Yukon’s Landlords Get A Break

Landlords in Yukon got a break recently with a decision by the government to cancel a 13 million dollar affordable rental housing program in what is already a highly crowded rental market.

Terry Bergen of the Yukon Real Estate Association says there are currently at least 4,000 rental suites in Whitehorse. In a city that has less than 28,000 people as of the 2013 census, that’s a helluva lot of rental units. Like a lot.

Check out the story on CBC here. You can also learn a bit of the backstory here.

Landlord Sues Grow Op Operators For Destroying The Place!

A landlord in Calgary is suing former tenants for $105,000 after police discovered a grow-op in the rental property in 2011, which caused extensive damage to the house. David Gin and Michelle Chen were charged, but only Chen was convicted, sentenced, and ordered to pay restitution to landlord Steve Habbi.

“I came home from work and saw basically a police raid in action,” Habbi said. “People in bio suits and bullet-proof vests and guns and things like this, which was really surprising to me … How do people who seem so friendly to your face run something like that?”

Here’s a shocker. Habbi had checked the pair’s references when they first moved in and those all checked out, including Gin’s job as a tax auditor with the Canada Revenue Agency.

200 potted cannabis plants were removed from the property – each with an estimated street value of about $1250 each. If you do the math – that’s $250 grand. The couple had about 100 U.V. lamps in basement bedrooms. The system was set up so that it was being vented inside the house, which expedites the cultivation of mold.

Chen and Gin were charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, production of a controlled substance, theft of water and electricity and mischief. More than a year later, in November 2013, Chen pleaded guilty to production of a controlled substance and charges against Gin were withdrawn.

Chen was given an 18-month conditional sentence to be served in the community under strict conditions and was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution. When Habbi argued the damages he incurred were well above the restitution amount, he says the Crown told him to sue the couple.

The case is ongoing, and Gin and Chen have yet to file a statement of defense. Steve Habbi has some advice for other landlords, though…

“Mandate in your lease that you will be doing physical home inspections on the interior of the property,” he said. “Your only hope is to deter them from coming into your property.”

Couldn’t agree more, Steve!

6th Time’s a Charm For Deadbeat Tenants!

Susan and Chris Perret have been served with an eviction notice again — the sixth time in two years and only one day after the CBC first broke the story on these two.

Cara Falconer said she rented to the Perrets in Maple Ridge without a reference because she believed them when they told her their previous landlord had stolen their money and left town. Falconer is already out $1,500 after the cheque for April bounced.

The couple gave Falconer a $750 cash damage deposit and $400 cash for a pet damage deposit, as well as three cheques for three months’ rent for the top storey of a house at the north end of 236th Street. But the Falconers are not counting on the rent cheques clearing for the next two months. That’s probably a safe assumption.

Professional Tenants Royally Screw Multiple B.C. Landlords

CBC ran an exclusive story this morning on two highly professional tenants who are working the system in a huge way in British Columbia.

Susan and Chris Perret, have lived nearly rent-free in at least five homes over the past two years. CBC News found records going back to August 2012, when the pair were evicted from one Maple Ridge home. They affect people financially, ignore eviction orders, bounce rent checks, and prey on property owners and landlords. Most importantly – these two know the province’s landlord and tenant legislation better than most people. The only thing they know how to do better than this is moving every 3-9 months.

Amy Spencer, president of Landlord B.C., says tenants like the Perrets are exactly what her association want to warn its members about.

“Ninety-nine per cent of tenants are good, but it’s those ones that get out there, like the ones in Maple Ridge, that give tenants a bad name,” Spencer said.

Landlords who lost money to the Perrets are angry no one at B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch warned them about the couple’s history of evictions.

“When people go around doing it professionally time after time, I mean, somebody — there should be a place that you can check,” said landlord Noel Beaulieu, who said he was out $1,500 from the ordeal.

Kim Gouws, who evicted the Perrets last month, said she was frustrated there didn’t seem to be a way to warn the next landlord.

“Every time I’d call I’d say,’ what about the next person? They’re just going to do this to another innocent person. How can I stop that?” she said. “I couldn’t.”

Credit and background checks everyone.

