Leave Me Alone In The Rental Market Trenches!

Leasing/Renting | July 12, 2022

There’s an old saying that many of us hold near and dear, and it goes like this:

“Things that are difficult are not worth trying.”

Wait, that can’t be it.

That sounds odd.

I think it was this one:

“Anything that could result in failure shouldn’t be attempted.”

Nah, that’s the same as the above, just different words.

Alright, I got it this time.

It’s this one:

“The surest way to avoid failure is to simply never try.”

That’s it.

That’s the quote I was looking for!

And while it might seem similar to the first two quotes, it’s not.  I’ll explain…

Every summer, the Toronto rental market gets very, very difficult, and every summer, rental agents seem to act like this has never happened before.

To be fair, many rental agents out there today weren’t agents in the summer of 2021, and feel free to insert your joke about them bartending at Joey’s, if you want.

But every summer, with the September 1st occupancy date in extremely high-demand, there’s increased competition for rental properties, and every summer, agents slowly, almost methodically and intentionally put less and less effort into their attempts to secure leases for their clients.

I’m not being facetious here, folks.  I mean it: methodically and intentionally.  As in, agents make a conscious decision to try less as things get harder.

Does that make sense?

Let me give you an example.

I have a lease listing right now, which also means that I have my phone in a goddam holster.

The phone rings every ten minutes and it’s always about this lease.

Here’s the conversation I just had, which made me immediately drop what I was doing, and write this blog post.

Me: David Fleming?

Him: Hello, is that David?

Me: Yes.

Him: David?

Me: Yes?

(author’s note: we’re already off to a rough start…)

Him: Yes, I’m calling about 123 Fake Street?

Me: Yes.

Him: Is the property still available?

Me: Yes, it is.

Him: Great, so do you want to hear a bit about my clients?

Me: What?  Why?

Him: Can I tell you about my clients, a little bit?

Me: Why?

Him: Well, because I want to know if you like them, and if I should show the condo.

Me: You haven’t shown them the condo yet???

Him: No.

Me: Okay.  Uh, why not?

Him: Well, I need to know if you’d like my clients, so I’d know whether or not to show them the condo.

Me: Okay, that’s not really how this works.  You can book a showing on the condo, take your clients, if they like it, then you can submit an offer with terms and conditions to be decided on by you and your clients, submit that offer to myself, and I will present it to my clients.

Him: Yeah, but….

(long pause)

Him: Hello?

Me: Yes?

Him: I mean, can’t we just find out if this is going to work first?

Me: I don’t understand.  If what can work?

Him: I mean if you like my clients.

Me: What do you mean “If I like them?” What does that mean?

Him: I mean, if you like how they sound, what I tell you about them, and if we should bother showing the property and making an offer.

Me: Why would it matter if I like your clients or not?

Him: Because you have to decide whether or not to lease to them.

Me: No, the owners decide whehter or not to lease to them, not me.  It’s not my condo.  They decide, not me, and they would need a rental application, credit check, employment letters, pay stubs, and an actual offer in hand.

Him: I know, but that’s what I’m saying!  Can I tell you about them so I can find out whether to bother showing the condo?

Me: Is it a ‘bother’ for you to show the condo?

Him: What?

Me: You said it’s “if we should bother to show the condo,” so I’m just curious.

Him: (elongated sigh) To answer your question directly, no, I do not want to BOTHER showing the condo if I know in advance that you do not like my client and that we are all wasting our time.

Me: I would reccomend booking a viewing on the condo, taking your clients through, determining if you like the property, working through an Offer To Lease, then….


He hung up on me.

Now, some of you are reading this and thinking, “David, you were somewhat antagonistic,” but to that, I might respond, “Wow, you’re soft.”

Yeah, it’s been that kind of a day, so rather than pull my punches I will simply say that when somebody does a job right, and it’s met with opposition, it doesn’t make the job any less right in the end.

My short, to-the-point answers; “yes, yes, yes,” were not to be antagonistic, but rather served as succinct responses.

“Is the property available?”


That’s all that needs to be said!  Why have a long, drawn-out conversation about this?

In our business, ambiguity can lead to confusion and uncertainty, and that can lead to problems.  Where possible, I always try to be as direct as I can be, and if I’m being honest, I could have been even more direct with this gentleman.

You and I both know what was going on here: he was looking for a short-cut.

But it’s not incumbent upon me to give him that short-cut, nor is it even possible.

Let’s say I answer, “Yes, I’d love to hear about your clients,” and he explains that they are a lovely couple, aged 25 and 24, she works in PR and he works in IT, they make a combined $140,000 per year and have credit scores of 780 and 792 respectively.  She’s a Scorpio and he’s a Pisces.

