An Argument Against Rent Control To Deal With Ontario’s 1991 Rent Exemption

Living in Downtown Toronto Condos Is Not A Right.

We made the news this week! The CBC’s Lisa Naccarato called me on Monday to offer a comment on Ontario’s 1991 Mike Harris rental “loophole” – apparently a controversial topic for many who live in Toronto. Toronto city councillor Mary Fragedakis moved a motion Tuesday that would see council come out in support of a private member’s bill at Queen’s Park that would extend rent control to apartments built after 1991. Her motion supports NDP MPP Peter Tabuns’s private member’s bill aimed at eliminating what he also refers to as the “loophole”. I don’t agree with eliminating this exemption and I’ll tell you why. Before we get into that…let’s start with a few facts.

FACT: Rent control in Ontario only applies to units that were first built or occupied before November 1, 1991. If the rental unit is in an apartment building constructed (or converted from a non-residential use) after November 1, 1991, then the rent control provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 do not apply.

FACT: The post-1991 rent exemption was originally introduced by Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP government. It’s been maintained over time by Mike Harris’ PC provincial government (they made it permanent) as well as the governing Liberals. A low vacancy rate dropped even lower as developers were disincentivized by the regulated rental market for the freedom of condominiums. The exemption provided the incentive that private developers needed to build much of the existing condo stock as we know it and to recover from years of virtually no rental increases at all. Any changes to this incentive will undoubtedly have a negative effect on the market and real estate development (especially outside of Toronto where vacancy rates can vary) – not to mention the construction that is currently in the pipe.

FACT: 85% of rentals in Ontario are covered by provincially mandated rent control.

FACT: It’s an exemption – not a loophole. These are two fundamentally different things. A loophole is defined as an ambiguity or inadequacy in the law. There are plenty of those in Ontario’s Residential Tenancy Act. This exemption was intentionally legislated. While it is undoubtedly true that many tenants have seen their rents increase significantly and at considerably more than the mandated provincial increase, there is no evidence to suggest there is widespread abuse of the exemption or that it qualifies as enough of an urgent issue that it needs legislative intervention.

FACT: Ontario’s Residential Tenancy Act heavily – almost hilariously – favours tenants. It always has. It favours tenants so much that Ontario Superior court justices have called for the provincial government to adjust the law and end what is a growing issue of tenants gaming the system. In 2014-15, the Ontario LTB received 79,740 applications. The ratio of landlord to tenant applications has remained relatively constant since 1998. 2014-15 was no exception, with 90% of applications filed by landlords. 70% of those landlord applications filed were related to non payment of rent. A stated purpose of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, is to balance the rights and obligations between landlords and tenants. It’s plainly clear that the law in fact does the opposite. The last thing landlords need is another short sighted unfair law that hobbles their ability to run their property portfolios as a business.

FACT: This issue is logical hogwash and is politically motivated. As per Martin Regg Cohn at the Toronto Star, “…rent hikes are a result of reduced supply and increased demand, which is what puts pressure on politicians for rent controls, which then depresses supply even further. Extending rent controls to newer (costlier) units would benefit the middle and upper class more than the working class (who tend to be stuck in older units anyway). Why target rentals while exempting the rest of the real estate market, notably the housing speculation that is driving much of the current crisis? It’s much cheaper and politically popular for governments to make landlords swallow foregone rent increases by imposing or extending price controls (vs. housing subsidy vouchers).”

“In the mid-1970s, NDP firebrand Stephen Lewis seized on media accounts of landlords gouging tenants. He goaded the government of then-premier Bill Davis into promising rent controls lest his Tories lose power. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But history is littered with good political intentions — and contortions — that create economic distortions.”
– Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star 

FACT: Condo landlords have it tougher than the average landlord. The owner of the condominium will have fixed, predictable costs in the form of mortgage payments and property taxes, but the maintenance fees (commonly called condo fees) can and often change – sometimes dramatically. Condo landlords are bound by two pieces of provincial legislation. The lease agreement is between the owner and the tenant and that relationship is still governed by the Residential Tenancy Act, 2006, in Ontario. However, within the building itself, the Condo Act has precedence and landlords are responsible to make sure that their tenants follow condo rules.

