Long Term Affordable Housing Solutions – Public Input Required

July 7th, 2016 · Landlord & Tenant Board, Property Management, Rental Property

zoningThe government is asking for help with long term affordable housing solutions. You can have more information about it on their webpage and provide input to their email.

I will, however, be a little more public about what you need to get landlords to provide affordable housing.

In most cases the government branches itself are acting against themselves. Cities, fire departments, zoning laws are closing down more apartments then are being created.

I myself have seen this in action, and this year I have seen 5-6 apartments get shut down and have heard and seen how municipalities act like total jerks to landlords for the crime of providing basement apartments.

When the basement apartment rules in Ontario changed so that municipalities could no longer arbitrarily make them illegal in 2011, I rejoiced. I thought this might make it a lot better for landlords. But to quote a lawyer I know “Legislation can’t prevent people from being dicks” Unfortunately the new law let cities set their own by laws for what would be legal standards for basement apartment. There was no deadline for when these bylaws would happen, so years went by before Mississauga & Brampton created their bylaws.

Then there are development charges…for building the basement apartment and you need to apply for a building permit and for that you need plans. Those plans alone will cost between $1500 and up. Then you have to pay for the building permit. Then you have to get a contractor in to build it.

Then there are weird other requirements such as if your house is less than 5 years old, you need a separate furnace. Well there goes another $2000 or $3000. Why do you need a separate furnace? I don’t know.

Oh and god forbid you have a triplex, like one of my previous owners in Whitby. I have no idea how he’ll get out of his situation of having an illegal basement in a duplex. I just want to point out that every apartment has a fire alarm, two exits and in decent condition. The fire inspector there acted like we were criminals and has asked to have existing fire doors removed because they didn’t fit to his satisfaction. That same fire inspector also insisted we get plans from the city and legalize the status of all the apartments. In 30 days…. so in my opinion, the city of Whitby is acting like they don’t want basement apartments, even if they are pretty safe.

In that triplex all the tenants are being evicted, because the work required to bring it up to triplex status is so great, that’s what has to be done. It’s ridiculous. Last I heard the stairwells have to have the drywall ripped off to be insulated and the main floor needs a layer of drywall. The existing fire doors have to be replaced. All because this basement apartment creates such a hazard. But if the basement apartment is removed, it’s safe.

That owner is dying to sell, that’s all he wants. And what pray tell started this saga? The tenant two months behind on his rent reported us for not having batteries in the fire alarm, one of them was removed. Now, all I install are the sealed 10 year battery units so that some asshole tenant behind a couple months on his rent can’t take out a battery and report us to the Fire Department. Live and learn I guess.

Other houses I have removed apartments in this year… one was a 4 plex that we could have made compliant with the Fire Regulations but the City of Toronto wanted $27,000 in development charges each, for apartments that rent for about $1000 per month. (Cheap for Spadina & Bloor) Sorry City of Toronto, no one is going to pay you over 2 years of rent in development charges to provide affordable housing, so there go another two units of affordable housing.

Let’s take for example the city of Brampton (I’ve received a lot of calls from Brampton) they only came up with their bylaws in 2015, for a full four years, they kept closing down basement apartments and evicting people, threatening landlords with fines, they still require registration. Landlords I have known have claimed that when you are developing a basement apartment, they are complete douches, in one case, the landlord installed a fire door between units 3 times in 3 different ways according to the rules and none was approved. Finally the landlord removed the doorway entirely and drywalled the opening. That same landlord asked the Fire Chief and was told that he was responsible for monthly fire alarm inspections. Everywhere else it’s yearly.  How is this kind of nonsense encouraging more landlords to get into the business? That landlord had to pay the contractor to install that door three times.

Parking requirements are another example of providing additional barriers to potential landlords. There is currently a condo building downtown Toronto with over 300 units with less than 70 parking and no visitor parking. As horrified as I am about that, surely we can stop ourselves from requiring a third parking spot to put in an accessory apartment or even worse require an eviction for an existing tenant because the owner can’t widen their lot by 20 feet.

Anyways… enough bitching, here’s my wishlist.

  1. Municipalities have to get behind the initiative to provide affordable housing
  2. Remove bylaws that provide barriers to entry – parking requirements for example.
  3. Square footage regulations – accessory apartments can only be 75% of upper floor…why waste space?
  4. Extra Furnaces? Seriously why?
  5. Development charges ? Why?
  6. Allow more than one accessory apartment as long as it’s fire safe.
  7. Look at and simplify Fire Regulations for Accessory Apartments.

