RHBâ€™s forum for rental housing associations to share news, events and industry information
Hot Topics: WRAMA reports on the Waterloo rental market, COVID-19 protocols for guests and unit turns, and tax consideration under COVID-19. pg. 45 EOLO addresses the Ontario rent freeze for 2021, other changes to the RTA, and City of Ottawa support for tenants and planning for solid waste. pg. 49 HDAA discusses the 2021 Ontario rent freeze in the context of the history of rent control, and its impact on rental housing supply. pg. 53 LPMA reports on protocols to manage COVID-19 risks, including face masks, dealing with deliveries, maintenance calls, and showing units. pg. 57
The Member Associations
PRESIDENTâ€™S MESSAGE The Annual WRAMA Expert Panel & Hot Topics Event took place on September 9, 2020. Sincere thanks to The Home Depot for sponsoring the event and Robert Spicer, National Sales Manager Home Depot Pro, for being our keynote speaker. Our expert panel did not disappoint, with COVID-19 impact being the common theme. Thanks to Ho Tek, DOMUS Student Housing, Lisa Nadon, Small Matter Paralegal, and James Craig, CBRE, for providing insights on the local residential market in and around Waterloo Region and Guelph.
- Andrew Macallum, President
Expert Panel Market Update - Waterloo Region By James Craig, CBRE
Immigration was a major driving force with respect to the low vacancy rates and the rise in rental rates over the past year. This was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and will limit the number of net new immigration to Canada. Interprovincial migration will continue to help drive demand for rental product. Housing affordability and limited housing units available to purchase have pushed more people to continue to rent. The low supply of rental units across the country and locally continues to be imbalanced with demand. The result is low availability, shorter lease up, and higher rents being achieved. Construction continues to be hot in many areas in many stages of development. Typical developers have long been in building multi-family; however, many REITs, equity funds, and other multi-family owners are now looking at their own holdings for additional density and new building opportunities. At the end of 2019, there were over 70,000 rental units under construction in Canada. This is significant as it represents almost 40 per cent of the total multiple construction (condominium and rental). This is the first time this has occurred since the early 1990s. Even through the pandemic, construction remains strong. With respect to multi-family values, prices continue to rise. Interest rates have fallen since the start of the pandemic, which has in turn pushed down cap rates and increased prices per unit. Many investors had hoped that the opposite was true. With limited product available to purchase, pricing will remain strong as underlying fundamentals remain strong.
Expert Panel pandemic impact Rental payments: The April 2020 rent cycle was especially nerve wracking, with business shutdowns impacting income and ability to meet financial obligations. Consistent messaging to members included communicating with tenants to help ensure expectations were clear for all parties. Upgrading maintenance requirements: Completing audits on building maintenance became the priority. Types of cleaning supplies used in common areas, scheduling of regular cleaning, ensuring maintenance staff was properly outfitted with appropriate PPE, and being hypervigilant of sanitizing handrails and door knobs were just a handful of actions necessary to help keep people safe. Mortgage & utility deferrals: Banks began advertising mortgage deferrals to Canadians who might have trouble making mortgage payments. There was some confusion about how this applied to rental properties big and small, and the long-term impact of taking advantage of these programs.
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 45
Residential rental advocates have asked governments for similar rent relief programs to those offered to commercial landlords, although to date nothing has materialized. Municipalities followed suit by providing no-interest penalties on missed utility payments. Guests entering buildings: Significant media attention was focused on long-term care homes across the country, with older Canadians especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Owners with tenants who would fall under the umbrella of being susceptible to the illness, yet were not operating as long-term care homes, found themselves in a predicament. Navigating guest entry into buildings, tenant movement through a building, and providing a sanitary environment were among the challenges voiced by WRAMA members. Unit turns: Renovating and updating vacant units fell victim to the essential workers lists that were released and updated through the spring. With each announcement, questions ranging from floor refinishing to lawn care were raised, with fear of being ticketed by local by-law officers. Student rentals, international students, and school programming: Waterloo Region is home to Conestoga College, Wilfred Laurier University, and University of Waterloo, with campuses spread throughout each of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo. Owners and management companies were confronted with an environment that saw students leaving town due to school closures and class cancellations, halting of inquiries about leasing units in September and, in some cases, breaching of lease obligations. International students found themselves having to decide on whether to stay in Canada or leave for their home country. Post-secondary institutions began announcing a move to online delivery in late June, with many in-person classes cancelled for September.