FACT: Landlords want tenants. If they raise prices above what the market is willing to pay then rent will adjust accordingly. The vacancy rate is low for a reason. It takes an average of only 17 days to rent a condo in Toronto. The city averagely sees 200,000 new people move to the 416 area code each year. This issue is supply and demand. Not greedy landlords.

Housing speculation is driving much of the current crisis. Toronto is clearly a city where people want to live. Hundreds of thousands have come here from around the world. Young people want to live where the action is as gentrification has firmly rooted itself.

I admire ethical landlords. I admire ethical tenants even more. Most landlords and most tenants are both. My solemn advice to any landlord who has a Toronto unit that falls under the exemption: Act in good faith. Be straightforward and upfront with your tenants. Tell them that your unit qualifies as exempt and explain the degree of exposure that exists. Be empathetic about having to potentially uproot your living arrangement and consider the discomfort, hassle, and inconvenience associated with losing your home after a year. Ultimately – a happy long term tenant is better than expensive turnover. Exercise common sense, and demand that politicians do the same.

 

Absolute Idiocy On Unpaid Electrical Bills in Prince Edward Island

In another fantastic assumption that landlords are rich, entitled building owners, the wise city councillors in Summerside, Prince Edward Island are contemplating what to do about unpaid electrical bills in the small town of just under 15,000. The city takes in $20 million a year from the utility with the majority of people paying on time, however, after council “discovered” 1.3 million dollars of delinquency, all these city councillors determined the problem needed to be decisively addressed. Their proposed solution? Landlords should pay the bill. Seriously.

Summerside’s Director of Finance, Rob Philpott said involving landlords is just another option for council to consider that if for whatever reason the tenant is unable to pay in a timely matter or doesn’t pay at all, then landlords could potentially be held accountable for that. “There are 225 landlords in the city. It is safe to stay that if they became aware that they might be liable for the debt of a tenant who skipped out… it would generate a lot of attention,” added Philpott. If passed, this new law would affect residential, commercial, and industrial units.

If the municipality passed this law tomorrow, and also got all 225 of these landlords to foot this bill, they’d be looking over $5700 a piece.

City councillor Frank Costa thinks this is a step in the right direction. “Landlords have a collective responsibility to the city to ensure that we are not alone in having to absorb delinquent accounts,” added Costa. “If it is communicated well and there is an education process out there, I think people will recognize the value of this. I think we are giving them notice.”

Fellow councillor Tyler DesRoches disagreed.

“We are not signing up the landlord for the power; we’re signing up their tenant. The landlord has no idea whether or not their tenant is paying on time.”

Coun. Gordie Whitlock owns rental properties and agreed with DesRoches.“If you have a consistent collection policy with a consistent cut off time as to when the final notice is given after there is no attempt to pay, then there is no need for the landlord to be involved whatsoever,” said Whitlock.

Why the city doesn’t consider a more aggressive policy with respect to it’s unpaid bills is a head scratcher. Why the 1.3 million dollars in unpaid bills even occurred in the first place is interesting. The city of Summerside services 6950 customers. It’s reasonable to expect this utility to manage its accounts better. That’s their job! If they can’t wrap their heads around it, as a municipality supported for profit organization, how do they expect the small city’s 225 private landlords to be any better? Why should the city’s landlords accept this? How would the city’s landlords manage this any better? Are they to open their mail? How would landlords manage this as a new issue? Is not paying your electrical bill immediate grounds for an eviction? How many chances would someone get to settle up their electricity bill? This seems like a remarkably short sighted, objective ignoring, illogical, precedent setting idea. Utilities can and do ask for deposits in advance, engage collection agencies, cut off service and sue the tenants. Landlords have to wait until the tenants move out and then initiate a small claims suit at their own expense. What this whole idea represents is a desire to see electrical utility delinquencies at zero, improving the cash position of the municipality, at the overall expense of the landlord.

Time to go back to the well, city councillors.

