Tenant’s misrepresentation offers landlord the possibility of terminating lease
Q: I own a side-by-side double in Ottawa. I live in one side and rent out the other. I recently rented to a person who told me his name was James Smith. I did a reference check with the person Smith said was his current landlord. The reference check was fine and I signed a lease with Smith. A few days ago, the police interviewed me, and I learned that the tenant’s name is completely different from James Smith and that he has a lengthy criminal record. I presume the “former landlord” was a friend he had coached to provide the reference. If I had known the man was lying to me and had a criminal record, I would have never rented to him. Is there anything I can do?
A: People with criminal records need to live somewhere. If that issue matters to you, then you should have checked government issued photo ID, and done a criminal records check before you rented your unit.
In many cases a landlord has little recourse if a tenant bends the truth or even lies on a rental application.However, in your case, if the criminal record is problematic the Landlord and Tenant Board will probably not be sympathetic to your tenant, and you may be able to evict him using one of several different approaches.
The rst is to take the position that the tenant is an unauthorized occupant. The argument would be that your offer to rent was made to James Smith and so you never agreed to rent to this person (let’s call him X). Therefore, the meeting of minds that is required to make a valid agreement never took place.
X could argue that he has given you rent, and you have taken it. He would argue that you agreed to rent to him, the person talking to you, even though the lease is in the wrong name. While each case at the board is decided individually, and X’s argument might succeed, you are more likely than not to win with your argument.
Generally, a landlord has to apply to the board within 60 days of discovering an unauthorized occupancy. However, in this case you need to apply before you accept rent from X (knowing that he is not James Smith). If you accept rent, you will probably create ate nancy with X.
The second approach would be to say that the tenant has substantial interfered with your lawful rights and interests, since you had a right to receive truthful information to decide whether to enter into the tenancy agreement. This situation is unusual in that the interference is usually behaviour that takes place during the tenancy and not before it. The tenant could argue that when he committed his wrongful act, you were not his landlord and he was not your tenant.
The third approach is to argue that the tenant committed an illegal act by giving the false name in order to defraud you by obtaining a service (namely the rental agreement).
The way to prevent such problems is to perform a thorough reference check, going back at least two landlords, checking a prospective tenant’s government issued photo identi cation and verifying the prospective tenant’s income with their employer. A landlord can only ask about a prospective tenant’s income if the landlord also asks for credit references, rent history and credit checks.