July 13th, 2015 · Rental Property
July 13th, 2015 · Property Management, Rental Property
I’ve seen more than my fair share of rental apartments. Most people would not believe some of the “apartments” that are on offer. After last night’s listing of an “apartment” for rent… I’ve been inspired to search my memory for the worst landlords ever.
Last night I approached a beautiful house with anticipation. Fantastic neighborhood, three car garage, separate entrance. The apartment is above the garage. So far it’s gorgeous. We enter the kitchen and there is no stove. So I say “There’s no stove”. The owner tells me that her bedroom is on the other side of that wall and she doesn’t want cooking smells to bother her. But apparently there’s another stove. You just have to go down two flights of stairs, across the house 40 feet. Oh and it’s shared with another person. A room. That she also wants me to rent.
I tell her that I don’t rent shared accommodations because they are a cause of endless problems. (I told her this before) She tells me that if I think it’s going to be a problem it’s going to be a problem. I agree. Not even 10 minutes later, I leave. I notice a lock box on the door on the way out. I look it up and there’s a listing and the place has been available for months with a real estate agent.
The solution is obvious, there are two very nice self contained apartments. Put a stove into the apartment and rent it. It’s not really rocket science. If you just want the money and can’t be bothered to offer a reasonable service, you probably shouldn’t rent it.
Laminated Nightmare On ??? Street
So this particular house was also in a really promising mature neighborhood. One of my employees took this on and after she told me it was “rough” I went to take a look. There also happened to be a Koi pond in the backyard, with no Koi, only algae that the landlord would allow the tenants to use for their Koi. Most people would call it a “death trap” or “pit” but you must be creative with rental listings.
You must also be creative with building materials and as you can see, laminate has many uses. Backsplash and front door liner? When I suggested the place needed some renovation, he told me that I was just telling him he needed a contractor because I was taking kickbacks from the contractors. I wasn’t far from his house and I put his keys right in that handy dandy mail slot you see right in that door.
The pictures do not really convey how fugly this place was and until they invent Smellovision you’ll have to remain ignorant of the odour of old cigarette ashtray and dirty socks that permeated the place.
There’s not a rental agent on earth that can rent your basement to someone who does not drink or smoke on your property. If you tell me that you’re going to evict them if they smoke outside on your property and that you’re going to check to their recycling for alcohol containers, well, I’m not renting your apartment. It’s hard enough finding decent people to pay the rent, if you have very stringent requirements on top of that your best solution is to find someone from your church or social grouping.
I’m not allowed to be discriminatory in ads and I don’t want to discriminate period so looking for the needle in the haystack with these kinds of rentals just isn’t for me. If the owner wants to spend hundreds of dollars and months of time weeding through applicants to find this miracle tenant, that’s ok. When you hire a service we do our best for you, but the numbers don’t lie, 50% of Ontario tenants now have pets and about 30% smoke, this leaves a measly 20-40 percent of people that are looking for an apartment that you will accept. Then add another 80% that will be totally turned off by your strange request and you have long months of paying for ads, showing your place and having people walk away. No Thank You.
Here’s another example of “kind of” discrimination posted here for eternity for when the ad comes down eventually.
“4 bedroom house with double car garage for Rent. Whole house is available for $1,700. Large Master bedroom with full ensuite and walk-in closet. Family room with wood fireplace. Small Deck in fully fenced backyard that backs onto Rouge River Conservation lands (walking trails etc). No houses behind for privacy. Good for nature lovers. 2 car garage (with remote control door) + 2 more car parking in driveway (4 car total parking). A/C. Fridge, Stove, Washer, Dryer, moveable dishwasher. Laminate floors throughout. TTC bus stop on street to Scarborough Town Centre and rush hour Express Bus to Kennedy subway station almost at your door. Not too far from 401 or north to 407. Renter to cut lawn, and shovel snow. Available : June 1st 2015. Showings : Cant show till next week as current tenant is packing stuff up. NON-SMOKER (due to owners allergies)NO DOGS (for religious reasons). All nationality friendly. Muslim friendly. Close to Islamic Foundation of Toronto Masjid on Nugget/Markham Rd. NOTE : I’m not renting to the first person with “cash in hand” or 1st person to apply. I will be looking at all applications and want to find the best family for my house. Will be doing a full Credit Employment References Check. Note 2 : Owner is a Registered/Licensed Real Estate Salesperson , I’m renting it privately (not on MLS), but have to declare that I am registered. Feel free to call (or text).”