Saskatchewan Reviews Dumb Law That Allows Landlords To Discriminate Based On Sex

Saskatchewan’s Justice Minister Gord Wyant is reviewing a decades old section of the province’s Human Rights Code that permits discrimination against some renters over sexual orientation. The code technically allows landlords of one- or two-unit homes to discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation when they rent out space in a building in which they or one of their family members also live. It goes a little something like this…

(3) Subsection (1) [discrimination in housing matters not allowed] does not apply to discrimination on the basis of the sex or sexual orientation of a person with respect to the renting or leasing of any dwelling unit in any housing accommodation that is composed of not more than two dwelling units, where the owner of the housing accommodation or the owner’s family resides in one of the two dwelling units.

In 2011 – UBC conducted a study on over 1700 rental inquiries and found some depressing results. Same-sex male couples are nearly 25 per cent more likely to be rejected by landlords seeking renters. 

Good on the current Justice Minister to review this. Saskatchewan has yet to receive a report of this kind of discrimination occurring, but it’s never too late for a little spring cleaning, and it’s nice to see proactive measures to continue level the playing field for everyone – regardless of sexual orientation. After all – it’s 2014.

Gay, lesbian, and transgender people rent, work, and pour money into the economy like everyone else  – something that some of the lawmakers in Arizona are still wrapping their heads around. Even a Canadian landlord or two could use a bit of education about this kind of thing….just sayin’.

 

Landlords Are Getting Pooched By Utility Companies

Let’s be honest. We’re all kind of getting pooched by utility companies. With that said, it’s clearly a dog’s breakfast in New Brunswick, where everyone is paying 8 times what people are paying in Ontario, for natural gas. You read that right – 8 times!

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Marilyn Bogle of her $4,300 February gas bill on a four-unit building in west Saint John. “We’ve heated this building all month and now I get this bill. Where do I get the money to pay this.”

Bogle says her building generates $3,000 a month in rent, which is inclusive of heat for her tenants. A recent bill shows she was charged $52.51 per giga joule plus tax for gas in February — which is almost certainly a Canadian record. It’s eight times more than apartment owners pay for natural gas in Ontario, and double the cost of heating with electricity.

New Brunswick’s Energy and Utilities Board was so alarmed about escalating gas prices in January that it issued a warning to consumers of likely price spikes coming in February. But nothing compels retailers to disclose what those price spikes are until customers are billed for them, after the fact.

That’s a bit nuts – but – the winds are a changin’. Enbridge recently applied to Ontario regulators to hike up natural gas rates in Canada’s most populous province by 40% – so that should even out the disparity with our comrades in New Brunswick.

Holy Geez! What The Hell Is Going On In Halifax?

So…this happened in January. Halifax resident Devon Berquist had some house issues to return to after a short trip away. While those were being addressed, she claimed the landlord put her up in an equally issue ridden property. Between a posse of rats, frozen toilets, and mould, ACORN Canada ended up getting involved to represent the tenants, and the CBC ended up running a story on the whole thing. All of this ended up fuelling a protest outside of Halifax’s city hall, with about 40 tenants demanding the city do something about inhabitable living conditions in some of the city’s rental units while holding rubber effigies of rats to emphasize their point.

Councillor Jennifer Watts accepted a letter from the protesters on behalf of Halifax regional council. The council is awaiting a report from staff at the Halifax Regional Municipality, who have been asked to look at tightening restrictions on landlords.

“I think a licensing program would just make a difference, hopefully, in actually being more of a preventative action to really keep on top of what the quality and safety issues are within the existing housing stock,” Watts said, as protesters marched in the background.

Like many cities with sizeable student populations, Halifax sees a significant transient renter base. To boot – large-scale landlords own significant swaths of rental turf, and low-income renters such as students are either pushed to enclaves, or forced to live in substandard conditions.

“The real issue here is the Halifax Regional Municipality needs landlord licencing,” says Evan Coole, organizer with the Halifax-Dartmouth chapter of ACORN. “We have a minimum standards by-law, the M-100. It spells out all a landlord’s supposed to do [and] it’s really reasonable stuff.” Coole claims this is all fine and dandy, but the by-law doesn’t get enforced properly. Coole claims by-law inspectors do the minimum in the vast majority of cases, and nothing ever really gets resolved as it should.