20 planning ideas for the real estate and construction industry during COVID-19 By George E. Dube, CPA, CA, Tax Partner, Real Estate and Construction Industry, BDO Canada, and Chris Witzel, CPA, CA, Senior Manager, BDO Canada
For real estate and construction businesses, whether concerned with cash flow now or planning for recovery and future opportunities, tax planning ideas are well worth your time. In April, we held a series of real estate and construction webinars focused on preparing and responding to COVID-19: • Real Estate & Construction Industry: Cash Flow and Tax Strategies amid COVID-19 – Part One • Real Estate & Construction Industry: Tax, Insurance, Contractual and Digital Considerations amid COVID-19 – Part Two Now, though, we want to start looking at what recovery may look like, and how to prepare for the future. For many of us, there are challenges as cash flow is frequently restricted, but an opportunity may be here to save considerable taxes in the future. Addressing these challenges may effectively require an investment in funds – paying something now for a larger return later on. We have an unfortunate situation upon us now, but it may be prudent to implement planning today for the future. As perspective, if you believe that governments will be increasing taxes to help pay for the COVID-19 stimulus, you will be increasingly concerned about your after-tax income. For example, is it possible that the capital gains inclusion rate could increase, the capital gains exemption be eliminated, or tax rates increased? All of this means we will want to implement tax plans that help our businesses, families and investments recover.
What can real estate and construction businesses discuss with their BDO advisor? Now is the time to talk with your BDO advisor to review specific tax planning strategies. These discussions may revolve around a variety of strategies, including: 1. Recalculating instalments, and potentially reducing them, to save cash flow
46 | October 2020
2. Potentially redirecting existing instalments to GST/HST or payroll accounts 3. Carryback of losses and/or trigger capital losses to recover previously paid taxes – watch for various stop-loss and superficial loss rules, and implications to your capital dividend account, implications to refundable taxes over the relevant time period 4. Prescribing rate loans for income splitting to decrease current and future family tax burden 5. Unlocking trapped losses in a corporate group to protect existing and future profits 6. Considering interest deductibility opportunities while restructuring assets and lending arrangements 7. Caution regarding when personally owned real estate (for example) is refinanced if looking to transfer (may limit tax deferral opportunities) 8. Considering transfers of real estate inventory while values are lower 9. Considering transfers of real estate if land transfer tax is applicable while values are lower 10. Considering selling assets now if you were otherwise likely to sell shortly to take advantage of the 50 per cent inclusion rate, use personal tax brackets or offset losses 11. “Freezing” or “refreezing/thawing” – locking in the value of your business at a lower value may ultimately save approximately 25 per cent of value of decrease and future appreciation of business, liquid investments, real estate, etc. 12. “Crystallizing” – locking in the capital gains exemptions
1700 Langstaﬀ rd ste 2002 Vaughan ON. L4K.3S3
13. Tax planning strategies to take out larger sums of funds from a corporate group in a tax effective manner are available 14. Looking at a family trust in combination with different strategies from tax, legal, succession, estate planning, and financing perspectives 15. Complementing asset protection planning from your legal team with tax reorganization to help prepare for the next recession and protect against normal business risks 16. Considering tax effective acquisition strategies for potential buying opportunities 17. Considering changing your remuneration model to what may be less tax effective (regular wages to owners/family) to potentially qualify for future programs for a potential future crisis 18. Tax implications of losing investment deposits on bankrupt condo or other developments that cannot come to fruition – timing of triggering losses 19. Tax implications of having to foreclose on second mortgage for your investments, differences given property values, etc. 20. Allowable business investment loss (ABIL) that can be deducted against different sources of income versus capital loss, which is generally restricted to application against capital gains More complex strategies and those unique to your business should be discussed with your BDO team. Many of the ideas listed above may be implemented more efficiently if done at the same time.