Perfect Storm For Landlords in Alberta

The slow down in the oil patch is affecting Alberta’s major city residential landlords. Seriously. The market was once quite hot. Now…not so much. CBC reported a doubling of the vacancy rate late last year.

Edmonton is a renter’s paradise right now. Economic slowness, coupled with more supply than demand in terms of available units, has flexed adversity on Alberta’s landlords. Vacancy rates have increased steadily since last year, and now range from six to eight per cent, depending on property type. The average rent in Edmonton and the surrounding area has dropped between 10 and 15 per cent from a five-year high in July 2014. This has been forcing landlords to get creative about attracting tenants and signing leases, including free Wi-Fi, amenities, groceries, and even flat screen televisions as part of rental agreements. We touched on this phenomenon in Halifax late in 2013, when landlords there were offering free iPads to prospective tenants.

In Calgary – a city where mayor Naheed Nenshi famously criticized what he considered rent gouging in 2014, things are not that much better. Rents have fallen astonishingly fast. A 20% drop in January of this year from the beginning of 2015. The Calgary Real Estate Board is anticipating that the vacancy rate will rise to 7% by the fall. By the fall of 2017, CMHC expects the vacancy rate in the city to decline back to 5.5 per cent. Calgary’s 2016 civic census revealed that while the city’s population increased slightly to more than 1.2 million in April, more people moved out of the city than arrived here. More than 20,800 units were empty in April, a 67 per cent spike over last year’s levels, which brought the vacancy rate for dwellings to 4.3 per cent, according to the census. According to the Financial Post, the vacancy rate hasn’t been this high since 2004, when the city reported the lowest level of migration in 12 years. A city hall analysis of historical housing data shows there are more vacant units in 2016 than in any of the past 16 years. To put this into perspective, Canada’s national vacancy average for urban centres is 3.3 per cent.

Even rural cities in Alberta have been affected.The Government of Alberta annually conducts the Rural Apartment Vacancy and Rental Cost Survey of multi-family dwellings in Alberta’s rural communities between the months of May and August. This survey does not include cities whose population is more 10,000 people. Vacancy rates have increased and decreased in a cyclical pattern with vacancy in rural Alberta communities being on an upward trend, having risen 3.7 per cent in 2014, up to 8.2 per cent in 2015. Not only are vacancy rates up in general, in a number of communities they are at their highest point since 2006.

Experts say the next big hit to the market could come in the spring, when many leases typically come up for renewal. Not good.

Questions? Comments? Are you a landlord in Alberta? We’d love to hear from you.

Tenant Assured Isn’t What Landlords Need

British data mining startup Score Assured has developed a system that claims to accurately determine a person’s financial and personal worthiness based on their social media reputation and history. The company has plans to market their system to employers and dating services but, for now, called it Tenant Assured, and is focusing on landlords as customers.

This is how Tenant Assured works:

A landlord who’s signed-up with Tenant Assured sends all of their rental applicants to a special link on the Tenant Assured website. They are then asked  to provide full access to up to four of their social media profiles—on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. These are then thoroughly crawled, scraped, and analyzed by Score Assured. The scrutiny includes conversation threads, private messages, and contact lists. A report is produced and delivered to the landlord. Landlords makes a decision on whether they want to rent to an individual based on the information provided.

Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post wrote a piece on voluntarily going through the process herself. She found it uncomfortable. As per the piece:

…It’s not just the amount or detail of data that’s problematic, either. Tenant Assured reports include information such as whether you’ve mentioned a pregnancy and how old you are, which are both protected statuses under U.S. housing discrimination law. 

My personal tenant report includes a list of my closest friends and interests, a percentage breakdown of my personality traits, a list of every time I’ve tweeted the words “loan” and “pregnant,” and the algorithm’s confidence that I’ll pay my rent consistently.

Tenant Assured co-founder Steve Thornhill maintains that his product is a useful tool for landlords. “If you’re living a normal life, then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about.”