In an effort to create a fair and accurate characterization of the situation as possible, and as reported by the media, Ms. Berquist’s lived in the initial house she rented for 2 1/2 years, which she described as “OK” – even though she cited peeling plasters and drafty windows as things that came with the turf. Upon her return to the house after the leak was fixed, she started setting traps and claims to have caught the 30 rats quoted in the initial piece by the CBC, which she claims was as a result of multiple holes in the foundation.

Here’s the update: The tenants ended up settling with the landlord, Wise Man Investments. Prior to the settlement, she claims mould and a rat infestation had forced her and her roommates out of the house earlier than their lease allowed. They were hoping to break their lease without financial repercussions.

Interestingly – the settlement, dated March 6 and mediated by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, does not mention the tenants’ original complaints of mould, poor maintenance or the rats they say they trapped in the house.

“We opted for the financial settlement to avoid further stress as the situation had already severely negatively affected many aspects of our lives,” Berquist said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

The settlement also included a signed apology from Berquist, retracting “any comments attributed to me and reported in the media or online that the Metleges are ‘slumlords.'”

She also apologized for “any harm to the reputation and character of my former landlord, Steven Metlege Sr., caused as a result of such comments.”

According to the settlement, both parties have agreed there will be no further claims against either party.

Wow. Is it just me, or is anyone else wondering what the hell is going on in Halifax? Thoughts? Comments? Share them here!

 

Acorn Calls For Burnaby Standards Of Maintenance Bylaw

Burnaby, British Columbia renters require more protection against landlords who don’t keep their rental units safe and healthy, says ACORN Canada. The reason? Landlords are sometimes keeping their rental units is abysmal shape – affecting low income people the most. Acorn Burnaby chairwoman Monica McGovern said the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch’s lack of enforcement is very well documented, and that has driven some cities to create their own bylaws to levy fines against landlords who don’t maintain their properties.

“We want an act because the province and the residential tenancy branch doesn’t seem able to handle the issue,” McGovern said. “We want the city to take responsibility.”

Read the story at 24 Hours Vancouver here. You can also read about the issue at the Burnaby Insider here.

Colorado Based D.C. Landlord Shares Rich Person Problems In The Washington Post

Douglas Hsiao, a Colorado lawyer and occasional columnist with the Washington Post, successfully achieved writing a sort of pointless piece about the “challenges” associated with being a landlord in Washington D.C.

As you may or may not know, the U.S. national capital has been going through a bit of a resurgence to some degree. It’s become a trendy place to live. He wrote this piece about how he can’t make money on his unit – even though $3000 a month is common for 2 bedrooms in his Dupont Circle neighbourhood.

Some gems from Hsiao’s piece:

As I admitted before, I’ve refinanced the property several times, so much of the cash flow problem is my own fault; I’ve used the condo as a bank once too often, and thus I have a fairly substantial mortgage on it. But more than that, the growth in expenses has outstripped rents for several years now, and I rent it out with nearly no cash flow.

Um. Ok. Well refinancing the unit for a Porsche will do that. Here’s another one:

As some may recall, I chose a couple who were moving from Denver to Washington, and they turned out to be the “responsible, clean, quiet, long-term, reliable, uncomplaining” dream tenants I was hoping for. I received hopeful signs throughout this past year that they would renew their lease; they e-mailed me that they loved the apartment, the Dupont Circle neighborhood and the residents. They even had the property manager prepare the renewal papers. Just when every indication I was getting seemed to suggest that they would renew, they were lured away. And not by a real estate agent waving a luxury downtown high rise or a house in Chevy Chase in front of them but by an apartment in my own building!

So you found good tenants, had the unit paid for for a year, and then they decided to buy a unit in the building you own because they loved it so much? This isn’t exactly a problem. You own a unit in a building where “responsible, clean, and quiet people” decide to buy. Clearly, you’ll never be able to find another tenant, right? Oh wait….I don’t think you’ll have a problem. Also..you live in Colorado – don’t manage the unit yourself, and are complaining about having to pay the property manager?

The National Low Income Housing Coalition published a report last year on basically how if you work a minimum wage job, you can forget about living in D.C. The cost of living in the U.S. national capital is among the highest in the nation and it’s ranked as the 6th most expensive place to live in the whole United States! It also has a crazy lucrative short term rental situation going on.