M & E has your building covered: Mechanical Electrical Condition Assessments Project Management Fire and Life Safety
416.250.7222 rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 47
CHAIR’S MESSAGE Difficult times continue, with a new curve being thrown at Ontario residential landlords in the form of a rent freeze for 2021. Misguided as that decision is, it could have been worse. Rental housing providers are resilient, and will cope with that curve as we have coped with the other impacts of COVID-19. This issue explains the details of the rent freeze, other new rules that are neutral or helpful, and several developments at the City of Ottawa. Like all of you, we at EOLO would love to return to normal. Just as you are doing your best for tenants and for rental owners and managers, we are striving to do our best to help rental owners, managers, and suppliers. Just as with your work, in many cases, EOLO’s work also involves making tenants’ lives better. We are all in this together.
- John Dickie, Chair
Rent freeze for 2021 The Ford government has now enacted its rent freeze for 2021. For 2021 (and only 2021), the guideline has been changed to zero. That limit on rent increases has been applied not only to rental units normally subject to the guideline, but also to rental units that were exempt from the guideline because of being new construction, first occupied after November 15, 2018. Pursuant to the Residential Tenancies Act, the 2021 guideline was announced on August 31 at 1.5 per cent, in accordance with the formula that makes the guideline equal to the average increase in the Consumer Price Index for Ontario, but that was rolled back by legislation announced at that time, and enacted on October 1. Rental housing providers are still allowed to take above-guideline rent increases for capital expenditures. We can also still set new rents at market on turnover. Unless there is further legislation or they take an above-guideline increase during 2021, rental housing providers will next be able to give notices of rent increase effective January 1, 2022. In other words, you may move up your increase date in the year. Those notices would need to be given in September 2021. That will be an interesting month, since it will be 10 months before the next Ontario provincial election, unless Premier Ford calls an early election, as has been done in several other provinces.
Other LTB and RTA updates The Landlord and Tenant Board is gradually reopening, with most hearings being held by video conference or telephone conference. The LTB has
an increased complement of adjudicators to try to reduce and then clear its backlog. As well, two sets of rules have changed as a result of Bill 184, which was enacted in late July 2020. Obligations about payment plans Until further notice, landlords need to offer payment plans to tenants for rent arrears that accumulated under COVID-19. In considering whether to grant an eviction, the LTB is required to have regard to whether the landlord has attempted to negotiate a payment plan for arrears. It is implicit that the landlord’s offer of a payment plan needs to be reasonable, but it is not yet clear what will be considered to be a reasonable offer. In British Columbia, for example, the government has decided that arrears due to COVID-19 can be repaid over a time period until July 2021. Provided the tenant pays their ongoing rent in full and on time, we can hope that timeline will also be considered to be reasonable in Ontario in cases where the tenant lost all their income and owes much of the rent from April to September. For tenants in slightly better situations, a shorter time frame to catch up on the arrears may be seen to be reasonable. We will know more once the LTB has heard a number of cases. In particular, tenants need to pay the amount of their current rent each month. If they cannot do that, then landlords may want to cut deals to receive some of the arrears of rent and write off some rent, but see the tenants move promptly (to more affordable accommodation), so that the landlord can rent to a new tenant who can pay the rent. Landlords will need to pay attention to the market rent for their units, since some weakness has already become apparent at the higher end of the rental market.
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 49
No more tenant ambushes at the LTB At eviction hearings before August 2020, tenants had the right to introduce evidence of a landlordâ€™s failure to repair a rental unit without prior notice to the landlord. Many landlords sought to address that risk by inspecting units shortly before the eviction hearing and by being ready with the maintenance file for the rental unit. But that was often wasted time and effort because it turned out not to be needed. Alternately, at such a hearing, a landlord could request an adjournment, but that resulted in more delay, when there was already far too much delay in the dispute resolution process, even before the new backlog introduced by the COVID-19 shutdown. Thanks to Bill 184, a tenant now needs to disclose any repair claims at least five days before the hearing, using a form made available by the Landlord and Tenant Board. That should reduce the work that landlords need to do to prepare for eviction hearings for non-payment of rent.
