I’m ready for 2017 rental market

January 25th, 2017 · Property Management

risingsun

So winters are always a resting and catching up time for me. It’s the time for Fire Inspections and being with my family and skating and just relaxing after the frenetic summertime.

Last year I decided I didn’t want to deal with legal problem tenants as much as I had. The business idea behind dealing with the bad tenants was that we would take the properties under management, deal with the tenants, rent to new and better tenants and keep the property under management. This just didn’t work out that well. What happened in real life was that I would deal with the shitty tenants, hire Jeff Shabes the paralegal, go to the Landlord & Tenant Board, the tenants would be evicted, and then the landlords ended up firing us because they got rid of their problem tenants and no longer needed our services. In some cases they sold the house, in others they just rerented the property. In other cases they resumed fighting with the tenants.

The other issue was that Landlord Rescue would be in the position of explaining to the landlords about how the Landlord & Tenant Board actually worked and they didn’t like that at all. This created a lot of friction because it’s not a secret the Landlord & Tenant Board is really pro tenant. It has to be admitted we were exhausted by the legals and conflict and we would get sick of the property as well.

I had to admit it, dealing with some of these properties kind of kept me on my toes, because renting and managing properties in my own portfolio was pretty boring. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, boring and predictable. For most of the properties, the biggest problem is getting another year’s worth of post dated checks.

Looking For A Challenge

I decided that I would change my focus to growing my business instead of dealing with these legal problem tenants. Then… a few days after my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. My husband had two ear surgeries, my son had a terrible, terrible year at school and there was a lot of conflict.  I have one of the best, most diligent, most competent managers working for me and I had to lean on her very heavily this year, and then when my situations resolved, her grandfather (her heart) became ill and broke a hip and finally passed away. So she leaned on me, as it should be in times of trouble.

Instead of being a year of growth and focus on the business, it became a year of personal challenge, situations that didn’t resolve and misery and stress and yet we still kept the company on a fairly even keel.

It is really difficult to care about growing your business when you feel like you’re drowning in personal chaos.

The good news is that I’m still standing and my relationships are stronger and tighter than ever before, and that I’m one year smarter and maybe a little more accepting of my myself and my weaknesses. I feel like I’ve reflected a lot more about the stuff that matters, and money is only worth so much in this life, once you can afford groceries and pay your bills.

Balance is so much more important than just growth.  Properties we manage also have to be legal and decent. Fundamentally I don’t want to expand my business by taking on the ticking time bomb of illegal triplexes in South Oshawa, just waiting to be caught by the city with high risk of bad tenants. No thanks. I want to manage properties I’m proud of, that are clean and solid, and have good owners.

The Rental Market Is Stirring

After a slow month, I feel like spring is approaching and all my rentals that have been hanging out with me… for the last few months, are ready to go off to their new occupants and are renting. So that feels good, in the depths of December tenants are scarce and you can’t even get your own mother to call you back. I wonder if I have something stuck on my face that says don’t rent lol.

We’ve reached the other side of that mountain, and I start to plot and plan all the nice new properties I’m going to rent and manage this year.

Prices have trended up for the last year, and a lot of this is the result of a very flat market finally catching up to itself. I had condos that rented for the same price for 5 years and this year…jumped $300 in rental price per month.  This was a welcome relief for the owner, who had dealt with annual maintenance fee increases, and some repainting and ongoing turnover expenses.

Skating

So I bought skates and went skating with my son. I had so much fun, I went back in 30 years to when I was a kid and I was doing really well and feeling great. So I was trying to impress my son and so I went to do one of those stops that spray snow on him. This did not end as I had envisioned in my mind, with my son coated in a fine mist of snow, but with my fat butt on the ice convinced I had broken my ankle after hearing 3 snapping sounds reverberate up my leg.  One X-ray later, I learned that I had a bad sprain. I also want to mention that Scarborough General was very efficient at helping me and I was X-rayed and out the door in 2 hours. I was very surprised and very pleased at the good job they did.