So, now what?

The decision on whether or not to rent to these candidates is: (a) not mine, but rather the owners’, (b) dependant on other factors, including an actual Offer to Lease.

Now, what if he had said, “My clients are four single guys, looking to construct barracks in the living room of this bachelor condo, each of them is more unstable than the next, none of them are employed, and they all listen to death metal until 5am and never sleep,” then what?

Do I tell him, “I don’t like your clients”?

For one, it’s not my place.

Yes, I advise the owners, since that’s what they hired me for, but it’s not my place to pass judgment directly on to the tenants’ agent.

But secondly, and here’s where our opinions will diverge, I don’t want to do or say anything that would open me up to a discrimination case.

Would you want four single guys living in bunk beds in a one-bedroom condo?  No, of course not.

But would the Ontario Board Of Woe Is Me like to hear that complaint?  Oh, absolutely!

So it’s a very tough spot for a listing agent to be in, and there’s no real upside.

It’s not for lack of sympathy on my part.  I have agents on my team and our brokerage is full of agents who are running around losing their 4th, 5th, and 6th offers with rental clients, each and every day of the week.

But there simply aren’t any short cuts and there never will be.

Last week, I recieved seven offers on a lease listing, all on the same day, and I went through them one at a time.

I sent them to my client, we went through them together, we found the candidate that we liked the most, and we accepted their offer.

The interesting part was: one of the agents didn’t send an offer, but rather only sent his clients’ rental application, employment letter, and credit check.

I simply moved right past this.  As far as I was concerned, this application/offer was incomplete.

After accepting the most suitable offer, I emailed the other six agents and thanked them for their offer and their efforts, informed them that we had selected another candidate, and wished them the best in their property search.

My phone rang – not my cell phone, but my land line, because this was Friday and Rogers was down.  I picked it up and held it to my head like it was 2004, and the agent on the other end of the line was furious!

“How can you have accepted an offer?” He asked me.  “You don’t even have our offer in hand yet?”

I didn’t know who he was, by the way.  He just started yelling as soon as I answered the phone.

I asked him to slow down, then told him to tell me which property he was referencing, what his name was, which brokerage, which offer, who the client was, etc.

He told me who he was and said that he submitted an “application” on the condo but never heard back, and then got an email saying that the property was leased.

Now it made sense.

This was the agent who submitted an offer without an actual offer – just the rental application, employment letter, and credit check.

“I was submitting my clients’ information so you could approve them,” he said.  “Then, if they were approved, I would take the next step and submit a formal offer.”

I followed his logic, but didn’t follow his reasoning.

“Why didn’t you submit the offer with the application?” I asked.

“Because I needed to know if the clients would be approved first,” he said, with a ‘duh’ undertone.

Again, his statement of facts had logic!  But they didn’t make any sense.

I had no idea how or why this agent came to believe that this was the process of securing a lease for his clients.  Perhaps, this was how another listing agent did it elsewhere, or maybe he had previously applied through a property management company.  I don’t know.  I’m just throwing out guesses here.

But wherever I look, short-cuts are being taken, mistakes are being made, and all the while, it’s the tenants who suffer.

Earlier today, I had an interesting one.

I told a client once, “If a rental agent provides too long of an explanation, it’s probably a concern.”

To the point: the more they talk and explain, the more you know you’re being sold.

An agent called me today and told me that his client would be making an offer to lease, but it wouldn’t be his client’s name on the lease; it would be her husband’s name instead.

Not only that, her boyfriend would be on the lease.

And lastly, the husband’s brother would be co-signing.


So was I!

In fact, I drew a map with the names and a bunch of arrows.  It goes something like this:

Butch and Mia are married.

Butch and Mia are breaking up.

Mia wants to lease the condo with her boyfriend, Vincent.

But Mia has a credit score of 512 and is between jobs, and thus her husband, who is soon-to-be ex-husband, Butch, is going to lease the property on her behalf, for reasons unexplained.

But Mia wants to live with Vincent, so as strange as it is to see Butch lease the property for Mia and her new boyfriend, Butch is doing exactly that.

But then who is on title?

Butch and Vincent.

Even though they’re not living together.

Now, there’s another wrinkle.

Out in Alberta, Butch’s brother, Jules’, wanted to buy a house but couldn’t get qualified on his own, so Butch co-signed for Jules.  Even though, according to the rental agent, Jules makes all the payments on his own, it still saddles Butch with a credit risk.

Enter: Marsellus.

Marsellus is Butch and Jules’ other brother, who is going to act as a guarantor for Butch.