Just a few days ago another landlord called me from Mississauga because her tenant was threatening her with the City and calling them because her apartment wasn’t registered. This is one more basement apartment that will never be rented again and another landlord who has no interest in staying a landlord.

Tenant Enabling Legislation

Private landlords that create affordable housing are not necessarily thinking about starting a landlording business but rather as a casual mortgage helper in their own home. Imagine their surprise when their tenant moves in, doesn’t pay rent, threatens their life and they have to make a choice to move themselves and their children out for their own safety like one Mississauga woman did. Or they start smoking weed in the house stinking everyone out.

Another tenant I just evicted, turned his basement apartment into a farm for dogs, when his dog had nine puppies. He didn’t choose to clean up after his dogs, he just bought sawdust and put it down. It’s really horrifying. We filed for impaired safety for the upstairs tenant and it took over 3 months to get a date for the hearing.

Legislative delays… so the Landlord & Tenant Board is taking way too long to book court dates. It’s ridiculous. The government needs to replace adjudicators as they quit/move on/get fired/come to the end of their term. They need to recognize that it takes months to get to the Tribunal just for an average non payment of rent case and that it’s the landlord that gets to pay for that added time.

  1. 14 day wait for the N-4
  2. File the N-4 a few more days
  3. LTB adds at least 5 mailing days to the court date notice of hearing
  4. More days because there is no space in the hearing schedule
  5. Finally the hearing…
  6. Add 10 more days of waiting for the Order to be Issued
  7. The Order actually adds another 11 days to pay all arrears then you can apply to the Sheriff
  8. Next pay $300 and change to the Sheriff and wait for them to mail more papers to the tenant.
  9. Finally a few weeks later the Sheriff appears and throws your tenant out.

Why should the landlord be subsidizing all this tenant goodwill? The government thinks we should give deadbeat tenants free rent for extended periods of time, they can pay for it. Again these are not commercial landlords, this is some guy going to work, paying his mortgage, paying his utilities being forced to subsidize another who just doesn’t want to pay/can’t pay. If the landlord hired a paralegal to deal with this add another $1000 or so in legal fees.

Then if said tenant doesn’t show up, they can just claim <Insert bullshit reason here> and they get another review hearing and more months of free rent, again without paying a dime to the landlord.

Needless to say, after one experience like this, the landlord mostly sells their property or leaves it empty. One more withdrawn apartment and one more victim of the process, one less affordable space. After years of this kind of erosion of affordable housing, after countless landlord victims, after protecting deadbeat tenants the government wants to know how to create affordable housing?

  • How about if instead of letting tenants ride roughshod over landlord property rights, you help the landlords have some autonomy over their property?
  • How about if you enforce the leases the landlord & tenant sign of their own free will?
  • Pay the rent on the first means pay the rent on the first.
  • No smoking means no smoking
  • No pets means no pets
  • If you don’t pay utilities – hello eviction time… not go sue your tenant at Small Claims
  • Finally if you threaten your landlord or assault them, out you go on the street.

Government, how do you think it feels as a person who worked hard to collect a bunch of money to put a down payment on a property in this completely unaffordable housing market and live there with your family. You have a bright idea to get a mortgage helper tenant and they move in to the basement apartment. They move in their 2 large dogs, they don’t clean up the shit, they smoke cigarettes and weed daily, blare loud music every night till 11 o’clock or later, have 3-4 friends over for drinks and fun BBQ in the backyard every weekend. They do tons of laundry, leave the lights on when they aren’t home and park in the middle of the shared driveway. When you park in the street you get a parking ticket.

It’s not illegal to be disrespectful and an asshole entitled tenant but it will eventually result in an apartment being withdrawn from the market. That’s the problem.

Solving this problem as a government entity would require a 180 degree turn around in policy and as a part of the Social Justice Tribunal that’s not going to happen soon.

Rent Arrears and Collections

I’ve already discussed the joy of evicting a non paying tenant, however, due to current government policy of stretching out the length of time of eviction and time to get the sheriff etc, you’re looking at 4-6 months of rent arrears. The jokers at the Landlord & Tenant Board think a court order is the same as cold hard cash but it isn’t. It’s actually bullshit that will require more work, more money and more time and more expertise to collect. If your tenant is on ODSP or Ontario Works you can’t garnishee those sources of income so forget about it.

If you want to simply put it on the record that there was a Landlord & Tenant Board Order on the tenant that was not paid on the tenant’s credit report, you can’t. The same credit checking companies that charge landlords millions in credit checking fees will have nothing to do with reporting said bad tenants to the landlords that pay them to do exactly that. You can thank privacy legislation for that.

