The pitfalls of poor rental history

Credit, rental history may play a factor in whether or not renters can find a place to live

The Residential Tenancies Branch of the provincial government tracks your rental history, which may make it hard to find a place to rent down the road. Cindy Titus

It’s hard finding an apartment while going to school, especially if you’ve made poor financial choices in the past.

“For people, especially young people without a lot of income, there are less and less accommodations,” said Gordon McIntyre, the coordinator of the Winnipeg Rental Network (WRN).

McIntyre, whose organization comprises various communities and private companies working together to help renters find affordable spaces to live, noted that because of the low vacancy rate, landlords can be “picky” about who they choose to rent to.

“Property managers are ... selective of who they choose,” he said. “If you have a poor rental history or even no rental history, like a lot of young people ... you’re out of luck.”

Many landlords use credit checks and the Residential Tenancies Orders System to measure how suitable a potential tenant is, according to McIntyre.

The Orders System is a list of final orders or judgments issued by the Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB). The branch administers the Residential Tenancies Act and oversees rental issues for the provincial government including mediating tenant and landlord disputes and regulating rent increases.

If you have a poor rental history or even no rental history, like a lot of young people ... you’re out of luck.

Gordon McIntyre, coordinator, Winnipeg Rental Network

“The Orders System only includes orders that were officially issued by the Residential Tenancies Branch,” said Linda Wray, the deputy director of the RTB. “Mediated agreements don’t show up on the system.”

Meditations are run by the RTB and are designed so that landlords and tenants can resolve disputes without the RTB having to issue an official order, which is a matter of permanent record.

“Tenants should bring any grievances to mediation first,” Wray said.

For a fee, Winnipeg landlords have access to the Orders System to examine a potential tenant’s past.

According to Wally Ruban, president of the Professional Property Managers Association of Manitoba (PPMA), checking rental history is a crucial part of rental property management.

The PPMA represents owners and property managers of just over 58,000 rental units in Manitoba.

“The landlord’s job is to ensure the safety of all tenants. You wouldn’t want a drug dealer living next door, would you?” he said.

Some tenants, however, believe that even slight misunderstandings can have dire consequences.

“I lived on my own for the first time 12 years ago and got behind in paying rent,” said tenant Erin Parsons. “I didn’t know I had rights.”

Parsons notes that because of poor money management that led to her getting behind in rental payment, she wasn’t able to rent from one rental firm even three years after the incident.

The only way to overcome an order listed against you, according to McIntyre and Ruban, is either to make amends with your former landlord or get good references from new ones.

“You can move (into) a unit you otherwise wouldn’t have and build up your good record for a year then use that reference with other landlords,” said McIntyre.

Published in Volume 65, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 3, 2011)

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