This ad can be interpreted as discriminatory in my opinion and it would be just a discriminatory if it said “Christian friendly, St. Jude’s Church of the Vacant Property.” Asking about anyone’s religion is a big no.
I can’t tell you how many times prospective residents tell me that the houses I am showing look exactly like the pictures I take. That’s because for the most part I take the photos with my own phone and then post them. I don’t know what other people are doing. Maybe they are taking pictures out of Home & Garden Magazine or something.
You should probably take pictures of the the house you are renting not some other house. You should also avoid taking photos that make a condo bathroom look like 500 square feet. If you want to know how to take terrible pictures, you should check out this Terrible Real Estate Photos website for some tips.
I really don’t understand landlords who just want to trick people into visiting the property. You get paid if someone rents the place, not per visitor. It’s a rental not a museum. People notice when you say it’s a one plus a den and the den is non-existing or a 6 inch indent in the wall. (Lanterra @ 12 York St. & others (you know who you are))
The Landlord’s Job
The landlord business is much more regulated than other businesses. To compete in this market you must have a quality property in good condition, to attract good tenants. If your place is not up to standard, you’re at a much higher risk of vacancy and deadbeat tenants. God help the landlord looking for the tenant who agrees to fix the place up in exchange for a deal on the rent. No matter how low the rent, the landlord is always responsible for maintenance.
I’m Not A Perfectionist
I was accused of it, but asking a landlord to up their game to get the AAA+ tenants is just good business. I’ve helped too many landlords who get sued at the Landlord & Tenant Board to think there is any business sense in renting sub standard properties.
Happy Fixing Upping!
July 11th, 2015 · Property Management, Rental Property
A concerned condo owner called me yesterday about an issue I also had to deal with. Illegal subletting by tenants trying to cash in on Air BnB & Kijiji & other websites and renting a room, the entire apartment, their terrace or even their living room couch to other people.
Most condo corporations have a rule that you may not rent your place for less than six months, which makes even short term rentals a problem for owners. However if the owner is doing short term rentals at least they have a financial interest in the place. The tenant renting their own place out doesn’t.
My tenant who was doing this did not give a second’s thought to the other nearby residents of the building when he booked a birthday party on his 1000 square foot terrace. He didn’t care when a girl came to the concierge desk requesting access because she thought her sister was being raped during another party. He couldn’t even bother turning over the keys himself to his clients preferring to let the concierge do that or he just left the door open. Another time security called me because “a friends” dog escaped the apartment and was roaming the halls. It also did its business in the hall while the concierge called around trying to figure out who owned the dog.
So you must act quickly to prevent the continuation of this kind of behavior, otherwise the condo corporation will begin to start sending you lawyer letters and they cost $500 each.
You would use an N-5 to document the times and dates and any ads you could pull off the internet. My owner from yesterday found 21 reviews online on her apartment since March. How many people didn’t bother to review? So this is something you’d want to print off as evidence.
You’ll have to work with the property manager of your condo to stop the behaviour. They don’t have to deal with your tenant, they have to deal with you and it’s your job to keep them informed of what steps you are taking, so that they are satisfied you are taking the necessary steps to deal with your tenant problem.
Condominium Act Trumps Residential Tenancies Act
Being a landlord is one of the most legislated businesses ever and rules that could never be enforced as a residential landlord, can be enforced as a condominium. As a landlord, it’s not fun when those acts collide because there you are in the middle between a rock and a hard place. This is one of those times when using a professional manager can really pay off.
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July 7th, 2015 · Property Management, Rental Property
I think I’m one of the only property managers out there that will actually take on a problem tenant. As any owner or manager can tell you, these tenants can use up 90% of your time and mental energy. I am not immune to head games, annoyances, false reports, intimidation, bullying and other issues that come up during these tenancies but I do have experience in dealing with these situations without completely losing my mind, so there’s that. After you’ve had every con in the book run your way, you get kind of vaccinated to a lot of these people.