City of Ottawa developments City help for tenants with rent arrears Tenants with rent arrears may be able to get the financial support the City of Ottawa is rolling out to help people who â€œfall through the cracksâ€? in the new EI and CRB programs. To see if they are eligible for this new benefit, anyone on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Plan should call their caseworker. Other people in serious financial need in the City of Ottawa should call 3-1-1, select language, then press 4 for Social Services, and 3 to speak with an agent. To receive assistance, a tenant would need to have a low income, relatively few assets (i.e., little money in the bank and few savings they can access), and be paying less than 90 per cent of their income on rent. Housing Blitz Together with the Alliance to End Homelessness, the City of Ottawa is running a Housing Blitz. The goal is to house 100 single people and female-led families who are currently homeless but ready to maintain their housing. At the end of September, the Housing Blitz was over half-way to its goal. Landlords with units available now, or for November or December, are invited to email Housing-Logement@Ottawa.ca, or to go to ottawahousingblitz.ca. The City or the Alliance should contact you within two business days to follow up. There are two program streams. One is for single people, which comes with social service supports, a $600 subsidy limit (which would allow a rent of up to about $900), and access to the Landlord Damage Fund. The other stream is for single women and female-led families, with a higher subsidy, but not access to the Landlord Damage Fund. For families to pay only 30 per cent of their income on rent, the units would need to have rents of not more than $1,178 for a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, $1,415 for a two-bedroom apartment, or $1,559 for a three-bedroom apartment. However, units with somewhat higher rents may also be of use, since most people would prefer to pay 40 or 50 per cent of their income on their rent rather than be homeless. Solid waste issues The City is developing a 30 year Solid Waste Master Plan. The main trigger for that work is the realization that the Trail Road landfill site has only 10 years life left at current rates of use. Siting a new landfill would be extremely expensive and fraught with difficulties, as few landowners want a landfill located next to their property.
50 | October 2020
EOLO has been participating in the stakeholder consultation about the Solid Waste Master Plan. We are making sure that the costs that users will incur under various programs are considered, along with the costs to the City and the impacts on the environment. Other important factors are the acceptability of new programs or rules, and the inconvenience that new programs or requirements will impose on users.
thank our sponsors: Coinamatic, Giant Wholesale, The Home Depot, and Wyse Meter Solutions. We received positive feedback from the sponsors and the many landlords in attendance. Networking Event - October 14, 2020 EOLO held its Networking Event on October 14, 2020. EOLO would like to thank our sponsors:
Phase I of the consultation has concluded. The report on the goals and evaluation criteria will go to the Environment Committee and City Council early in 2021.
At the same time, and on a separate track, the City is working on a program of organic recycling for apartment buildings. In effect, it is a Green Bin program for apartments. EOLO is acutely aware of the concerns of rental housing providers about the difficulties of organic recycling in apartment buildings. However, considering the political, environmental, and cost pressures that are driving the push for more organic recycling, rental housing providers need to be ready to make some changes. The City Solid Waste staff know how difficult it is to get tenants to do organic recycling (in buildings without tri-sorters), especially when tenants can throw residual garbage down a garbage chute, whereas they need to carry organic recycling and other recycling to a garbage room at the base of the building. Various solutions to that issue are under consideration.
HomePro Pest Control
The Home Depot
MyGroup (by A.P.REID Insurance)
Wyse Meter Solutions
EOLO Fall 2020 virtual events Because COVID-19 forced EOLO to cancel our inperson Fall events for 2020, we replicated them in a virtual format through separate Education and Networking Events. Education Event - September 24, 2020 EOLO held its first virtual event, the Education Event, on September 24, 2020. EOLO would like to
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.