So Mia is renting the condo.

Mia is living with Vincent.

Butch is on title, not Mia.

Butch and Vincent are on title, and the only thing they have in common is that one is dating Mia and the other is married to her.

Butch has two brothers, Jules and Marsellus, and since Butch helped Jules by co-signing his mortgage, Marsellus is now going to help Butch by guaranteeing his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s lease, with her current boyfriend.

I swear, you can’t make this shit up.

I actually drew a Venn Diagram on a “Toronto Realty Group” notepad, which I would share with you now, except it has the individuals’ real names.

So then, which of the following situations do we find ourselves in:

1) This scenario is convoluted and fabricated in attempts to defraud my landlord-client.
2) This scenario is so odd that it must be true

Honestly, I believe it’s the latter!

But my clients took a “hard pass” line toward the offer and the family situation, and decided to take a look at one of the other dozen offers that will surely be coming in the next twenty-four hours.

Folks, I have more stories like this.  Many, in fact.

There are no shortage of stories from the trenches in our summer rental market, but it often pains me to share them because they’re just so infuriating.

When I said I was sympathetic, I mean it.

I know how hard this business is, and when the market is roaring and I have twenty offers on a listing, I personally call the nineteen agents who last that night and thank them for their efforts.

But when agents are looking to take short-cuts, get lazy, or don’t want to do their job, then my sympathy dries up.

An agent in my brokerage made twelve offers to lease on behalf of tenants who I never thought would find a landlord who would rent to them, and not once did she ever blame the market, blame listing agents, blame landlords, or try to seek a short-cut that would avoid her having to do her job.

That is great work.  That is hard work.  And that’s work that is necessary in this market.

The rental market will change again in the fall, as it does every year.

But for now, rental agents are mired in the muck at the bottom of the real estate trenches.

Just keep your heads down…

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  1. JF007

    at 6:35 am

    David I have a writer friend maybe he can make Butch and Mia into a novel ???????????????? you want me to put you in touch with him ????????????…hilarious..

  2. Graham

    at 8:55 am

    David, some of the confusion may be you answering the phone with your name as a question. 🙂 I’d recommend adopting “Go for Fleming” as your new greeting.

    1. JL

      at 9:20 am

      I was confused by that question mark too, but “Go for Fleming” does sound pretty cool! LOL

  3. JL

    at 9:41 am

    I have to say I do have some sympathy for those searching for shortcuts; not because its “right” (in the professional sense) or to approve of laziness, but a part of it is clearly just people working within a system that is administrative, frustrating, and can involve a lot of wasted time. These agents are simply trying to get around that, or in their mind “fix the process”, in a sense. Now, clearly David has little incentive to play along due to other risks, as he points out, but I think we all see the problem – why bother booking, showing, and applying when a simple conversation “could” potentially tell you not to bother.

    Let’s say the response to the agent was something generic: “I can’t comment on particulars, but my clients are looking for tenants with a flawless history and top financials”. Finding a way to give some indication of expectations would help grease the wheels of the process a bit, I think. Same issue with sellers (List at $1M; refuse to say if $1M is real price or not and demand a submitted offer; refuse offer at $1M or even $1.1M because want someone to come along and give $1.2M). I get the strategy, but withholding too much info on expectations generates waste on the buyer side that agents are, somewhat sensibly, trying to avoid.

    1. Bal

      at 12:52 pm

      interest rates are doing the magic …..i guess now supply won’t be a issue …..by the way what happened to Chris…..where did he disappear ….

  4. Bob

    at 2:50 pm

    On shortcuts…

    Technically taking 12 months up front, or even 3 months, is illegal. But obviously a successful renter won’t make an issue of it and nobody else will know.

    People asking if you’ll take the buyer are technically putting you at legal risk. But it’s super common and many realtors will let you know if it’s worth making an offer/doing a showing.

    I recent;y had to move thanks to issues with my house. I am a great tenant but not a 32 year old senior associate at Osler’s with a paycheque to show and don’t want to hand over my tax returns for 3 years to god knows how many people. My agent talked to other agents about this and generally got answers which helped narrow our workload in terms of offers and showings (I don’t want to send info to people who won’t accept and don’t want to go through 10 more showings that have zero chance of success…)

    Lots of agents will not just offer feedback that puts them at risk of OHRC THEY WILL ASK FOR ILLEGAL INFORMATION! I was asked about my citizenship!!!

    Only certain types of agents are realistically at risk from a human rights complaint and lots of agents either don’t know their theoretical risk, just don’t care, or are making an accurate assessment that they are unlikely to be pursued. IT actually does help clients as well as their agents, even if it’s illegal.

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