Geez man. You own a unit in a rich part of a relatively rich city. Tenants love your building so much they look to buy the units. You’re mainly attracting an affluent tenant with this place. You’re admittedly running in the red because you refinanced the hell out of the unit. Expenses are going up for everyone on utilities and such. Maybe if the place wasn’t mortgaged to hell – you’d have a bit more money available to run in the black.

Some of the post’s readers have also been critical of Hsiao’s writing. A comment on the original article goes a little something like this..

Seriously, are you only keeping this place so you can write articles for the Washington Post? This has nothing to do with real estate. This article should be in the finance section as an example of how people were using their homes like ATM’s and that is how the housing market got in the mess it is/was. This has very little if anything to do with being a landlord. If this had been going on any where else other then (sic) DC Mr. Hsiao would be talking the hard times he went through with his short sale or his foreclosure. Sell this property and be done with it and stop whining about how your (sic) not making money as a landlord because of your own financial irresponsibility’s (sic).

Life’s tough Douglas. We know. I dunno… try being a landlord in Moncton, New Brunswick or Detroit or Richmond, Virginia where the vacancy rate has been at 15%.

 

Ottawa Couple Face Eviction Over Autistic Son’s Wall Shaking Noise

Add this to the “difficult situation” file and try coming to a conclusion on how you feel about this one after hearing the whole story. The Ottawa Citizen reported parents Keri Oastler and John From were recently served an N5 notice by their landlord over the noise their autistic son has been making. The couple literally just moved in to the unit on a year long lease that started on October 1st.

According to the article, the formal notice came after tenants below and beside the family complained the noise was “like a 50-pound box being dropped repeatedly.” The notice said the two neighbours were disturbed by “running, jumping and screaming” between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. — the only times that From says his son is at home and awake. As is common with N5 notices in the province of Ontario, the family has been afforded 7 days to rectify the problem.

From’s son, Logan — an 80-pound, blond, blue-eyed boy — occasionally has tantrums, though they are becoming less and less frequent, his parents say. He will sometimes “squeak” and loves to climb and jump, so much so that his parents say they’re considering acrobatics as a career path. After this whole exchange – From and Oastler no longer want to live in what they’ve described as a hostile environment and are currently considering registering a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I can understand where they’re coming from. They just moved in to this place. Kind of difficult to feel unwelcome amidst all this.

Residents of the townhouse community on Lisgar stret were set aback a bit on the initial story about this on the 11th.

Noise complaints have to be pretty severe in order for most people to complain. A lack of concrete division between units (as is the case here) can do nothing for the dampening of transferable sound, so I can definitely appreciate where the other residents are coming from. As a parent, I can also appreciate where Oastler and From are coming from. It sounds like their son’s condition is a challenge, and situations like these have a tendency to put you on the defensive – but what do you do? The other tenants have the right to the reasonable enjoyment of their units, and the “noise” they’re complaining about sounds like it’s occurring at pretty inopportune times. Imagine sitting down to dinner or trying to get your kids down for the night, and hearing the “constant and repeated dropping of a 50 lb. box”.

I think we can all imagine being on both sides of the aisle with this one. According to the Oye Times, who also did a piece on the dilemma, the property management company was not “properly informed” of Logan’s disability by From. From claims he did in fact explain that his son has autism and would be making a little more noise than usual.

As an example of the frequent impossibility that many landlords find themselves in – had the landlord denied the application for tenancy based on the explanation of Logan’s disability, From and Oastler could have applied to the Ontario Human Right’s Commission for discrimination on the basis of disability. Now, they’re doing it anyways. This kind of thing can happen. Landlords can get raked over the coals over stuff like this – even if they do the right thing and have good intentions. To add a level of complexity to the situation – the landlord is also bound by the will of the condominium board (they pushed on the notice serving with the owner/property manager) – proving that condo landlords have it a little harder.

In the end, it sounds like it just wasn’t a good match between unit and tenant. From and Oastler are better served to be living in a single family home or a more audibly insulated unit from their neighbours. What do you think? Share an opinion here. I’d love to hear the thoughts of other landlords and tenants.