Here’s the thing though…we’re firmly of the opinion that being considered as a candidate for a tenancy based on your social media activity is not good business. This is unnecessarily invasive and most importantly feels weird (at least to us). While it’s true that the tenant is voluntarily providing this information, there is no way for them to view their ratings or dispute something they consider to be incorrect. Credit reports and background checks are regulated under federal law in the U.S. and in Canada and have consumer protections built into them. An algorithm that determines whether you’re worthy of an apartment based on your social media activity is not regulated at all. I mean…who doesn’t have a ridiculous tongue and cheek tweet or Facebook status meant in jest or sarcasm? Can algorithm’s detect sarcasm? We live in the age of autocorrect. It would be an understatement to say that this product will more than likely not produce a useful snapshot of a person’s payment reliability and character. We also question whether this is the right way to have a tenancy started off, even if a tenant voluntarily provides this information.

What do you think? Landlords? Do you have any comments? We’d love to hear them!

No… Tenants Can’t Just Airbnb Their Place in Quebec

It seems like you can do everything on the internet these days. Airbnb is and has been a wonderful way to make a bit of extra cash when it comes to renting out your home, cottage, or vacation property. Things can get a little dicey though, when you don’t own the property in question. In Quebec, you need to get your landlord’s approval first. The province’s rental board (Régie du logement) recently reached the decision when it ruled on a case involving a Montreal tenant who rented out his downtown condo to tourists on Airbnb.

The landlord rents the luxury one bedroom unit for $1,770 per month. After receiving numerous complaints related to transiency, smoking in hallways, and a general change of pace, the landlord determined the tenant was renting out his unit on Airbnb for more than double the rent he was paying. Landlord gets miffed. Increases the rent by $1000 a month. Tenant refuses said rent increase. Bad bing/bada boom – you’re in front of a judge.

The province handed down the landmark precedent setting decision in one fell swoop. The board ruled that tenants cannot rent out their apartment to tourists without getting the landlord’s approval first.

“The message that these lucrative sublets sends to landlords is that the value of the unit does not represent the value of the rental market,” the board concluded. “The frequency, the difficulty in verifying the identity of sub-tenants, the inherent risks … are all issues that can be raised,” the judgment read.

A cornerstone element of this decision was that the province felt that it was clear the dwelling was being rented out for commercial purposes, not residential, which is what the original lease itself was predicated on. The ruling indicated that tenants are required to get their landlord’s approval prior to doing anything on Airbnb, and that the landlord has 15 days to refuse if they don’t approve. The ruling also indicated that the landlord cannot spike rent because a tenant decides to list a unit on Airbnb, which in essence is encouragement by the province to get tenants and landlords to partake in a healthy meal of being reasonable and co-operative. All in all – tenants can’t do anything without clearing it by their landlord first. A logical ruling. Lastly – a tenant who lists their unit on a home-sharing site cannot charge more than the price of rent.

In an effort to be fair and balanced, Airbnb does provide some good tips for using their service, which include but are not limited to, maybe mentioning to your landlord that you’re sub leasing your place to strangers for an assumed profit. If you’re thinking about starting an Airbnb business on the back of your landlord, you might want to consider reading this paper by Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon.

Excellent work, Quebec! Supress the hustle.

 

Ontario’s Landlord & Tenant Act Has More Holes Than A Block of Swiss Cheese.

I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing the variety of gripes about landlords. Very few people like landlords and it’s easy as pie to pick on them. Too easy. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take it a notch up. I think landlords generally suffer from a grossly misinformed perception from renters and entitled people and are considered a privileged group – receiving more criticism than they generally deserve.

Sure – there are lousy landlords. Lots of them. I particularly have negative reserves of sympathy for predatory or blatantly negligent landlords  who don’t care about the well being of their tenants or who ignore their professional and legal responsibilities and obligations.  If you’re a George Woolsey – I think you need to go to jail.

With all of that said, Nina Willis was charged with fraud this week, and it’s about time. She – along with every other tenant who games the system for their own benefit (especially in tenant friendly provinces like Ontario) – are no different than con men. They should all be charged with fraud and we should have a public registry for people like this. Landlords, like consumers, should be protected. They deserve it.