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 51
PRESIDENTâ€™S MESSAGE We are now in the fall season and are bracing for what will come in the next few months as the weather continues to cool. Schools have started reopening and we have now been in stage 3 for some time. Unfortunately, we are starting to see COVID-19 numbers rise once again and are now bracing for a second wave. Whether this will come with another closure similar to what we had seen in March is to be seen, but we hope that the government is able to think of a plan that would have less of an impact on the economy. The rental apartment industry continues to do its best in regard to cleaning, safety, and following government recommendations and we can hopefully weather whatever storm comes our way next. - Arun Pathak, President
Rent freeze Several weeks ago, the Province of Ontario made an announcement that it planned to implement a rent freeze in 2021, essentially freezing all rental amounts at December 2020 levels. The government advised that legislation would be following in the weeks to come after holding consultations with relevant parties. After limited consultation, the government
introduced Bill 204, the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, and provided information on how it would be applied and which units would fall under this new legislation, which was enacted on October 1. The intention is to freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units with the hopes of providing Ontarioâ€™s tenants with
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 53
financial relief as the province continues with its economic recovery. The new Act also extends the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenancies, continues to protect small business and help them get back on their feet, creates more jobs, and helps rebuild the economy. The lack of a rent increase in 2021 is a concern, as many landlords, particularly smaller landlords, are already struggling with increasing maintenance and utility costs, as well as issues from the eviction ban. Introducing new legislation that creates another hurdle will be an added struggle some landlords may not recover from. The new legislation does not apply to previously applied for, agreed upon or approved AGIs but does apply to units first occupied after November 15, 2018, units which were previously exempt from having to adhere to the rental increase guidelines. This poses quite a concern not only due to the lack of a rent increase but in regard to the increase of rent control we are seeing. Rent control in Ontario has had a long and varied history and has been proving less favourable for landlords over time. Some form of rent control has been in place in Ontario for many decades with varying degrees of severity. It was first introduced in 1944 under the National Housing Act but was repealed in under a decade after lobbying efforts. More modern rent control began in 1975 with the enactment of the Residential Premises Rent Review Act; it was further tightened in 1985 by the Liberal government and then in 1992 by the NDP government with the Rent Control Act. Under this system, the amount of rent charged was regulated and controlled by the government and rents had to be registered. A landlord was not allowed to raise rents on unit turnover if it was higher than the registered amount. This led to many landlords being unable to afford maintenance and renovations in their buildings, causing some to fall into disrepair. Then, in 1997, the Conservative government enacted the Tenant Protection Act which repealed the Rent Control Act. Landlords were once again allowed to raise rents on unit turnover and rents did not have to be registered. However, there was a limit on rent increases for existing tenants, except on units built or first occupied after 1991. This form of rent control extended into the Residential Tenancies Act enacted in 2006.
54 | October 2020
Until 2017, rent control only applied to units that were first built or occupied before November 1, 1991, but in April 2017 this rent control exemption was rolled back and rent control applied to all units. Rental increases could also be no higher than the rate of inflation and were capped at 2.5% if inflation was higher than 2.5%. Doug Fordâ€™s government, however, enacted legislation in 2018 so that new construction was not subject to rent control, meaning all units first built or occupied after November 15, 2018 would not fall under rent control. This was done in the hopes of increasing supply by incentivizing investors and encouraging developers to build. We are now in a climate where the only units that do not have rent control are thus those built after November 15, 2018. Now for 2021 this has been this taken away as well, and there is fear that this will be followed by even more rent control in the future. We know that there is a shortage of rental housing in Ontario. The number of new rental apartment buildings being built has decreased dramatically since the 1970s and there is
little in the way of incentives for builders and investors to build more. More legislation is being enacted that makes it less appealing for investors and landlords to enter the market or create more rental housing supply. It seems counterproductive for the government to be doing this when it should instead be looking at ways to incentivize the building of more rental buildings. Unless the government decides to step up and provide more subsidized housing, we will continue to see a lack of supply in the market and we may even see a reduction in supply, as housing providers start to feel less supported by the government and decide to leave the market entirely.
Upcoming Events October 7 â€“ Bill 184 Webinar
In this free member-only webinar, Mark Melchers from Cohen Highley will be discussing the new legislative changes arising from the passing of Bill 184. Join us to learn all you need to know about the new legislation and come prepared with your questions.
Hamilton and District Landlords Since 1960, the Hamilton and District Apartment Association has grown significantly. Our members manage over of 30,000 units throughout Hamilton, Burlington, Brantford, Guelph, Mississauga, Oakville, St. Catharines and into the Niagara Peninsula. The association is a highly respected organization, sought out regularly by government, industry, media and the public.
