Civil forfeiture in Canada: protect your home from the risk of government seizure.

Under the laws of civil forfeiture, be prepared to give up the largest asset to your name while being completely innocent.

Canadian civil forfeiture laws allow provincial governments to seize your property without compensation, so long as the property is suspected of hosting illegal activity. Being charged with a crime isn’t even required; simply being suspected of a crime while on your property could mean it’s game over.

The worst part is, you may not even be the perpetrator of a crime.

Some have argued that the state’s ability to seize assets in the absence of criminal convictions will ultimately lead to the erosion of private property rights. After all, why should landlords continue to own and invest in something that might cost them more than they would pay out?

Civil forfeiture can lead to huge financial losses in rental income and legal fees, and a decrease in property valuation, not to mention reputation damage, loss of trust within the community, and so on and so forth. Your wallet and your character – can take a hit. The worst part is, you may not even be the perpetrator of a crime; your tenant might be the criminal, and you could just be the victim.

Failing to protect yourself against risky, criminal tenants can be disastrous. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the risk of tenant-related civil forfeiture.

Ask the tough questions.

Although not bulletproof, you can reduce the risk of having a risky tenant move into your property by providing a thorough, comprehensive rental application during the screening process. Protect yourself by asking tenants tough, honest questions.

Ask questions like:

  • Who will be moving in with you and how do you know each other?
  • What do you do for work?
  • How often do you expect to be home?
  • What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Get some insight into their lifestyle and personality by asking the right questions. The more you know, the more you’ll have to make an informed decision.

Catch them if you can.

It’s important to know (and understand) a tenant’s criminal history to predict the risk of them conducting illegal activity on your property. If they were previously charged with smuggling marijuana across the border, that’s something you might want to know and address.

Yes, “career criminals” exist, but don’t forget about the one-off offenders. You might be surprised by what you hear when you give people an opportunity to speak and reason.

Of course, criminal background checks don’t say it all, but they’re necessary for gathering basic information. And in the event that a cleared background check disappoints you and the tenant ends up committing a crime on your property anyway, at least you’d have due diligence to back you up in court.

You might be surprised by what you hear when you give people an opportunity to speak and reason.

Grab a coffee with their references.

Don’t just take the tenant for their word; talk to their references, the people who supposedly know them best. You can learn a lot by having genuine, meaningful conversations with tenants’ references. And don’t just ask these references about the tenant; get to know these professionals, family members, and friends themselves. After all, these people may be coming in and out of your property every once in a while.

Talking to personal and professional references can give you the tools to assess the tenant’s risk for yourself.

Detect, protect, and inspect.

Protect your home with mandatory inspections, and have them done quarterly at minimum. If there’s suspicious activity on your property, a thorough expert inspection can detect this, especially where your unaccustomed eye cannot.

Keep in mind that tenants use and interact with your living space every day. They understand the internal systems better than you, and can find (or create) cracks and holes in your home’s security. Regular home inspections will prevent these subtleties from slipping through and can offer some insight into what your tenants might be doing when you’re not around.

If there’s suspicious activity on your property, a thorough expert inspection can detect this, especially where your unaccustomed eye cannot.

Bad deeds, good lawyers.

A tight, detailed lease agreement that separates the responsibilities of a tenant from a landlord is absolutely essential. It may be legal jargon to you, but it’s the strongest defence you have against the risk of civil forfeiture.

Have a lawyer create the lease agreement, and have another lawyer proofread it. Ensure the lease specifies a provision that a tenant cannot conduct illegal activity on the property as part of the terms, and that any breach would be grounds for early lease termination and immediate eviction.

Lawyers can also help you draft a clause stating how you are protected from criminal liability should your tenant conduct illegal activity on your property. If it’s signed, specific, and documented in writing, this will ensure your rear end is protected.

It may be legal jargon to you, but it’s the strongest defence you have against the risk of civil forfeiture.

Do your due diligence as a landlord.

Protecting yourself from the risk of tenant-related civil forfeiture requires showing your due diligence as a landlord. The last thing you want to be seen as is ignorant. Show the courts that you did everything you possibly could to prevent illegal activity from taking place on your property. Screen excessively, get to know your tenants, and be unduly diligent. Only in doing so can you reduce the risk of bringing in poor tenants that may cost you your entire property.

Don’t let yourself be a victim!

 

Naborly offers criminal background checks in Canada and the US, and NaborlyShield protects you from the costs associated with evicting a tenant.