I was so mad. It’s really hard to find something you enjoy doing and I really injured myself.  I’m now on the sidelines but I still went and enjoyed my son learning to skate.

So basically I can’t wait to get off the crutches and get back on the ice, and next time I won’t forget that I’m old and fat curvy.  Skating is seriously a lot of fun and you can go for free which is also nice.

Looking Forward To Another Year!

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Quinte Landlord Association Sets Up Table at LTB To Help Other Landlords

January 12th, 2017 · Landlord & Tenant Board, Landlord Advocacy

QLA at LTB AR16

I’m sitting at the Midland Landlord & Tenant Board as I type this. It’s awful and crowded. The tenant is trying to get money off her monthly rent because she says we charge her too much rent. Now there’s all day hearings, and we’re nowhere near getting heard. Hopefully soon.

However, I just got this press release from the Quinte Landlord Association, they set up a table and helped landlords at the Belleville Landlord & Tenant Board. There is some free help for small landlords at the Landlord’s Self Help Center. Unfortunately they have only one office in Toronto and the cover all of Ontario. Fortunately they can help by phone. The landlords we most need are the ones who help provide affordable housing: obviously if they are charging minimum rent they don’t have a large legal budget. These are the landlords most at risk from predatory tenants and the most likely to be renting out their own home. They are the most likely to quit the business after a run in with a problem tenant.

Groundbreaking Pilot Project Brings Greater Fairness to Small Landlords

Belleville, Ontario. January 5, 2017. It’s a small step towards fairness for Ontario small landlords and it’s never been done before. Furthermore, it just might help reduce what’s worrying Ontario’s Housing Minister: landlords leaving the market and worsening the already dire housing shortage. That’s how the Quinte Region Landlords Association refers to its recent pilot project designed to help small unrepresented landlords at the Landlord & Tenant Board (LTB) hearings.

For years small landlords have complained about unfairness at the hearings. A sample of the numerous issues includes;

  • –  Lengthy delays in obtaining a hearing
  • –  Applications tossed out because of minor paperwork errors
  • –  Process delays from tenants raising maintenance issues at the 11th hour
  • –  Evictions avoided by tenants presenting fake rent payments to the board
  • –  Tenants in arrears given extra time to move out
  • –  Inconsistent and flawed rulings. One sore point in particular is the free duty counsel service provided to tenants at the hearings. While taxpayer- funded lawyers help tenants win their cases, no similar assistance is offered to small self-represented landlords. “A large corporate landlord can look after itself” says association President Robert Gentile. “But it’s an entirely different reality for small self-represented landlords who may not be able to afford legal help.” Gentile says the hearing process can be complex and intimidating to small landlords who find themselves drawn into it for the first time. “I regularly meet landlords who are quitting and selling their rental properties because they cannot withstand the crushing regulatory environment” says Gentile.To address this inequity the association launched an innovative pilot project to counter-balance the free tenant lawyers. An information table staffed by volunteers was set up at the hearings during a number of dates in 2016. Small landlords were given free handouts educating them about the process, had their procedural questions answered, were referred to legal counsel, and offered moral support.The association first ran the idea by LTB staff and was advised that their presence was not an issue as long as they were outside of the hearing room. The local hearings are hosted by the Belleville Travelodge and Gentile said the association is appreciative of the hotel’s cooperation. “We thank the hotel for recognizing the importance of landlords participating in the judicial process. Not only did Travelodge General Manager Gary Smith accommodate our request to be on-site, he also provided us with a table, chairs, and an easel for signage.”“The success of this pilot project was beyond our expectations” says Gentile. “Many landlords found it beneficial and thanked us for being there.” One such landlord is Jennifer Handley who later joined the association and volunteered herself. “It was my first time at the hearings and I found the process intimidating. So I was very thankful to see the volunteer landlords and information table. They helped me with my questions and even accompanied me into the hearing room for moral support. Up until that point I felt like I was on my own.”It wasn’t only landlords who had a positive reaction. Gentile says “The board adjudicator came out to greet us on two occasions, welcomed us as part of the process, and invited us to observe the hearings. He also announced our presence to the hearing attendees in his opening remarks along with other support services available for both tenants and landlords.” Gentile said that the adjudicator seemed to recognize the importance of having this service for small unrepresented landlords. “He was surprised and said he’s never seen this done before.”Even the tenant’s duty counsel had some positive feedback. According to Gentile, “one of them commented it was a good idea because they often receive complaints that there is no help for small landlords at the hearings.”