Take Adam Buttigieg as another example. He has a gamut of fraud convictions and appearances at the Ontario LTB. The Toronto Star did a wonderful exposé on this guy last year. They revealed how tenants can delay eviction by exploiting protections offered through Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board, and how privacy rules keep landlords in the dark about bad tenants. It’s about time on that, too.

Nina Willis has been ordered out of at least seven properties since 2005. She’s a professional liar and fraudster. She deserves to go to jail because she knowingly and willfully lied on tenant applications and would exaggerate maintenance complaints as justification for withholding rent. Sometimes she’d even accuse landlords of discrimination or harassment. Whatever to delay the process as long as possible. Once that was done, she would effect her perfected dance of waiting for N4s, then waiting for L1’s and a hearing at the LTB, and then providing checks for the arrears amount during the mediation process, which would bounce. Stalling evictions in the province of Ontario is a relatively easy thing to do. Once she exhausted her options, she’d have already bought herself months of living rent free and would simply move onto the next landlord to do the same thing.

There are bad landlords. That’s a fact. There are also bad tenants. That’s also a fact. The most important fact in the province of Ontario is that if you’re a bad tenant, you can buy time on your landlord’s dime to pay the rent. You can use your landlord as a bank. You can live rent free for months if you really wanted to, and you can do it a number of times without getting caught. I understand the need for privacy, and believe everyone is entitled to it – but if you exploit people – you should be exposed. I’m glad Nina Willis’ is getting the justice she deserves, but it doesn’t change the fact that being a landlord in this province is a tough job and those who do it, suffer from a significant degree of financial exposure courtesy of our friends at Queen’s Park. Good legislation is airtight and adaptive when necessary. Ontario’s laws aren’t there yet, but they should be.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

What Is Up With Mayors and Mayor Hopefuls Piping Up About Landlords?

I don’t get it. Naheed Nenshi told Calgary’s landlords to be “ethical” last week and not gouge tenants. Ok fine. Now -Toronto mayoral hopeful Olivia Chow is on the campaign trail saying she’s going to introduce stiffer measures for bum landlords who don’t maintain their properties. Some of the things that bother her are broken light fixtures, peeling paint, and bedbugs.  It bothers her so much that she wants to create a city task force of sorts, that would issue display grades – much like they do for restaurants – on rental properties. Yeah because landlords in Ontario don’t have it tough enough already. Can anyone sense my sarcasm?

While negligent and reckless landlords should unreservedly be penalized and dealt with, I think it’s important to remember that Ontario (Ms. Chow is running for mayor of Toronto) is a province with legislation that is very tenant friendly. While the system isn’t perfect – it’s the one we have. Tenants have as many applications to make to the Ontario LTB as landlords do. They have remedies. The Ontario act is also very clear in terms of what landlords are required to do and what they’re required to provide. Every province – and as indicated this month on the blog, even every state  – is different. Toronto, and the greater province of Ontario, does not need yet another layer of bureaucracy or a grading system.

There are bad landlords. George Woolsey comes to mind. They’re not fair, they don’t follow the law, and they have little to no concern about your well being. Flop houses and housing environments that are hazardous and not suitable for residence need to be handled. Everyone is entitled to live in a habitable and safe environment – BUT – I don’t think this warrants an election plan from a mayoral hopeful. Just like Naheed NenshiOlivia Chow is suggesting that something needs to be done on a municipal level about this in Toronto.

Like with most things, there is always good and bad, but it’s important to remember that there are also bad tenants. I don’t think Ms. Chow is labelling all landlords as “bad”, but I think she’s proposing something on the election stump that has the capacity to indirectly just make it harder for the majority of landlords in Ontario that are reasonable, responsible, and solid. The only good laws are the ones that are balanced and strike harmony between all of the interests in the mix. As much as I strongly dislike some of the aspects of Ontario’s act, on it’s face, it’s generally balanced. It is however the epitome of a “second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chance” kind of legislation and isn’t necessarily fair for landlords in many cases. It’s pretty easy to game the system and exploit a situation in the nation’s most populous province. Making money or even breaking even isn’t exactly easy here.

