RHB’s forum for rental housing associations to share news, events and industry information
Hot Topics: WRAMA reports on changes affecting its membership, such as updates to the platform, benefits, and events. pg. 45 EOLO reports on the City of Ottawa’s new requirements for landlords, namely information packages for tenants, recording and managing tenants’ service requests, and a tenant support registry. pg. 49 HDAA reports on the COVID-19 updates for Hamilton, what’s happening with the LRT, and by-law updates. pg. 53 LPMA discusses financial resources for tenants and the legal issues around arranging for tenants to cut grass or clear snow for a discount on their rent. pg. 57
The Member Associations
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE As we move into the summer months, we continue to see brighter signs that we are closer to coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will no doubt raise more questions than answers as we get back to enforcing evictions and dealing with the backlog at the Landlord and Tenant Board. There will be many areas to watch and this is likely one that will be a part of many conversations in the coming months. Thank you to all who were able to make our virtual April and May Members meetings. We continue to try bringing relevant topics that are current in the market to help inform you, the landlord / property manager. I’ve highlighted the meetings later in this article and the videos are available to view on the website. As many of you are aware, the real estate market is on fire. We have all seen the stories in the media, or heard through our circles, about the shortage of supply causing some transactions in the residential market to go for far above the asking price.
Since the new year, the multi-family market has started to act in a similar fashion. During that time, several properties have come to market that have attracted well over 50 showings ahead of a bid deadline. There have been multiple offers in many of these sales, with some properties garnering over 25 bids. This shows the strong demand from buyers in a market where there are not many buildings for sale. Price per unit and capitalization rates have adjusted accordingly, as values are pushing to new heights. A recent analysis of buildings from 5-25 units shows that net capitalization rates have averaged about 3.5 per cent since the beginning of the new year. The lowest cap rate year-to-date was just under 3 per cent. Price per units averaged just under $210,000, with the highest paid just over $270,000 per unit (for a 6-plex). With the market changing so fast, ensure you have engaged with an agent with the experience to sell multi-family properties, should you have an interest in selling. A reputable broker will have a marketing plan to show your property in its best light and to achieve the highest price in the market. Now is not the time to do an off-market deal, as you may be leaving money on the table.
- James Craig, WRAMA President email@example.com
Renewal update As you all know, we switched our membership platform last year to Membee in an effort to gain better control of many aspects of operating an association. As with any switch, there are always growing pains. This has certainly been the case for some members more recently. A number of members who paid by cheque had their membership either suspended or removed as WRAMA had not yet processed the cheque. If you sent us a cheque for your renewal, please reach out and let us know to watch for it. We will then know to keep your account active. By way of background information, when you renew your membership online, your membership profile is immediately updated to reflect that you
paid your e-billing invoice. This is the preferred method to renew your membership, as paying with a cheque is a manual process that could take weeks to finalize. Moving forward, I encourage you to renew through the website using our e-billing invoices system and refrain from using personal cheques to pay for your membership, if at all possible. Our goal is to streamline this process so it doesn’t cause issues in the future or disrupt your membership. Your assistance through this process is greatly appreciated. Should you need assistance with your account, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Associate membership As a benefit of our overall membership, we have included an online directory of associate members. The idea is for members to have somewhere to look should they need a last-minute plumbing repair or have an unexpected roof leak. This can be accessed in the Members Only area of the WRAMA website. As an associate member, you have the ability to add more information to your profile to ensure it shows you in the best light to other members. It’s also a good idea to routinely check your listing to ensure contact information, picture, and other information you wish to include are relevant and up to date. You also have the ability to offer special discounts to WRAMA members through the directory. Please login to your WRAMA account and view your profile to ensure it is correct and displayed properly. If you do not see it, please let us know so we can correct it. Should you need assistance setting up your profile, please reach out to email@example.com.