    The association’s pilot project concluded at the end of 2016 after hitting a logistical snag with the venue. Gentile says the association expects to have that sorted out soon so they can continue helping small landlords. The association also plans to press the Landlord & Tenant Board to facilitate information tables at all hearing locations across the province. “The LTB pays a lot of rent to the various venues. We feel it should mandate as part of the rental contracts that small landlords be allowed to set up information tables. Given that duty counsel is welcomed and freely walks in and out of the hearing rooms, this is only fair. Plus unlike duty counsel we’re not asking for taxpayer funding – we’re volunteering our own funds and time.”

    In the absence of a formal arrangement with the LTB, Gentile encourages all landlord associations to set up similar information tables at their local hearing locations. He suggests a few tips for a successful program:

    • –  Make arrangements with the hearing venue. Explain what you propose to do and why it’s an important part of the judicial process.
    • –  Be on-site for only the first hour or so as people are coming in. There is no need to be there all day.
    • –  Maintain a respectful distance from the hearing room entrance door.
    • –  Do not solicit association memberships. Focus on providing helpful information.Gentile says this initiative will help support Housing Minister Chris Ballard’s goal of preventing small landlords from leaving the industry because of the onerous rental laws. The Toronto Star recently reported that the Minister is worried about landlords pulling out of the market when rental units are in such short supply. “We need to look at legislation, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Ballard in the Star Dec 1, 2016 article.Associations and landlords seeking more information on how to go about setting up their own information tables can contact the Quinte Region Landlord’s Association at its website
    • Media contact: Robert Gentile, President
      Quinte Region Landlord’s Association
    • 613-707-3879

    Good Work QLA

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Key Management & Key Deposits

January 10th, 2017 · Property Management, Rental Property

fob-jpgI have at one time in career been given a 5 gallon pail filled to 3/4 with keys. Furthermore they were using the key tags with string and the strings had become completely mixed up.

For my management properties I use these small and cheap plastic key tags to put on every key that crosses my desk.

As we get more and more properties we make use of different types of lockboxes more and more. Specifically I’m concerned I may have the key but be across town and not be able to provide timely access in case of emergency.  Also meeting contractors can be very difficult, so having a lock box on site is a good way to deal with access issues. I like these kinds of key safes because they can hold more keys.

 

We also use the wall mounted type of lockbox to provide access, it really depends on how many keys the property has.

 

Also invaluable is the use of master keys for all your properties, we don’t use this system because many of the properties we manage are condos, and initial costs for set up are pretty high for changing the locks or rekeying them to a master. However, I have definitely used this system before. With new technology, you can also put in keyless locks but this tends to be pricey.

Key Deposits (Bribe) vs  Key Deposit (Replacement Cost)

So for a long time “key deposits” were illegal and they still are. “Key Deposits” were the practice of paying the building superintendent/rental staff for access to rental apartments.  This was in addition to your first & last month’s rent and the tenant never saw that money again. It was not refundable. It was in effect a bribe. Anyone doubting that our vacancy rates are nowhere as low as when I first came to Toronto, just has to remember the Key Deposit Bribes were a thing and a law had to be made about it. I have not heard of a Key Deposit Bribe being paid in at least 15 years.

We do have another kind of Key Deposit being charged that is perfectly legal. Regular keys for a house cost a couple bucks and are readily copied at the local hardware store. No big deal. If the tenant left with the key, you could have the lock rekeyed if you brought it to the locksmith or even changed the lock for about $30 or more if you had a particularly lovely lock set.