Considering that in the current legislative environment, tenants can rip off landlords repeatedly with impunity and the tenants are shielded from consequences, it’s not surprising that I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the number of working people taking advantage of delay and stealing thousands from landlords. These are not downtrodden single moms down on their luck, it’s working people making over $100K per year. But why not if they can do it and get away with it… and therein lies the problem.

Bad tenant lists get shut down on a regular basis because they violate privacy laws and there is no sharing of lists or a master list anywhere to help protect landlords and so we are left with the credit check as the means to determine who gets an apartment or not.

Needless to say there are very bad tenants who cause a lot of damage, and they too need to be found and made to pay for their damages rather than just move somewhere else.

It’s about accountability, and as the government is now finding out, because of the lack of interest in providing any type of affordable housing to the market, tenants are not accountable and no one even expects it. Without a respectful and equitable business environment, landlords just bow out, sell and go back to their regular jobs.  No one is interested in paying their huge mortgage, paying huge property taxes and being harassed and disrespected in their own family home for the honour of making an extra $500 per month (after paying utilities, extra insurance, extra property taxes) and that’s if you started with a legal basement or apartment.

Another example of this problem is with water bills which the city just off loaded onto landlords. If the tenant doesn’t pay it just gets tacked on to the taxes, go suck an egg landlord. If you want to shut the water off, go suck a rotten egg landlord. You have the freedom to pay and bend over while your tenant gets to wash the neighborhood laundry at your expense. If you don’t like it don’t be a landlord… Guess what?  A lot of people are taking that option.

Basically the Government  has created an untenable unfair system where tenants can with impunity take advantage of the law and loopholes to live at the landlord’s expense.  Over and over again the different branches of government have been warned that small landlords will vote with their feet and they are. No one wants to offer affordable housing because it’s not worth it.  The answer heard loud and clear from many many many small landlords is a big fat NO.

If you want landlords to enter the business, make it easy and profitable.

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A New Trick… Falsifying Accepted E-transfers

June 3rd, 2016 · Kids & Family, Property Management, Rental Property

images

So in today’s new and disturbing tenant douche baggery, I have a tenant who had an NSF check, who then said he sent me e-transfer. That’s possible, I looked for the deposit and I couldn’t find it. He then sent me a copy of the Interac transfer dated May 31st 2016. Finally I called the bank to see what went wrong and it was falsified.

What the duck is wrong with people? It’s not like I wouldn’t notice or find out eventually.

Jerks.

 

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Landlord Lesson – Legal Possession

May 30th, 2016 · Kids & Family, Rental Property

we are not interested Here’s a bit of a brain twister for a lot of landlords, certainly the smaller ones and the landlords that have tenants renting parts of their home.
This is the concept of legal possession and how by accepting rent the landlord gives up some of the rights of legal possession and how the tenant gets those rights and then how to get the right of legal possession back.

Basically the owner of the property initially sets up a mortgage, and finalizes the closing and picks up the keys from the lawyer, and they get legal possession of the property. For this privilege, they have paid 5%-20% of the purchase price and signed off on a mortgage for the difference.  If the owner fails to pay the mortgage the bank can go through a legal procedure called foreclosure to get the right of legal possession back from the owner. Then the bank will have legal possession.

Unlike the property itself which stays where it is, the right to use it can shift around to different people.

Tenants and legal possession

Our enterprising owner then decides to rent out his place, perhaps a basement apartment, perhaps the entire house. Oftentimes, this might be done really casually, as it’s just a basement apartment or just to friends who need a place for a few months. What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out during this casual transaction, upon trading the keys for money, the owner has given the tenant legal possession…

For this privilege the tenant may have paid $500 or $800 or $2000. If the tenant fails to pay the rent the landlord can go through a legal procedure at the Landlord & Tenant Board to regain the right of legal possession.  It can take several months, cost a lot in legal fees, and it can go be very traumatic if you are living in the same house.

Now this tenant has almost the same rights as you do, in “your” property, except it’s not “your” property because you leased your rights away.  It’s their property until you get that pesky right of legal possession back. The only right you have is to pay the mortgage (That right you still have)  and apply to the Landlord & Tenant Board for eviction.

Legal Possession is Serious Business

Make no mistake, when you hand over the keys in exchange for money, it’s a big deal with potentially serious consequence and ramifications. Legal possession is not be taken lightly.

I compare leasing an apartment to leasing a car. If you lease someone a car can you tell people to

  • How many people they can have in the car?
  • If they can put their pet in the car?
  • What if they want to have visitors in the car?
  • Eat smelly food in the car?
  • Smoking in the car?
  • Drive around late at night in the car?
  • Play loud music in the car ? (Between city bylaw hours)
  • Obviously you can’t just go into their car whenever you like.