April’s Members event
Our April Members meeting featured Stephanie Farenhorst from Landlord Credit Bureau (LCB). She provided an overview of the services provided by LCB, which was followed by a good fireside chat about questions that new landlords have relating to their program. LCB provides a service in which the landlord reports good (and bad) rental payment history to LCB, which accepts signups from tenants. While there are many benefits to this service, the primary benefit is the tenant’s ability to establish a healthy rent payment history score. It is not always possible for renters to separate their rent payment from timely payment of other bills. In turn, it provides a greater likelihood that the tenant will pay their rent on time. LCB is focused on increasing revenues for landlords, rewarding responsible tenants, and reducing risk for both parties. LCB has operated since 2012, and serves landlords (and tenants) in Canada and the United States. The company serves large and small landlords with a plan that fits all types of budgets. Its web-based platform is easy to navigate and to use to monitor your portfolio regardless of its size. If you have not heard of this service, I encourage you to review the video from the meeting for more information. You can reach Stephanie for more information by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May’s Members event On May 12, WRAMA hosted David DeVries from Antec Appraisers, who provided an overview of the appraisal process, who would need an appraisal, and how the market has changed in a short period of time. It was a great conversation about many of the pitfalls of the process, and involved great questions from the members.
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David walked us through the process of having an appraisal completed. The process includes a site tour of the property, as well as detailed financials for the past three years, any capital work that has been completed in the past 10 years, and any other recent reports completed (e.g., environmental, building condition). The financial information was by far the most important for an apartment appraisal, as most are completed using the income approach to value. Having accurate and up-to-date financials will help show the property’s value in a better light.
and superintendent costs, and repairs and maintenance. These line items need to be included in your appraisal regardless of whether you are paying these expenses. David indicated that this is done to have all appraisals on the same baseline as other properties. If you are having the appraisal done to get financing, your lender’s underwriter will also include these items as part of the review. The conversation also touched on the current market for a few different asset classes. Industrial and multi-family are two classes that are currently at all-time highs. Values are still being pushed in the current market. Values have increased significantly over the past six months and are likely to continue for some time yet. If you missed the meeting and have questions for David, you can reach him at ddevries@ antecappraisals.com. You can also check out our website for the meeting video at www.wrama.com in the Members Only section.
The discussion also included who would need an appraisal. For most, it is for the purposes of financing (either a purchase or refinancing). However, an appraisal can also be required for matrimonial reasons, for an expropriation or for value reporting purposes (some REITs value their properties on an annual basis). The common pitfalls or areas most disputed through the process of an appraisal include vacancy/bad debt, management
T: 416.250.7200 E: email@example.com
Summer break As we move into the summer months, the Board has decided to hold our last meeting in June before a summer break. Historically, WRAMA has taken a summer break from our in-person meetings after the May meeting; this year we have decided to extend the meetings into June. We wish all WRAMA members a great summer break and look forward to welcoming you back to our expert panel in September.
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Chair’s message Two years ago, ACORN and some “progressive” City Councilors pushed hard for landlord licensing. Other Ontario cities have landlord licensing (or registration), which requires City inspections, an application to get a license, a lot of paperwork and records, and an annual fee for each rental unit. EOLO prevented licensing from being adopted, so we do not need to pay the City any fees to rent homes to tenants. However, the City still felt some new requirements were needed, and enacted the Rental Housing Property Management By-law. The by-law will come into force on August 31, 2021, three months from now. The new rules seek to avoid and solve the problems caused by miscommunication between tenants and landlords. Most landlords give much of the required information to tenants now, and most landlords keep most of the required records now. However, the by-law will add to all residential landlords’ administrative obligations. - John Dickie, EOLO Chair
The City of Ottawa’s new requirements for residential landlords This article describes the City of Ottawa’s new requirements for residential landlords that apply in addition to those described in the last issue.
Information package for tenants The by-law requires all residential landlords to provide an information package to their tenants. For many landlords, the information contained in the package is already being provided. For the most part, the new requirement is about providing the information in a single package. Contact information The information package must include the landlord’s, or property manager’s, contact information. That includes a name, a mailing address, a telephone number, and at least one method of sending text electronically (e.g., by email, text messaging, through a Portal). There must also be instructions on how a tenant may follow up previously submitted tenant service requests, and on how tenants may report unresolved issues to the City of Ottawa. If the contact information changes, an update must be provided to the tenants in advance, or within 24 hours following the change.
