The Scam, and how I reacted.

The Scam involves unwanted and undesirable individuals residing in your property. Typically, new tenants – who have been screened – and move into your rental. Then, without telling you, they move another individual in, one you have not screened and one who would likely of been disqualified. When confronted about the extra person, the tenants will say, “it’s my cousin from Clearwater and he just visiting for a couple of days.” Or, “This is my brother and he’s just staying here until he finds a place of his own.” Sometimes it works out, but it has the potential to go really wrong.

I fell victim to a variation of The Scam this fall. The original tenants were a young couple with two pre-school aged kids. I screened both and found they good jobs in the health care field. Just one month into their tenancy, the two have an argument and the woman moves out taking the kids with her. I was considering evicting the tenant but I decided to talk with him about my concerns instead. One main concern being how was he going to afford the place on his own – not just the rent but added expenses such as heat, light, cable, & internet. I knew how much he made and it would be tight, but it was certainly doable. I also warned him that he was living on his own and “friends” might want to move in with him.

Two months later, a concerned tenant wrote to me about issues with that unit. Living out of town presents some challenges in these situations, fortunately I have excellent maintenance contractors who did a drive by for me, and confirmed the presence of an unauthorized new resident. My wife and immediately drove to Prince George the next day. I emailed and texted the tenant a 24 hour notice to inspect the property. We arrived at the appointed time and walked through the property including the new room mates bedroom. Satisfyingly, we found nothing concerning. I asked the tenant when he was going to tell me about the roommate, I got that “deer in the headlights” look, and no real response from him. The tenant did say he thought he was going to be able to manage on his own but once there was an order for child support payments, he needed a roommate to make ends meet. I did some research on the room mate and discovered he had a checkered past. On the plus side, his Facebook page showed him with his child and other innocuous photos. He is working full time at a good paying job and had been with that employer for four years. So the next question was, do I evict them or do I keep them?

I decided to keep them, but their had to be conditions. The roommate was not going to be added to the rental agreement, meaning that the tenant would be solely responsible for the rent and for the behaviour of the roommate. The two were under strict orders to respect the peace and privacy of their neighbours. Should the roommate fail to follow these instructions, the tenant would be evicted and the roommate would not inherit the tenancy. I did not change the RTA, but I did put the conditions into an email which was then printed and placed into tenant’s file.

There is some good information on the rto.gov.bc website: www2.rto.gov.bc – Go to the website and search: “Quiet enjoyment”, “Changing a Tenancy Agreement” and/or “Roommates” for detailed information. There is a PDF document that is also useful: “13. Rights and Responsibilities of Co-Tenants”.

Essentially, roommates have no right to recourse unless they are added to the RTA, which is why I chose not to add the roommate to the rental agreement. Update: Best case scenario occurred, the roommate chose to move out.