Mayors should be less concerned about trying to admonish landlords. That’s not their job…and there has to be an easier way to address properties not fit for habitation – if it’s in fact enough of a problem in Toronto that an elementary grading system needs to be introduced –  than making our job harder than it already is.

Questions? Comments? We wanna hear ’em!

 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi Thinks Calgary’s Landlords Need To Take It Down A Chevron

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is a great mayor. The majority of Calgarians think so. He’s a responsive and witty guy, and clearly he’s doing something right. I’m personally quite fond of him too – especially with some of these gems on Twitter.

Last week, he propped himself up on the soapbox to talk about Calgary’s landlords (“too many landlords” to be specific), and how they’re screwing tenants and gouging them on rent. There are some alarming rent increases going on in the city. To put this into perspective, one needs to consider a few things.

In July of this year, the CMHC indicated  that Calgary has one of the lowest vacancy rates of any major city in the country. That rate is 1.4 percent. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is just over $1,130 per month. An average two-bedroom apartment goes for just under $1,300 per month. Alberta’s provincial residential tenancies act doesn’t limit how much landlords can raise rents, but they have to give three months’ notice for monthly renters and they can only do it once per year. If you’re a tenant on a year long lease, you wouldn’t see a rent increase inside of the year of your lease. Here’s a few other facts about Calgary as well…

25,000 people a year are moving to Calgary. You heard that right. The city’s population is surging. Property taxes and utilities have also increased in the city, not to mention other municipal and residential costs for residents – both landlords and tenants.

On Friday, Mayor Nenshi clarified that his statement on rent gouging was largely based anecdotal evidence and not, in fact, a systemic problem.

“What I’m calling for is ethical business more than anything else. If you’re a landlord and your costs have gone up … then of course you pass that on to your tenant. That’s part of your business. But every day I get calls in my office from people who have been given no notice, a month’s notice, of 30, 40 per cent increases in their rent,” Nenshi added. “And nobody’s costs have gone up that much.”

Nenshi’s comments drew the ire of Gerry Baxter, executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association, who considered the comment an inaccurate characterization of the majority of Calgary’s landlords.

What do you think? Do you live in Calgary? Are you a tenant or landlord? Do you think it’s the city’s responsibility to provide more affordable housing? Do you think that Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act should change to cap increases that landlords can impose? Share your thoughts with us!

Arkansas: Bad For Tenants…But Is It Good For Landlords?

The U.S. state of Arkansas was recently featured in an excellent Vice News piece on what tenants in Bill Clinton’s home pasture deal with when they rent. The piece – entitled “Arkansas” The Worst Place To Rent In America” – was a fascinating look into a place where the lack of laws regulating the rental market work backwards. As founders of a software that serves landlords – not really tenants – and as landlords ourselves, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t sympathize more with the plight of property owners renting out to tenants. As we’ve said before, it’s a thankless job most of the time. With that said, we’re also advocates of healthy and productive relationships between landlords and tenants. Relationships that are fair, follow the law in whatever province, state, or district you happen to be in, and that include methods and approaches that are reasonable and equitable.

Here’s a few key things in Arkansas. It’s the only state in the entire country that has no “implied warranty of habitability”. In english, that means landlords have no legal obligation to repair or maintain their properties – unless there was a written or oral agreement to fix something. It’s also the only state where you can be fined and jailed if you don’t pay your rent on time. Seriously. Here it is. To real estate investors – this could be perceived as an ideal place to invest your money. The existing law favours landlords heavily, and repossessing property there is fairly easy to do when tenants don’t pay rent. On the other side of the debate, a 3rd of Arkansas’ almost 3 million residents are renters, and a high percentage of those renters have serious concerns and issues with the properties they rent. Most renters are agreeing to take their units “as is”. By law – tenants are required to pay their rent no matter what – even if landlords don’t repair or maintain their buildings and units. Taking into account that Arkansas is the second poorest state in the U.S., and that 18% of the population live below the poverty line, this creates a situation where in arrears renters get swept up into the criminal justice system.