Paralegals call these characters “professional tenants” and they tend to be excellent at extortion. Recently, I’ve dealt with two cases in which the tenant wanted $29,000 in damages. Considering the Landlord & Tenant Board limit is $25,000 in damages I knew the landlord would get at least $4000 off.
While these tenants are completely vexing we give them power by engaging in their BS. Just today I was stood up for over an hour at a property waiting for the tenant to show up with a $6000 money order that will likely never come. It’s all about extend, and lie and scam. In some cases bully, threaten and intimidate.
The trick is that even thought you can be emotionally engaged – never stop the process of eviction (unless you are ordered to) and get your N-4’s out fast. This tenant got an extra long grace period before she got her N-4 because she claimed she was in the hospital and had a miscarriage. She got her N-4 on the 15th. Now some managers would say I’m a softy for waiting even that long, but if you ever wanted to destroy a landlord & tenant relationship, sending an eviction notice while someone is in hospital with a miscarriage is probably a great way to do it. I’ve also heard from private owners that have waited for months and months before giving the N-4 and starting the legal process.
You must retain your humanity but this business will change you. I guess one of the times I realized that I had changed on a core level was when a tenant told me her daughter had died and I didn’t believe her. I had to go look it up from an independent source. I seriously thought I was a monster. I wish I had a dollar for every bullshit story or excuse I heard. I’d be rich beyond my wildest imaginings.
Regardless, now I’m 99% sure this tenant told me she had a miscarriage just to get some extra time/free rent from me. So why don’t the bleeding heart anti-landlord people ever bring up people like this horrible woman when they are telling us all about how the poor people are the ones who suffer? This lady and her husband work and there is no excuse, they are just predators.
Tomorrow the sheriff.
July 5th, 2015 · Property Management, Rental Property
I just got an email from a reader David Luton and he offered me the copyright to story he wrote about a property inspection he did.
The Inspection- A True Real Estate Story For Halloween
It started off as a normal real estate investment opportunity. It was a commercial property in the country. It was along a main highway in eastern Ontario with a couple of acres of land. Additionally there was a rather old farm house that came with the property that dated from the time the property was originally settled.
We were informed of the opportunity by an alert real estate agent with whom we had occasional dealings. The agent had an exclusive listing on the property that had been originally sold to another investor. The other investor had done all of the normal purchase and sale work and had a signed conditional deal. The two conditions were financing; and subject to inspection.
Unfortunately for the agent the other investor had over extended himself and was unable to get financing. Thus the unlucky agent faced the prospect that the deal would fall through after his work. Like all good agents; however, he lived by the old philosophy; ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and he went out and found another buyer.
The terms were fair, there was a good tenant who was willing to sign a lease, and even the financials looked okay. (A 10 cap, after allowing for repairs, for the professionals). The property itself even had long term capital gains potential. It was located in a rural township, but right on the commercial outskirts of a growing town that was expanding toward the rural border. Several big box stores were coming in on that side of town and it was obvious that this was the side to be in. Income, capital gain potential and a good commercial tenant what more could an investor want.
The only facts we could not verify quickly were the residential tenants of the farm house. We were told that they traveled a lot, and usually slept during the day. Apparently they were usually around only after dark. A general comment was also made that they were a rather strange bunch. That should have given us a warning us of what was to come.
The previous purchaser had negotiated well. It was obvious that some maintenance had been deferred but that was to be expected. The owner who had retired was getting on in years and had moved several thousand miles away to warmer climates. I am sure that is why we were able to get the purchase price we did. The purchase price and 10 cap expected return was after the previous purchaser’s expected allowance for repairs.
Being old fashioned conservative can work for you. We just get our pound of flesh in a different way. The advantage is that the real estate community knows you have the horsepower to move when it is necessary. When you put down a third of your own equity into the property, you can get your financing okay fast and by phone. This was one of those cases where a quick phone call resulted in a fast yes.
