For a landlord, finding a good tenant is a challenge and a risk at times, you hope you find someone who will stay and provide a steady income stream from your investment. You want someone who will take care of your property as best he or she can. You want someone who is patient and responsible when things do not go well. I have heard anecdotal stories about “bad” tenants and unfriendly, irresponsible landlords. I also know the stories about the difficulties in evicting the “wrong” tenant. Consequently, I advertised the price a little higher than it needed to be. My logic was to attract tenants with a steady income to avoid the possibility of bounced cheques or broken leases. I also thought, quite illogically, that people with good paying jobs were somehow more considerate of others.
Unfortunately, I am embarrassed to say, I contributed to the unaffordability of the neighbourhood and probably prevented some good people with average paying jobs from even considering renting the place. In my defence, I have a small mortgage of about $450 a month, strata fees of over $280 a month, and net municipal taxes of $200 a month. After all is said and done, my property generates a modest return of 1.4 percent which is then taxed as income. I could do better, but I want a responsible caretaker, not a cash cow. I live in the least affordable, least accessible, most overcrowded rental market in the country- Burnaby. It ranks 523 out of 523 municipalities studied across Canada by the Canadian Non-Profit Housing Association.
I met my first tenant and his spouse about four years ago when I was looking to rent out the apartment my family had grown out of. He was very eager to get the place and provided all the possible documentation a landlord could ask for. When I called his reference, a family friend, I was overwhelmed by the positive feelings and respect the reference had for this would-be renter. There were other qualified applicants, but he was the first, so we decided to take a chance. He told me recently that in his youth, he had “done some things” that landed him in trouble, but had turned his life around.
I am glad he didn’t tell tell me this earlier, or that, if he did, I wasn’t listening because I am certain I would probably not have rented to him. I would not have had three years of worry free tenants. I would not have had the opportunity to dogsit his canine companion. And, I would not have gotten the opportunity to write a character reference for him, so that he can get a pardon to enter the United States.
The reason I feel compelled to tell people this is because there is a need for understanding landlords that put people before profits. There is a need for affordable rental homes for young adults that are overcoming challenges in their lives. The Friendly Landlord Network managed through Aunt Leah’s Place, a registered charity, helps young people in BC aging out of foster care into adulthood get a solid foothold in society. In BC, 45 percent of youth leaving foster care end up on the street within three years. Many people, including myself, believe that access to secure housing is the first step toward reversing this trend. A troubled youth does not condemn a person to a troubled adulthood, but uncertainty in housing can result in sad outcomes.
The Friendly Landlord Network is designed to address the housing gap for this demographic that face additional barriers and prejudices in this already brutal rental market. The Network connects Metro Vancouver youth from care, with homeowners and property managers who want to be part of the solution. Each youth is supported by a local youth serving organization, who helps provide landlords with market rent and ongoing tenancy support.