When a property manager is listed as the point of contact, the property manager is required to maintain current contact information for the property owner. On the request of a by-law officer, the property manager must provide the owner’s contact information. Safety, cleaning, and maintenance The information package must include information about fire safety, including the location of any fire safety equipment in the dwelling unit; and a specific statement about fire safety, available in the by-law or on the City’s website. The information package must include a schedule for cleaning and maintenance tasks to be undertaken by the landlord, such as cleaning of interior and exterior common areas, snow clearing, or lawn care. Landlords may wish to use the phrase “as needed”, as in “the landlord will cut the grass weekly, or as needed.” Note that this is NOT meant to include the building systems maintenance work (e.g. water pumps, boilers).With regard to waste and recycling, the information package must state who is responsible for placing items out for curbside collection, including the removal of empty collection containers;
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the location and use of onsite waste storage areas; and any site-specific instructions concerning disposal of household waste, recycling, compostable waste, yard waste, large items, and hazardous or prohibited materials. If the tenant is responsible for curbside collection, the information must include the collection schedule, and how to acquire replacement blue, black, or green bins for the rental unit (e.g., calling 311, online at Service Ottawa). Parking Where applicable, the information package must include the assignment of designated parking space(s) for the rental unit; instructions for on-site guest parking; contact information for any private parking enforcement agency; and where either tenant OR guest parking is NOT provided on site, instructions to review on-street parking information available on the City of Ottawa website. Landlords can tell tenants to go to https://ottawa.ca/en/parking-roads-andtravel/parking/regulations-and-restrictions. Signatures The package must contain a signature block for the tenant to acknowledge receipt of the package, including the tenant’s printed name, the tenant’s signature, and the date of the signature. For new tenants, landlords are required to include the package in the lease package, and to obtain the tenant’s acknowledgement signature when they sign the lease (and get the keys). For existing tenants, landlords have until November 30, 2021 to deliver the information package (one per door). For the duration of the pandemic, the package can be delivered by hand (seeking a signature), by email, by courier or by registered mail. If delivering the package after the pandemic is over, a landlord is to seek a tenant’s signature through delivery by hand; if the tenant refuses, then the landlord can use another means to deliver the package.
Recording and managing tenant service requests General tenant service requests The by-law requires landlords to have a procedure for managing tenant service requests, which includes a means of receiving written, verbal, AND electronic text requests for service from tenants. There must also be a procedure and criteria to assess incoming service requests and identify urgent issues, as well as a procedure to check if the tenant has registered a need for assistance in the tenant support registry. The landlord must keep a record of all tenant service requests. That record must include: a) The date and time the tenant service request was made b) T he address to which the tenant service request relates, including the unit number c) The contact information provided by the tenant d) A description of the issue, as reported by the tenant e) A n evaluation of the urgency of the tenant service request f) A record of actions taken to address the tenant service request g) A record of the outcome of the tenant service request h) T he date and method by which the tenant was notified of the resolution of their tenant service request
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Tenants are to make service requests to the landlord or property manager as set out in the information package for tenants. If requested by the tenant when the tenant requests service, the landlord shall provide a written record of the tenant’s request (and the information in points a) to h) above) to the tenant within 30 days. On request, the landlord is to provide a record of a tenant’s service request to a by-law officer. The City website is to provide a template tenant service request form which landlords can use. Urgent and non-urgent tenant service requests Landlords are required to respond to urgent requests within 24 hours, while for nonurgent requests the time limit is seven days. “Responding” means beginning to address the problem; it does not mean the problem must be solved. Many landlords treat issues more quickly than the by-law requires. Urgent tenant requests include a loss or interruption of vital services (hot or cold water, electricity, or fuel for heat unless the tenant is responsible for that); security concerns; problems with accessibility features and equipment; and any issues that can reasonably be expected to make a unit uninhabitable. The by-law considers all other service requests to be non-urgent. Many landlords treat more issues as urgent than the by-law requires.
Tenant support registry Finally, landlords are required to maintain a tenant support registry. The registry needs to be separate from the repair request records (e.g., in a different Excel file). The registry is meant to keep a record of requests under the Human Rights Code and the Fire Code. It is NOT meant to change the existing substantive law about “accommodation” under the Human Rights Code and the Fire Code.