Interested? Call us or join online! Ph: 905-616-2058 Web: www.hamiltonapartmentassociation.ca
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 55
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Government’s rent freeze legislation heightens landlords’ concerns As schools open and children return to some sense of normalcy, trying times continue with the fear of a second wave of COVID-19. Infection rates have been slowly increasing as larger groups ignore physical distancing and mask guidelines. Landlords have further cause for concern, given the provincial government’s intention to freeze guideline rent increases for 2021. Announcement of the guideline was already delayed this year due to the pandemic; the increase is usually publicized in the spring for the following year. The proposed freeze will add to landlords’ burdens since many have deferred issuing rent increases out of concern for their tenants. LPMA continues to update members with bulletins from our legal representatives and government news. It’s important to stay current on industry issues. Visit www.lpma.ca and join our closed Facebook group. Let’s remain positive, and continue to be healthy and safe.
- Shirley Criger, LPMA President
The key to securing compliance with tenants centres on landlords’ ability to enforce a protocol, Hoffer says. It’s much easier when a municipal government or health unit includes the common areas of apartment buildings in a bylaw that requires the use of masks in indoor public buildings. Without that, landlords can’t make KS REQUIR E AS wearing masks part of the rules in the Rules and Regulations section of their lease and the practice can’t be enforced at the Landlord and O Tenant Board or by the MiddlesexRY E O UR SAF London Health Unit. “Typically, unless there is a bylaw in place, our advice is that landlords simply recommend the wearing of a mask,” he says. Norquay has posted signs requiring that tenants wear masks in the common areas of its buildings. “Although apartment buildings are not included in F
At the beginning of the pandemic, landlords created protocols and designated staff members to communicate them to residents. Now that fall is here and infection rates are increasing, landlords are refining those protocols to further protect their tenants — no easy task in multi-residential buildings. London lawyer Joe Hoffer says larger landlords, in particular, are highly attuned to risk management as a result of the duty of care they owe to their tenants and visitors. Many landlords adapted the protocols provided early on by the provincial government and health units, as well as the information offered by landlord associations and legal counsel. “Most landlords are driven by what the best practices are generally as recommended either by the province or public health,” Hoffer says. “They have a heightened awareness of the need to follow protocols and then figure out what the best practices are and implement them.” Lisa Smith, senior property manager with Norquay Property Management, says the pandemic has ignited the property management industry unlike any other emergency. The industry has always been able to respond to crises, but COVID-19 “took us all to a whole different level,” she notes. “The protocols changed daily at the beginning, Lisa Smith
which weighed heavily on all staff, from CEOs to building cleaners. This pandemic has brought all staff together more than ever before to get the job done, and to keep themselves and their tenants safe,” Smith says. Smith points to Norquay’s COVID-19 cleaning protocols, which focus on touchpoints. The building staff have increased their cleaning routine from daily to hourly for all touchpoints in the lobby, elevators, mail room, and laundry room. Norquay’s cleaning supply contractor suggested purchasing a sanitizing fogger as an additional line of defence. The fogger is operated by one worker in all buildings and is used daily in the main lobby, mail rooms, and elevators, and weekly in hallways and stairwells.
LANDLORDS REFINE PROTOCOLS TO MANAGE COVID-19 RISK
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 57
the mask bylaw set out by the City of London, we felt it was an added safety precaution for all tenants and their guests, and delivery personnel,” Smith says.
DELIVERY PERSONNEL Hoffer says some landlords stipulate that tenants go downstairs to collect their packages, while others require delivery personnel to go straight to recipients’ apartments. He believes the first option is safer because fewer people are exposed to the delivery person in the elevator or on the stairs. Residents with mobility issues would have to be exempt from that rule and have packages delivered to their apartment. Food delivery personnel are at higher risk because they come into contact with more people in restaurants, and then in homes and apartment buildings. “That’s why, if they’re met at the front door, there is in my view substantially less risk,” Hoffer says. At the beginning of the pandemic, Norquay required residents to collect their packages in the lobby. However, the company is now allowing delivery personnel to take parcels to apartments using the elevators or stairs. “Unless a large second wave occurs, we don’t see changing it back,” Smith says.