Condos changed everything. For security reasons and to prevent unauthorized copying keys that could not be copied at the local hardware store became the new normal. Landlords went from keys that cost $2-3 each to keys that cost $50 to $150 per key plus the FOB (Electronic Dingus that lets you in the door, on the elevator and in the gym). The FOB can cost another from a low of $50 to a high of $250 for those garage door opener FOB’s. Obviously that’s the cost per set.

Next thing you know the landlord is shelling out $300 to $400 per set of keys and you usually need one set per bedroom. Now if it were just an upfront one time cost, it’s not so bad, but…why should your tenant give you your expensive keys back if they don’t feel like it. There is no benefit to them to return those keys to you. If their place isn’t immaculate they may not want to meet you and turn over the keys. So the keys ended up disappearing and the landlord had to pay to replace them. That got old for landlords very quickly.

We are currently allowed to charge the replacement cost for those keys as a deposit. This way if the keys get lost, or stolen, or tenants can’t be bothered to give them back it’s no big deal because you have the deposit to replace the keys. The deposit must be refundable. I can tell you from personal experience that getting a new set of keys made up is not easy. Many places you need to make an appointment with building management during the day, sign some forms, sometimes meet up with a locksmith and endure general annoyance factor level 5.

However, there are some places that like to limit occupancy of units. For instance a 3 bedroom unit could legitimately house 3 couples that would need 6 sets of keys. Well in many condos, they allow 2 FOB’s and 2 keys only. I helped the owner of a large 3 bedroom condo downtown and his tenants had 7 sets of keys. They had many adult children that would fly in and out of Toronto and stayed and visited for extended visits. I actually had a family living in a one bedroom condo with a couple, two kids, and grandma and granpa always “visiting.” I didn’t even have to repaint the unit, they were so clean. It is my opinion, that as rents keep going up and prices of condos keep going up, more of these sharing situations will have to happen.

For those buildings, and to save money, you might want to hit up Fob Toronto, a fob copying company. I almost resorted to using them after trying for weeks to make an appointment with an unavailable property manager. Another possible use of this service is access to your unit, without going through management and security. Some buildings don’t want you, the owner of the unit, to have access to the building. Legitimately, you need door access to deliver any Landlord & Tenant Board forms, but I’ve never had any issues just asking security to let me up.

Have I ever lost keys?

Usually I lay keys somewhere and forget where I put them. Usually I can find them when I stop looking for them. It’s not unusual for Key Tags to fall off, break, lose a piece of plastic and become unidentifiable. I have a box of random keys. I become very cranky when I misplace keys and it’s usually just me being preoccupied and setting them down in the bathroom.  Which I did one time, upon leaving a condo showing. I looked high and I looked low and I had just set them down on the countertop in the bathroom.

Once I “lost” a set of condo keys, I paid to replace them and rekey the lock and replace the FOB and it cost me like $270. Anyhow about 6 months later, I was doing a fire inspection and found them in my tool bag, they had been in my car trunk all along, probably mocking me on a daily basis.

Don’t panic if you lose a set of keys, unless of course you drop them down the storm sewer while getting out of your car. Then panic for a few moments, until you figure out where to go to get a new set. If it’s a car key, your wallet is going to be shockingly lighter if you don’t have the original key.

Those are my key management tips.

The Main Tip is Don’t Panic!

 

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How to Collect Your Money From a Landlord & Tenant Board Order

January 5th, 2017 · Kids & Family

how-to

This is going to be the ultimate case study in how to collect your owed rental money using a paralegal, for a number of rent arrears, a guy who moved out after his short term rental scheme failed, the guy who ripped me off by faking e-transfers. For privacy reasons I am not using their names even though I would love to. (I don’t need another stupid lawsuit)

The wisdom of countless landlord preceding me is just to move on and let it go, but actually with arrears increasing all the time and people who make over $100K per year strategically defaulting on their debt the last few months before they move out, I’m really unhappy with that answer.

In the past, when I worked for a building, I went through all kinds of dusty boxes and filed over $150K of rent arrears and over time we got a lousy 18% back. However all I did was fax them over and the entire thing didn’t require a whisper of my time.  $27,000 of lost money collection is nothing to sneeze at but I’d like to do a little better.