The information package must provide information regarding the existence and purpose of the tenant support registry; the manner in which a tenant may request to be added to, or removed from, the registry; and a specific statement available on the City’s website. Entries in the registry must include the tenant’s name and unit number, a description of the assistance the tenant requested, and a description of the assistance the landlord has agreed to provide. Tenants may voluntarily self-identify to the landlord as needing assistance for issues concerning evacuation from an apartment building, periods when a vital service is disrupted; pest control preparation, assistance understanding documents due to cognitive or developmental disability, or language or communication barriers, or any other concern that may require landlord accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Landlords must remove information about a tenant from the registry when requested by the tenant, and upon termination of occupancy by the tenant. Landlords would be well advised to keep removed information in a separate file for at least two years. Landlords are also required to present their tenant support registry for inspection by a by-law officer upon request.
Moving forward Hopefully, all Ottawa residential landlords will prepare the paperwork so that everyone complies with the new by-law on August 31. In three years, the City is to review the new by-law. EOLO will seek to minimize any additions to the requirements, and may seek to have requirements removed.
BECOME AN EOLO MEMBER NOW! EOLO invites Ottawa area landlords to join the organization. Have your interests and concerns heard, and benefit from EOLO’s support. As an EOLO member, you will be able to: • Receive
prompt emails of relevant City rule changes
two networking receptions a year
two free education events a year
Receive all 6 annual issues of RHB Magazine with current developments, City and provincial funding programs, and landlord-tenant laws.
To apply for membership, go to www.eolo.ca, download the membership application form and send it to us at the contact info on that website.
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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE At the time of writing our last article, we were so hopeful that we had finally made some headway with the pandemic. At that time, cases were around 1000 per day and we hoped we would not see a third wave. Things have changed quite a bit since then. As we feared, a third wave did indeed hit the province and we are currently still in a provincial lockdown that has been extended until June 2. It seems the new variants of the virus account for about half of all new cases, which in itself is quite concerning. We do not know how many times the virus will keep mutating or if our current vaccines will work against all of the different variants. Luckily, we are finally seeing numbers come down after reaching all-time highs in the 4000s and vaccines have now ramped up considerably, with approximately 150,000 vaccines being administered per day. Ontario has also opened up vaccines to anyone who is 18 years or older, which is very great news. We are finally making some great headway with more and more of the population getting vaccinated and numbers on a downward trend. As we hoped with the first and second wave, hopefully this third wave is finally our last wave and we can start looking forward to a more normal summer. The government has just released their new three-stage approach, getting rid of the colour-coded system, and we hope we will reach stage 3 by the end of July. - Tina Novak, President, HDAA
Hamilton COVID-19 update The City of Hamilton and Hamiltonians continue to fight the pandemic and, as with many other cities, the repercussions have been severe. After over a year of struggle, there will be many businesses that will not be opening their doors again and many individuals are struggling now more than ever. As with most of the province, Hamilton had also seen a peak in case numbers during this third wave with over 200 cases per day at one time. The average is now just over 100 cases per day, which is still fairly high for the City. With the new re-opening framework, however, it looks like the entire province will be opening at the same time based on provincial metrics so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The City has fortunately vaccinated approximately 50 per cent of the adult population at the time of writing so we are hopeful that the combined trend downward in daily COVID-19 cases and increasing vaccinations will see us in good shape before long either way.
concerns over safety and cleaning policies in place and the general safety for tenants and residents in apartment buildings. Of course, there will inevitably be more risks when living in places that are more populated and where there are more opportunities for encountering others but the majority of apartment building operators have been doing their best to follow health and safety guidelines and provide support to their residents. It is, of course, a twoway street, however, and residents have their own responsibilities in adhering to policies in place, such as making sure to wear masks in all common areas, washing their hands frequently, and not leaving their units to use common areas when they should be self-isolating.