Tenancy is a serious business relationship and before you hand over the keys and take the money, you need to evaluate if the tenant is a stable business “partner”. In Ontario that business relationship may last many years.

If there is one word of advice I would give to owners about renting it would be to focus on the quality of their future business relationship and the person in it rather than their impending mortgage payment.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” ~ John Quincy Adams

Legal Possession is Important. Wait.

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Rental Market Much Stronger In 2016

May 14th, 2016 · Rental Property

Rental

Last year I was very concerned about the rental market. Condo buildings were getting built and condos were on the rental market for a good long time. Prices were flat with even a small decline, and you had the impression that you had to work every application, and get every single appointment or you might have to wait a good while before the next rental opportunity.

New buildings had an auction like atmosphere with tenants putting ads up on kijiji touting their high credit scores and what they were willing to pay for which building.

At the top of troubling signs was the lack of showings and lame turnout for places.  Places that would have seen lots of showings even a year before, lingered for no good reason. The only thing that seemed to matter or make a difference was price and tenants didn’t seem to care too much about anything else. If you had a place that was bigger or had a better layout you were virtually stuck with the same price as the less desirable suites, or no one would come to your showings.

This year is a different story, prices are actually rising, more around the GTA but even in the downtown core. North Oshawa is on fire. I’m getting multiple applications on “Open House” showings out there. Last week I had 20 people show up for a 3 bedroom detached out there and three applications.

I’m already running out of property to rent and it’s May.  The only softness in the market seems to be in the more expensive properties over $2000 per month depending on what it is.

I’ve been renting condos over at Sherway Gardens Rd for 5-6 years now and the rent started at $1200 and went up a little bit, we got $1295 a few years ago, prices went back down to $1200 and this year we just rented one for $1350. After years of only maintenance fee increases, landlords can use a bit of a break.

Rejoice for there is hope!

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Unauthorized Occupants – So Annoying

February 27th, 2016 · Property Management

No Trespassing

I got hired to manage a condo because the owner was having some issues with the tenants. One of the leaseholders had said that he was leaving the country but he had managed to find someone to take over his lease for the last several months. Then it became a big deal for the rent. The new tenants did not possess the skill of getting the rent to us. Every month was a brand new month of discovery on how to pay the rent. One month was “Come pick up the cash” the next was deposited to my account, then an e-transfer.

This month, no rent came at all, but fortunately I’d had an N-4 ready to fly immediately. Next came a surprising amount of disconnected telephone numbers.

Floor Inspection Time

Eventually the owner and I decided to do an inspection of the floors. The laminate floors installed by the builders had a strange wear pattern/defect I’d noticed. Basically little specks of paint had worn off the floors throughout the place. I had noticed that the tenants did only wear their socks in the house so we decided to investigate and report the problem to the builder, but first I had to show the owner.

Some Guy Named Hassan

We’d sent a message that we were coming by to look at the floors by phone and email. When we knocked on the door a stranger answered.  We told her, we are the landlord and we are here for our prearranged floor inspection. Last time I had been there it was 4 single guys living there. So we ask who she is, she hands the phone to us and we speak to her husband Hassan. He was supposed to pay the rent and then he was going to be able to make a lease with us. That’s what he had been told by the tenant. I’m like “No” that’s not how it works. The owner and I end up calling the police to try and figure out what is going on.

Mohammad had left the building and the country and told these people (possibly relatives) they could stay.

Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken

I end up shouting at some point, “This is an $800,000 condo, not an old shoe you can pass around to all your friends!”

Moving Out & Leaving The Condo Trashed

They left yesterday and they left a lot of garbage behind, including a plate of some unspeakable food in the fridge. Then they shut off all the power, so the fridge was interesting when I got there, but fortunately with the food down the chute and the fridge back on, we’ll be able to just give it a wash. A fridge turned off with some decomposing food in it, is not salvageable after a few days. You will never get the stench of rotting unspeakable stuff out of it. So we got lucky there.

Damages

Mostly garbage and a paint job and steam cleaning of the carpet and some serious cleaning will get the condo up to snuff and ready for rent in a few days.

Dealing with Unauthorized Occupants

I would say that we dealt with the situation properly. The police came out and I was quite forceful with the boundary setting. Quite strange and awkward to meet someone you absolutely not expecting. It was not the unauthorized occupant’s fault, they were misled by the tenant who thought the condo was some type of flophouse instead of a place where you sign a lease and take things seriously. We could have had to go to the Landlord & Tenant Board but they moved out pretty much right away.

All’s Well that Ends Well

 

 

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