You’ve decided to take the big leap and have a rental suite. This is a big step and may end up costing you a bit of money in order to comply with local by-laws, etc. If you’ve every watch the show on HGTV called Income Property you’ll realize that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it’s work and getting the right tenant can be a challenge. We’re not talking about the mother-in-law suite here; any rental to an immediate relative (parent or sibling) is not considered a rental and the income is not reportable for tax purposes.
The first thing you need to do is ensure that you’re suite is legal. You need to check with your municipality and register the suite. Yes, this is a cost, however, in the end it may end up costing you way more by not registering the suite. You may have to do some updates on the suite to make it fit to code for your municipality. Any updates you do to the rental suite would be part of the cost of getting the rental ‘rentable’ so you can write off those costs; just ensure you keep receipts and get a receipt for any work you have done to the rental suite.
Second, get a good tenant agreement ready. Get it in writing is very important when it comes to landlord/tenant relationships. There are standard agreements you can get from your office supply store or online. Ensure that any agreement meets your provinces tenancy laws. You should also check out your provinces tenancy laws. For BC, check out the Residential Tenancy Branch website. Here you’ll find all the rules regarding tenancy, and what you can and cannot do as a landlord.
Third, you need to decide what the rent will be. You can go online and search for rental properties in your area. Don’t be the lowest, as you’ll just attract the dollar shoppers, and they’ll leave the second they find something cheaper. Look at suites that are similar to yours and what amenities they have and what amenities are close to those properties.
Now it’s time to market your property. You can do this yourself on Craigslist, newspaper ads, etc. You can also hire a property management company. These companies can take care of finding tenants, collecting rents, maintenance, etc. They charge a fee, and this fee is tax deductible. Check online for your area, and if you know any landlords ask them you they are using as a property manager.
There are other considerations for a rental suite. What will be the effect on the price or saleability of your home in the future? Will it increase my assessed value? Or decrease it? If you’re the only rental suite in the area, it may be attractive to buyers later on. However, if you’re in an upper class neighbourhood, it may be frowned upon to have a rental suite. You have to decide if it’s worth the extra income to have a rental suite.
For tax purposes, any income you receive from a rental (even room and board) is considered taxable income. You must report it on your personal tax return using the form T776 Statement of Real Estate Rentals. Here you state your rental income received and any related expenses. You can claim advertising, insurance, interest, office expenses, legal/accounting/professional services, management fees, maintenance & repairs, salaries/wages/benefits of employees, property taxes/city utilities, travel (if rental is out of town), and automobile expenses. You must keep receipts in order to get the deduction.
If you have a loss from the rental suite, you can deduct that from other income you have for the year, thereby, reducing your tax burden. However, don’t buy a rental property or put in a rental suite to produce a loss. You have to think of rental suites/properties as a business, and most businesses exist to make a profit, not produce a loss.
A rental suite or property can be a great way to make additional income, however, like anything it’s not as easy as it looks and there are tax implications of doing so. You have to look at all the facts and then decide whether or not a rental suite/property is right for you.
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