More related to the apartment industry, the City has unfortunately seen outbreaks in a few apartment buildings, which has raised a lot of
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The LRT is back It seems at every turn we receive new information about the on-again, off-again Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Hamilton. After the provincial government cancelled funding early last year, many thought that it would be the end of the LRT; however, shortly thereafter came an announcement that the government would provide funding for transportation and transit infrastructure after all and a task force was created to decide how this funding should be used. The task force provided their recommendations and we have been waiting to hear back from the provincial government as to their thoughts. Hamilton finally got some big news this month that the federal and provincial governments would each be contributing $1.7 billion to build the LRT line in Hamilton. It seems this controversial project is back on the table now that Hamilton has the funding it needs and we are interested to see how it all unfolds.
City of Hamilton By-law updates On March 23, the City of Hamilton’s Planning Committee met to discuss the Property Standards By-law Review. HDAA had submitted written submissions with our views and suggestions. Despite HDAA’s concerns about increasing the cost of providing rental housing, the Planning Committee voted unanimously to add more requirements to the Property Standards By-law, including provisions about common area cleanliness, appliances, and floors and walls having similar finishes after repairs, which is a cosmetic issue. The timeline for the enactment of the revisions is uncertain at this time, as City staff are to come back with the details. We will see what the staff recommend adding. The City of Hamilton has also been full steam ahead on revamping their policies on secondary dwellings to coincide with provincial guidelines. As part of their multi-phase Residential Zoning Project, the City began discussions on allowing secondary dwellings in principal dwellings and the regulations surrounding them. After public meetings and engagement, to which the HDAA took part in, the City announced this month that the amendments to the previous by-laws have been approved to permit Secondary Dwelling Units. This is very positive news for the City of Hamilton, which has been struggling with rental supply and affordability. The adoption of landlord licensing was to be discussed at the Planning Committee meeting on May 18, but has now been added to the Committee agenda for July 6. HDAA has been preparing our submissions and delegations on licensing, and will continue our fight against landlord licensing. Landlords in Hamilton should tell their City Councillors that they oppose landlord licensing because it will raise the costs of providing rental housing, and thus raise rents. HDAA has reached out to FRPO, GTAA, and EOLO for assistance in opposing landlord licensing in Hamilton. Our sister apartment associations are happy to help. Plan to attend and speak in opposition at the Planning Committee meeting of July 6, which is to start at 9:30 am, and may last all day. Reach out to HDAA and we can notify you if licensing will be considered at the July 6 meeting or not. While numerous landlords in Hamilton take steps to improve the quality of rental housing through renovations, tenant advocates criticize those improvements as “renovictions”. For many years, the Residential Tenancies Act has given tenants significant rights when landlords want to renovate the properties they own. Most tenants are entitled to three months’ rent as compensation for having to move out during the renovations. If they give a simple notice before they move out, then after the renovations are finished, tenants have the right to move back into the renovated unit at the rent they paid before
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Ryan provided great information on the requirements for residential units and dwellings under the Fire Code, required maintenance in apartment buildings, necessary fire plans, as well as general tips and suggestions for keeping rental properties fire safe.
May 19 – COVID-19 Education Session
the improvements. Under both the Wynne government and the Ford government, tenants’ rights have been further enhanced. The last thing the rental market in Hamilton needs is more regulations imposing higher costs on landlords when they invest in their properties, thereby discouraging the improvement of aging rental buildings.
Past events April 20 – Fire Safety & Standards Webinar The HDAA was very excited to welcome Ryan Smy, a Fire Inspector with the Hamilton Fire Department, to discuss fire standards and safety for small, medium, and large landlords, as well as scheduled maintenance and responsibilities.
The HDAA and Hamilton Public Health Services hosted a COVID-19 education session for our members and affiliates, which was a great success. The session spoke on COVID19 infection control, landlord and tenant responsibilities, outbreak management, and supports available for operators to help protect staff and tenants. Great information was provided on COVID-19 and its spread, the state of COVID-19 in the City, outbreaks currently occurring in apartment buildings, and the outbreak protocol, as well as general information on COVID-19 and vaccination information. Also discussed is what landlords and property managers can do to keep their residents safe, which included limiting close contact, proper cleaning, screening visitors and contractors, hand hygiene and wearing of masks, and, most importantly, communication with residents and keeping them informed on policies.
