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RENTAL PROPERTY: Key points to consider before becoming a landlord in your own home

Income suites are a hot topic these days given the rising costs of homeownership in Canada. The concept is simple enough — turn an area of your home into a legal self-contained apartment and then collect rent each month to offset the costs of owning and maintaining the property.
This can be a sound investment strategy to achieve the dream of owning a home or to further expand your real estate investment portfolio.
Here are a few things to consider before deciding to become a landlord in your own home.
Financial implications
One of the most obvious advantages of having a legal basement suite is the rental income can help pay down your current mortgage or assist with the ongoing yearly expenses and maintenance of a property once the mortgage has been paid off.
Another advantage is the increase in resale value because income suites attract a wider range of buyers; first-time homeowners hoping to climb up the property ladder, real estate investors wanting to build up their portfolio or buyers who plan to live with extended family or elderly in-laws.
Know the rules
Find out what the rights and responsibilities are for both landlords and tenants by visiting your municipal bylaw office. They will supply you with a copy of the Rental Act that outlines the rules and regulations governing rental suites in your area and the procedure to resolve any disputes that may arise during the tenancy. The bylaw office will also determine whether your income suite complies with local zoning plans or if any permits are needed to legalize changes to your existing suite.
Proper paperwork
A large part of being a successful landlord is having all of your paperwork in order. This is not only important for maintaining a positive relationship with your tenant but also to protect yourself and your property if the tenancy does not work out for some reason.
One of the most challenging aspects of having an income property is finding the right tenant to move into the space. The tenant needs to be well-suited for your individual lifestyle; renting to an operatic singer who practises at home may seem like a great idea at first — free concerts every day — but what happens when it’s time to put your newborn infant down for an afternoon nap?
It is important to qualify all of the prospective tenants who apply to live in your unit. Start by asking them to fill out an application detailing their personal identifying information, employment status and previous rental history.
It is also a good idea to have the tenant supply a few references you can call to verify the information they have provided. Lastly, you will want their permission to perform credit history and criminal record check.
Once the perfect tenant has been selected, sign a lease — standard form leases are available at the municipal bylaw office — detailing every aspect of your arrangement from the rental amount to property rules and the procedure for ending the tenancy. On move-in day, perform a pre-inspection walk through with the tenant and then fill out a rental unit condition report. This report will be compared to the unit condition report filled out when the tenancy is over.
Keep detailed records of how and when the rent is paid, any repairs or maintenance performed on the unit, document any disputes or problems with the tenant and finally, ensure the tenant receives a copy of all of the paperwork for their records.
Having a rental unit in your home can come with a unique set of challenges and not everybody is cut out to be a landlord. But for those of you who tackle this type of property investment, having an income suite can be a “sweet” way to further expand your real estate empire.
By Vanessa Roman