We had to move quickly but a premade deal doesn’t come along very often. So we said yes, signed the paperwork and laid down our deposit and ended up with a conditional purchase.
For the seller we give a sweetener to seal the deal by removing the financing condition and give an increased large down payment.
I have a philosophy that money talks in real estate deals. Thus if I want a property, I often use a large deposit payment as a signal to the seller that we are serious.
In the overheated market of recent years its things like this that may make all the difference.
Now all that remained was the inspection. In buying country property I find sellers are funny when it comes to inspection. They sometimes seem to take offense to the fact that you want to carefully look at the property. I have had sellers walk away from a signed and agreed commercial deal because they refused to allow a proper inspection. They insisted that the property was sold “As is as is”. I walked. If I want to bet on the gambling table I will go to Las Vegas.
To inspect country property you often have to use different resources. In a case like the one the property was on well water and septic so the above ground inspection is performed separately from the below ground. Little did we expect what we would face coming from below the ground in this case?
For the below ground I often want to do the inspection before I bid. I find the inspection cost is very modest compared to what you may find particularly if the septic system has to be lifted and replaced. It often is classified as contaminated waste and we all know what the cost of handling this is. This leads to the funny request of a seller, that I offer to pump out his septic system for free, even before an offer is on the table.
I know most purchasers would not be caught dead with a septic pump out truck operator. My advice is swallow your pride. My paternal grandmother came from a long line of highland Scots. They have a saying that applies,” He who pays the piper, calls the tune”.
In the case at hand we decided to do the building inspection first. I use a specialist who can inspect both commercial and residential property. Our problem was the farmhouse. We were unable to contact the tenants, so in accordance with local law and practice we posted a notice on the door, waited 24 hours, and arrived for the inspection.
We did the commercial building first. Normal concerns; some roof work was needed but after 20 years with a tar and pea gravel built up roof, we had expected it and priced it in. A couple of plate glass windows were fogged but again already budgeted for.
Finally after a coffee break we went to the farm house. We knocked on the rear door which opened onto the kitchen. We got no response, and using the key supplied by the owner we went into the kitchen. Let us say we were surprised with the paint scheme.
We next proceeded to the main bathroom. Stranger and stranger. I have been in a lot of bathrooms over the year but this is the first one I have seen painted “BLACK”. Even the bathtub was tiled black. If I ever had to replace the tenants I knew where I would advertise for a new tenant. A goth would love the place.
At this point my inspector wanted to go to the basement. He had some concerns about the wiring and wanted to look at the electrical panel. He was right; knob and tube wiring which is a major concern as most insurers will not insure it. This was one factor we had not allowed for in our pricing as it is only possible to see during an inspection. Replacing the wiring in a house is expensive. I had a contingency fund for unexpected expenses but this would exhaust it.
While in the basement we decided to inspect the rest of the basement for leaks. The basement was old and musty. Everything was covered with cobwebs. While my inspector concentrated on the furnace, I looked over the rest of the basement. Over in a corner I saw it. Like all things you do not expect at first I did not believe my own eyes.
I called my inspector over. In thirty years in the inspection business he had never seen anything like it. “A coffin!!!!” It being daylight of course as was to be expected, it was closed.
In recounting the incident to my lawyer later, I asked him for a professional legal opinion. “Was the coffin a chattel or a fixture?” He replied that he considered it a fixture because it was unbolted to the floor, but that he understood that the rules may be different in Transylvania.
Normally we do the property management for our own buildings. In talking to the real estate agent who was enquiring how the inspection went, I asked if he knew of a building management company that worked after dark.
We never did buy that property. In a later inspection of the septic bed the nice row of cedars turned out to be growing right over the septic system. There were a couple of other issues that we decided were too expensive to fix for the price. The owner unfortunately would not budge.
Was the coffin occupied? Only two people know for sure; myself and the inspector. Was it part of the act of the two so called ‘musicians’ who were the supposed tenants? Or was there a more sinister secret?
Come to think of it though not long afterwards, my wife of 30 years started to complain, that she was having difficulty sleeping during the times when the moon was full.