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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE L O O K I N G BAC K , M OV I N G F O RWA R D
My second two-year term comes to an end in the next few weeks. It’s been a bittersweet time, both challenging and rewarding. The pandemic continues to adversely affect the rental housing industry and our landlord and associate members. Even so, LPMA is engaging our members through Zoom meetings with knowledgeable speakers. We also hold discussions with representatives from the City of London’s homeless services, realtors, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and our legal representative, Cohen Highley LLP. Lawyer Joe Hoffer of Cohen Highley has updated the additional terms and conditions that accompany the standard lease. He has also communicated to LPMA recent changes to the property standards and rental licensing bylaws, as well as developments in Bill 184 and COVID-19. I would like to thank LPMA for four great years as president and also welcome incoming president Shane Haskell. As a realtor and founder/president of Lionheart Property Management, Shane became an LPMA member in 2007 before joining the Board in 2014.
- Shirley Criger, LPMA President
FINANCIAL RESOURCES HELP LANDLORDS TO KEEP TENANTS HOUSED The finances of landlords and tenants are inextricably entwined. In a year where many tenants are struggling due to illness and job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, landlords are also being negatively affected.
rent, which complicates the problem, Jeffrey says.
Fortunately, many programs exist in London and beyond to help those tenants, as well as the landlords who house them.
The Salvation Army Housing Stability Bank offers financial assistance to low-income Londoners to secure and retain their housing, and to those at risk of homelessness to remain housed. The bank helps 1,500 to 2,000 households annually, says Melissa Jeffrey, program manager. “That’s one of the main focuses of the Housing Stability Bank: to work with low-income vulnerable populations to prevent them from losing stable housing or to assist in their transition from homelessness to stable housing. Those who qualify are typically low-income, vulnerable, and experiencing some sort of housing crisis,” she notes. Low vacancy rates and high rents in London are posing considerable challenges. The shelter portion of a social assistance cheque covers just part of the
“That can definitely make it difficult for folks.” The Housing Stability Bank offers several programs. Tenants who are behind in their rent and have received an eviction notice or need to move to a new home in London may be eligible for an interest-free loan once every 12 months. Based on the rent paid by the tenant, the program—through municipal funding—provides up to two months’ rent for rent arrears and covers last month’s rent. Rental Assistance also covers the first month’s rent for Ontario Disability Support Program recipients only.
Emergency Utility Assistance If utilities, including gas, water or electricity, are going to be disconnected or have already been disconnected, a household may qualify for an interest-free loan once every 12 months. The program provides a maximum of $500 per utility or $600 for electrically heated homes. Visit www.centreofhope.ca for eligibility requirements.
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Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) Provided by the Ontario Energy Board, individuals may qualify for emergency financial help if they are behind in paying their electricity or natural gas bill and face having their service disconnected. A household’s income must fall below a specific limit and depends on the number of people living in the applicant’s house and their combined household income. The Housing Stability Bank administers LEAP grant funds for City of London residents whose utilities may be disconnected due to arrears. These funds are replenished annually in January. On top of the LEAP grants, the City of London’s Water Department provides additional grant funding to assist with the water arrears for those households that are responsible for paying both electricity and water charges for their home.
Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) The program reduces the cost of electricity for low-income households by providing a monthly credit to eligible customers based on household income and size; the credits are applied directly to customers’ bills. Consumers can apply online at OntarioElectricitySupport.ca or they can complete applications at Housing Stability Bank locations.
Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) A monthly portable housing benefit assists eligible households with their housing costs through a subsidy that is paid directly to households or landlords. COHB pays the difference between 30 per cent of a household’s income and the average market rent in the area. For recipients of social assistance, the benefit will pay the difference between the shelter allowance and a household’s rent and utilities costs. The Housing Stability Bank can provide benefit recipients with support with first and last month’s rent deposits, and can also assist with arrears. In the City of London and Middlesex County, COHB is intended to support survivors of domestic violence or human trafficking, the homeless or those at risk of entering unsheltered homelessness, and Indigenous persons. Visit www.london.ca for more information.