MAINTENANCE CALLS Landlords are taking measures to keep tenants, employees, and contractors safe while maintenance duties are being performed. For example, Hoffer advises landlords to ask tenants to sanitize the area that requires maintenance in advance and then vacate the unit. The workers, clad in masks and face shields, then perform their duties and sanitize the area they worked on prior to leaving. Theresa Lapensée, operations manager of London residential rentals for Sifton Properties, says tenants receive an email in advance informing them of what they must agree to and what the maintenance call will entail. Workers wear masks and foot covers when they enter a suite and then dispose of the foot covers directly after. “People are very appreciative and co-operative,” she says. Even small landlords who lack a software program that enables them to send a similar email can send a text message or call tenants. “It’s a time of pressure, but I do think there are a lot of small things that we can do as landlords to reassure our residents. We’ve actually found it’s been the smallest things that we’ve been doing that people are most impressed with,” Lapensée says. Dave Strano, president of Strano Property Management, a third-party manager of student and single-family properties, uses email mainly to communicate with owners and tenants. He says communication is key. “If we’re not communicating with the tenants or the owners, what we’re doing would fall apart. We’re constantly getting better at that,” he says. Introducing and refining protocols is challenging for landlords when there are constant maintenance issues. “We have new protocols and we can only get so much done in a day compared to what we were able to get done in the past,” Strano says. “We try to implement new protocols to make sure our staff is safe, but some people are more comfortable with them than others. We try our best to toe that line.”
SHOWING UNITS The protocols for showing units to prospective tenants are also changing. Strano says his company offered walk-throughs of vacant units and virtual tours of occupied units at the beginning of the pandemic. “We would ask our tenants who were currently there to help us out with videos or we’d come in for a video. Everyone has been understanding of the circumstances and helped out in as best a way as they could.” However, the company is now allowing prospective tenants to enter occupied units wearing masks as long as the current tenants agree to it. Rental applications are completed online and the property
58 | October 2020
similar. Instead of inspecting units 45 days before tenants vacate, it now waits until units are vacant and sanitized. “It slows the process down a little, but our contractors have been really great with understanding that we won’t have orders in 45 days before the tenant vacates,” Smith says.
The Berkshire Club office in London is closed to the public, but staff provide phone and virtual support.
owners approve the prospective tenants in advance to eliminate any guesswork. “If they like it, they take it,” Strano says of prospective tenants. “We only get that special circumstance once or twice on a property so we want to make sure it’s worth it. We wouldn’t just bring anyone who’s interested.” Smith says Norquay shows only vacant units to prospective tenants, who must wear masks, and touchpoints are cleaned between showings. Rental applications are completed using physical distancing protocols and any other documents are sent by email to Norquay’s office. “We have been really good with renting very quickly after units are vacant and usually losing only a month’s rent,” she says. Norquay’s approach to outgoing inspections is
Tenants understand that no one has all the answers because the virus is still new, Lapensée says. A recent notice to residents stated that the company is continuing to learn and change the way it operates during the pandemic. Sifton also explains why it’s changing a protocol that it instituted a short time before. “When you give people that reasoning, it’s hard for them to argue,” Lapensée says. As the rates of infection increase during the fall and winter, landlords will continue to refine their protocols. Hoffer says larger landlords recognize that ‘use at own risk’ signs have no legal effect and now require that tenants sign waivers and schedule appointments to use amenities. They also keep records of amenity use and use them to trace contacts when tenants become ill. “It seems that we keep learning more and more about maintaining distance, wearing masks, and those sorts of things. As those recommendations continue, landlords will continue refining what they’re already doing,” Hoffer says.
WE MAKE BUILDINGS WORK LONDON
DOES THE GROWTH OF YOUR BUSINESS INCLUDE London Property Management Association (LPMA) is a non-profit organization, located EXPANSION, RENOVATION OR A NEW BUILDING? in London, Ontario, Canada, that provides information and education to landlords.
Callidus Engineering provides Plumbing, HVAC, Fire Protection and LPMA represents the interests of both large Electrical building services design forowners. customers across Canada and small property The association has more than 400 landlord members representing approximately 35,000 rental units.
email@example.com Membership is www.callidus.ca open to landlords and property management professionals who own or
Sign up online or call Rebecca David. Ph: 519-672-6999
VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR A FULL LIST OF ENGINEERING SERVICES manage oneOUR or more residential rental units. AVAILABLE
rentalhousingbusiness.ca | 59
RHB, RHB Magazine, Regional Association Voice, RAV, WRAMA, EOLO, HDAA, LPMA