Most of these are rent arrears and we have photo ID and employment information and credit score is OK. Some of these are legal clients who hired me because they had a bad tenant, so clients did not have some of the documentation in place.

rent-collections-case-study

I don’t know how this will turn out, over and over I’ve heard don’t throw good money after bad, but I’m confident that we can recover a lot of this money for landlords and I’m willing to try.

Mechanisms for getting your money include…

  1. Seizing a portion of someone’s wages
  2. Seizing their income tax returns
  3. Seizing their bank accounts
  4. They just pay you because you’re a pain in their butt.

That’s not all but there’s a few ways to get our dough back.

If you are a landlord in Ontario and would like to try to collect on a Landlord & Tenant Board Order and be added to this case study, please contact me and I can add you to it. I’m using Masoud who is a licensed paralegal and he seems very competent and professional but it’s way too early to tell how this project will all turn out. That’s the whole point of doing this… to find out how much of the money owed that will be recovered and develop systems and processes to keep my clients safe from predators.  To reach Masoud directly to try to collect from your tenant (You don’t need to be added to the Case Study but more data is better) you can call him at 416-880-4600 or email him directly at quicklegal(at)gmail.com.

I do everything I am “supposed” to do to protect my clients during the leasing process. Tenants have verifiable employment, decent credit, co-signers if required, photo ID, proof of income. However this is not a perfect world and even with all these protections in place, when you rent hundreds of apartments/houses/condos per year, you are going to get some apples. Some of those apples will get divorced, go crazy, strategically stop paying rent and generally do things that will cause the landlord to lose their money.  I think this increases costs for everyone and causes landlords to sell their properties and get out of the business.

Anyhow I’m actually really forward to being able to get accurate information for landlords, is the money lost gone forever or is it collectible for those landlords willing to do the work to collect?

So far, I’ve sent $81,000 for legal collection and spent about 4 hours of my time with the paralegal and about another hour formulating this blog post.

Let me know if you want to join my experiment!

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2016 GTFO Happy New Year 2017

January 1st, 2017 · Weird Landlord News

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After a messed up year of my sister getting cancer and the tumor going away (not a cure she’s still dying!) and Edina’s (My super duper partner in crime at Landlord Rescue) grandfather getting sick and passing away, I’m ready for a new year. Seriously I had high hopes for 2016, and it let me down.

My last act of 2016 was to receive a call from some poor people who’s house had burned down and get them moved in the next day to a lovely interim house while their house gets rebuilt.

Which brings me back to Fire Safety again (OMG I’m so so boring) but seriously the picture above is the smoke detector I pulled out of their new house they rented. That smoke detector is 6 years past it’s expiration date and now it’s in my garbage can and it’s been replace by the spliff new model below

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This lovely smoke carbon monoxide detector with sealed 10 year battery life will keep you out of jail like no Corvette will. (Welcome to landlording) and for only $69.00 at your local Home Depot.

Anyhoo. Happy New Year!

Here’s a bonus article from CBC where my dog got shocked by a Hydro Pole I was innocently walking along the street and boom my dog gets shocked by a Hydro Pole.  Toronto Hydro was shockingly fast and they were at the hydro pole in about 20 minutes. (In a flash – you might say, if you were into bad puns which I am NOT)

I asked my dog Robot “What was it like getting a shock” and she said “Ruff, very Ruff!”

On a more personal note, 2016 has really been a terrible year with the schools, my son has autism and for the first five years we really got a pass with excellent administrators and principals but last year was hell. That has thrown me for a loop the entire year as we regroup from “that incident” which was just a hellish long time of me threatening to do legal stuff.

My husband is imported from the USA (nothing but the finest vintage for me) so seriously I hope Donald Trump gets scabies or bed bugs from Putin. Hell I’d settle for a nice case of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea.

I’ve not been the biggest fan of 2016, and I’d like to say good bye to that beast.

Happy 2017 !!!!

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