Pay Direct Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients generally manage their income support payments and expenses independently. However, recipients can request a pay direct arrangement when they need assistance managing their payments. Requests are considered by the caseworker in consultation with the recipient before a pay direct arrangement is put in place. Under pay direct, either the municipality (for OW recipients) or the provincial Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (for ODSP recipients) pays a portion of the recipient’s income support directly to the landlord. Landlords should be aware that OW and ODSP recipients can request termination of a pay direct arrangement through their case worker. The recipient and the landlord are responsible for resolving any arrears. Visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca for more information.
Credit Counselling Society The society is a non-profit consumer credit and debt counselling service that provides debt solutions and other aid. Professionally accredited counsellors help clients create a spending plan to manage their living expenses, consolidate their debts with one monthly payment, save money in interest, and stop collection calls from creditors. Visit www.nomoredebts.org/canada/ontario/london/credit-counselling. html for more information. Low-income tenants in London can find additional help from food banks, community food programs, and thrift stores. For a list of resources, visit www.southwesthealthline.ca.
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DISCOUNTING RENT FOR TENANTS WHO CUT THE GRASS CALLS F O R A S E PA R AT E AG R E E M E N T Now that warm weather is here, tenants will be negotiating with prospective landlords to cut the grass in exchange for reduced rent. It can be a beneficial arrangement for small landlords who have full-time jobs and limited time in which to maintain their rental properties. However, one legal expert says it’s critical to spell out not only the terms of the agreement but also the consequences for breaking it. London lawyer Joe Hoffer says tenants often agree to take over maintenance duties, including grass cutting, in townhouse complexes, duplexes, and single-family homes. Because tenants comply with the obligation, the parties don’t often go to court. But creating a separate contract from the tenancy agreement protects landlords from risk, particularly in situations where landlords are concerned tenants will withdraw or neglect their services. The requirement for a separate contract resulted from a Divisional Court decision. It held that because landlords cannot contract out of their maintenance obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, they are also responsible for maintaining the land around their rental units and work cannot be delegated to tenants in the tenancy agreement. The court also stated that if the landlord contracts separately with the tenant to do that work, the contract will be valid and can be enforced. Hoffer says the challenge lies in making the contract simple. “The way we’ve done that is to simply set the lawful rent higher by the amount of the value of the services that the tenant is going to provide under the terms of the contract,” he notes. If the monthly rent for a townhouse is $1,500, the landlord determines the value of the tenant’s services to be $80 a month, for example. The landlord then sets the amount for those services at $100 a month in the contract and the lawful rent at
$1,600. Crediting the tenant for $100 in the contract is an incentive to the tenant to keep performing the service. If the tenant stops, the landlord’s costs to hire a contractor to do the work will be covered. “It’s a real disincentive to the tenant to terminate Joe Hoffer the contract because that means the tenant has to start paying an extra $100 a month,” Hoffer says. The contract needs to clarify that the tenant is an independent contractor who is responsible for insurance, including liability insurance. If someone slips and falls on the sidewalk, the landlord will be sued, but will look for indemnity from the tenant’s insurance company under the contract to pay the claim. Hoffer says if the tenant doesn’t want to do the work anymore, both parties agree to terminate the contract and the tenant pays the full rent. Without a separate contract, it would be the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the property if the tenant withdrew their services. Landlords cannot tell tenants they will increase the rent under rent control provisions. Landlords and tenants can only make their agreement enforceable if they use the separate agreement. Hoffer advises landlords to make the contract clear. Tenants also need to sign the contract separately to acknowledge that they are providing their services as an independent contractor. “You can have a termination provision, but it has to be clear that if the tenant terminates there will be no compensation for that agreement and the tenant will pay the full lawful monthly rent,” Hoffer adds.
London Property Management Association (LPMA) is a non-profit organization, located in London, Ontario, Canada, that provides information and education to landlords. LPMA represents the interests of both large and small property owners. The association has more than 400 landlord members representing approximately 35,000 rental units. Membership is open to landlords and property management professionals who own or manage one or more residential rental units.
Sign up online or call Rebecca David. Ph: 519-672-6999 Web: www.LPMA.ca
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