As a tenant, if you don’t pay your rent – even if your roof has holes in it and your windows are broken, not paying gives you 10 days to vacate. If you don’t – you could go to jail. Don’t bother contesting the order to vacate, because in the vast majority of cases, tenants don’t get the opportunity. The legal process for getting in front of a judge is convoluted by the black and white insistence of whether the money is owed, and if it is, for whatever reason that might be, you’re more likely to see the inside of a jail cell than a judge. The state’s unique “failure to vacate” law sees tenants charged as criminals purely on their landlords’ say-so, without any independent investigation by prosecutors. That’s why 90% of tenants who receive an order to vacate decide to just leave. It’s simply a criminal issue immediately. To boot – Arkansas is one of only 10 states that don’t prohibit retaliatory eviction. For the uninitiated – retaliatory eviction is when the landlord doesn’t like something you’ve done..like the reporting of a health or building code violation…and wants you out of the unit. So, in short – if you’re landlord doesn’t like your face, you can be evicted. If you make a complaint, you can be evicted. If your landlord simply wants you out of the unit, and you’ve been paying on time – they can rip up a good check or make themselves conveniently unavailable to accept cash from you on whatever agreed upon date, and you’d technically be evictable.

The Non-Legislative Commission on the Study of Landlord-Tenant Laws, created in 2011 by the state legislature, released a report on Dec. 31st, 2013 that recommended 15 tenant-landlord law reforms. Lynn Foster, professor at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a member of the study commission, said, “If you’re on a month to month lease, maybe it says the landlord makes repairs, maybe it doesn’t — but if you report something to code, the first thing the landlord is going to do is try and evict you. That’s why it’s imperative that if we adopt a warranty of habitability, we also adopt a statute prohibiting retaliatory eviction.”

Human Rights Watch, an organization that follows rights violations worldwide, issued a report in 2013 called “Pay the Rent or Face Arrest: Abusive Impacts of Arkansas’s Draconian Evictions Law.”

This is all a far cry from some of the provinces and states that have laws that in some cases favour tenants. Good laws achieve as much of a possible balance possible between the obligations of providing habitable and functional dwelling to people paying for them while also protecting the landlord’s rights and property. The lack of this in Arkansas has police being involved with evicting people for not paying their rent – an almost ridiculous waste of that resource – and people who don’t pay their rent for whatever reason in many cases entering the criminal justice system.

What do you think? Are you an Arkansas landlord? Are you an Arkansas tenant? Share your thoughts with us.

Home Insurance Industry Kicks Montreal Landlord To The Curb After Repair

Montreal property owner Sari Buksner is in the midst of a nightmare of sorts, courtesy of her insurance company, and she’s yet to wake up from it.

Back in 2012, one of her tenants alerted her to a leak dripping from the second floor to the first. Her insurance firm saw the problem was a valve linking to her water heater on the second floor. They also proactively noticed a completely separate leak, near the toilet of her third floor. The estimate on the repair work for both claims originally came in at a little under 20K.

According to the original CBC News piece, Buksner said she settled with a contractor recommended by the insurance company after the first one she found declined the job, indicating it was beyond their capabilities. Once she started with the recommended contractor from the insurance company, the work began, and unexpectedly continued for months. Some of the reasons for this included a lack of proper insulation for the new pipes, which froze, creating an even bigger issue than the initial leaks. A rip up was required, and a complete re-do of the work – as in new pipes, gyproc, drywall, painting, etc. etc. The initial $20K that was speculated turned into a little under $87,000 in construction/renovation costs. On top of this – the insurance company paid her $58,155.00 in lost rental income while the work was taking place. The total payout to Buksner was about $145,000. Whoa.

After the work was done, her insurance company decided not to renew her policy – something that insurance companies have the right to do.

So far, she has only found a willing insurer in the substandard market, and that policy would cost her around $11,000, roughly $4,000 more than what she was last paying, per year. Adding insult to injury, she’d be required to pay the whole thing up front and wouldn’t receive water damage protection. Jesus.

Thoughts? Comments? From personal experience, water damage claims aren’t exactly a cakewalk. Here’s another kicker – water damage claims are on the rise in Canada.