Back by popular demand is something I wrote in March of 2007 (nearly a year ago), just before Alberta made some changes to the RTA. In my next post I’ll also talk about something that I started doing after this: taking tenants to Dispute Resolution (i.e. to court) myself. I’ve never lost a case.For now, here’s my take: Rents will increase. It’s a fact of life. They increase for several reasons which are un-related to any perceived desire on the part of the owner to screw you. I will briefly explain.*
- Fixing your building. Welcome to Alberta, where it’s great to be a tradesperson, and not so great to have to hire them. When we hire a plumber to fix your sink it now costs twice as much. Same with the electrician. And the cleaning/flood people when you clog the toilet and we have to clean your carpet. Property taxes have doubled in the last year, and I’m not even going to get into utilities.
- If all the buildings in your area are full all the time, then rents will generally increase. It’s a fact of life. There is a good and a bad aspect to this. The good is that it provides both incentive and a means for owners to build more property for you to rent, and you do the math about what happens when supply is greater than demand. The bad part of this is in point 3 below.
- If your building is a good deal, that is more than $100 below the new rental rates of similar nearby buildings your building will attract: drug dealers, harde drug users, prostitutes, alcoholics, and other people** who are a) unable to pay their rent, and b) not usually very good neighbours. The reverse is also true.
- Moving is not a bad thing. It’s a part of life. If you don’t like the rent/neighbours/fees/paint, then move. You will not die. If your children have to switch schools the will not explode.
- You cannot negotiate a rental increase. We provide notice. You pay it. I appreciate the nice letter, however I will respond with a nice letter saying “no, please pay your increase”.
- We will evict you if you do not pay. Trust me. It is not out of malaise or spite, but because if you don’t pay your rent we can’t pay the mortgage/utilities/property/taxes/bill for the building, and then it means that I don’t get paid and can’t make my rent payment.
- If you really don’t like it you have options. Call the Landlord/Tenant Advisory Board, but realize that they have no authority and sometimes give bad advice. Really, the only thing you can do is take it to court. (And we’re pretty good at winning)
* I base this on my own observations and experience in the industry. I personally strive to help provide safe, clean, and reasonably priced homes. There are landlords and owners out there who are less than ethical and do not share the same goals… ** This is not to say that there are not recreational drug users, working prostitutes, alcoholics, and other people who are not good tenants. I know a number of them who are just fine neighbours. I have yet to meet a meth addict who was a good neighbour. Ask me about the time there was a meth lab near my office. Meth labs are also excellent explosives factories. And now some general observations: things people should know about living in rental property.
- Late rent. Where I work there’s a $100 additional payment due on the 3rd day of the month if your rent isn’t in. It’s the same as rent, and you cannot refuse to pay it. Again, thanks for the nice letter, and I’m glad you called the Tenant Advisory Board, and the 18 year-old newbie there told you to try and refuse to pay it, but you can’t. The lease says you can’t, the eviction notice said you can’t, and the courts have said you can’t.
- We do not pick up rent. I don’t care if it’s $500 or $50,000; we don’t pick up rent. In some buildings we do have resident managers who collect it, but they are not allowed to bring rent in after the 3rd. It’s up to you. Also, putting it in the mail on the 3rd is not good enough to avoid a late payment charge. It needs to be in by the first. We hold off on the late charges till the 3rd because we’re nice.
- We don’t take cash. Read it again. We don’t take cash. Yes, we’re allowed to do that by law. We take cheques, money orders (which you can buy at 7-11 and Safeway), and debit.
- Repairs: We will fix the things that need to be fixed. Thank you for the rude letter and list of stuff that you think needs to be fixed. Living in a rental is not like living in your parents’ basement; we do not have an unlimited budget. We will fix the things that need to be fixed. It does, however take a while to get someone in to do it. Why? Because we live in Alberta. Please don’t call more than twice asking about the repairs. We haven’t forgotten about you.
- Phone etiquette: We will be polite, calm, and honest with you. We expect the same. If you shout, swear, or are otherwise unreasonable or rude, we will hang up on you. We are people too; the fact that we collect your rent doesn’t take away our feelings.
And, finally, a word of advice for people thinking of buying a condo (i.e. strata):Understand that you don’t own it the way you own a house. You actually own a bit of everything and you will end up paying for stuff like the replacement of everyone’s windows. They call it a “special assessment”. Also understand that the Condominium Owners Board controls a lot more than you think it does, including your ability to put anything on your property/house/balcony (including plants, flags, BBQs, and satellite dishes), and the ability to prevent you from fixing things yourself. Also, they can depreciate your property to the point of absurdity. Learn before you buy. Next time I’m also going to take a look at investors/owners. They’re not the same thing, and investing in real estate is not the same as investing in anything else. Why? Because you’re providing people homes. Disclaimer: The above does not necessarily represent the opinions of my employer, former employer, or any one I’ve mentioned. I am not a realtor or a property manager.