Red Deer’s CMHA executive director Christine Stewart, with board chair Graham Barclay. (Advocate file photo).

Learning to be a good tenant could help Red Deer’s homeless land accommodations

Free RentSmart program offered by CMHA

A “good tenant” program that could help reduce Red Deer’s homeless population is being brought to the city by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

RentSmart teaches participants how to be good renters — or good landlords, depending on who’s signed up for the free three-hour or 16-hour course.

The tenant portion is expected to be more popular. It is aimed at helping either entirely new renters or people who have had troubles getting references enter Red Deer’s tight rent market.

“I hope it helps with Red Deer’s homeless problem,” said Christine Stewart, executive-director of the Red Deer CMHA.

With a low vacancy rate, landlords often dismiss applicants who can’t produce good references. Stewart said this disqualifies people trying to get a first apartment, or who have only rented a room before and not had their name on a lease.

Some people don’t have happy histories as renters and can’t get the needed references. They may have mental health problems and require organizations to help them find accommodations — two things that some landlords are leery of, said Stewart.

In lieu of references, she said the would-be renters who complete the 16-hour program (the three-hour offering is just a primer) can present their certificate to potential landlords. This shows they have learned about the importance of paying rent on time, taking care of the property, and not causing undue noise or disturbance.

Being a good renter is not an innate skill, said Stewart, who noted some people have problems recognizing “boundaries.” But the RentSmart program lays out what their responsibilities are, what landlords expect, and also what they can expect from landlords.

Interested property managers or owners can also sign up and learn how to be a good landlord, said Stewart.

Both sides will be taught about tenancy laws and what their options and rights are, in case of a landlord-tenant disagreement.

To learn more about RentSmart, which was piloted in B.C. in 2009, please call the CMHA or visit reddeer.cmha.ca.

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