure you meet with your tenants and have them sign an agreement stating they’ll follow all your security demands as a landlord.

This will include making sure the locks are secured and the alarm is armed before the suite is left vacant. You may also request exterior lighting to be left on at night.

All too often, tenants don’t realize how important not only for themselves but for you as a landlord and your family to make sure their suite is secure.

So always remember to take the time to check out future basement tenants, especially when these folks will be living and sharing the same house as you and your family.

And don’t forget instincts are important, so trust your intuitions and make sure you follow up with the necessary checks to keep you and your loved ones safe at home.

Frank Fourchalk is a security professional with 26 years in the business. You can visit his website at www.yourhomesecurity.ca. You can also e-mail frank at Fourchalk@shaw.ca


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