In Canada, Never turn off your furnace in the winter: Here’s why

Jan 6th 2018
By Aaron Weinstein

Welcome to December 2017 in Canada: Its cold. So cold across the entire continent of North America that US President Trump actually said we could use some more of this so called “global warming” to help us out. Jokes aside, on Dec 25th the mercury in Calgary hits -30c and it doesn’t warm up until some time in the new year. 10 days or so of extremely frigid temperatures and nothing happened until a text pops up from a tenant residing in a four plex I manage in the trendy inner city community of Kensington in Calgary.

Fast forward to New Years Day around dinner time, a Monday for anyone keeping a record. A text message comes through:

“Our water is off”

“I called 311,” the message continued.  “they said there aren’t any water main breaks that they know of and its most likely a frozen pipe, any idea what we should do?”.

We exchange some messages back and forth, I question if the parkjade door was left open at anytime or any other easy answer for this. There isn’t… I tell them to warm up their place by increasing the heat on their furnace, use the gas fireplace, get it nice and cozy in there and keep me updated. I hang up the phone but I keep thinking about it. The tenants without water are in unit #4 and I remember the others in unit #1 told me that they were all leaving to see their family for the holidays and no one would be there. Fuck it, excuse my language:

10 minutes later I decided to drive down to the building and check it out.

I arrive in Kensington and do the obvious things. I walk around the building, everything seems normal. I go into the parkade, which is under the 4 units. Everything is normal.

I ring the doorbell on Unit #1. No one answers, lights are off, tenants told me they were away. I unlock the door.

Its -30 inside their house and the water in the toilets was completely frozen. 

The thermostat is frozen but I’m able to switch it from the off setting to the heat setting and I hear the furnace fire. I turn on the oven to full blast and leave the door open. I can’t believe it. The toilets are totally frozen. The house is frozen.

I get back into my Jeep and drive back to my shop where I have some electric heaters. These are 3 story townhomes and I will need the extra heating power. As I am driving back it dawns on me to turn off the water to that unit.

I get all the heaters going, water shut off, furnace blazing and I go home for the night.

The next morning I come back to survey the damage. Turning off the water saved thousands in damage.

Had the water not been turned off, once the toilets defrosted the waer would have started to run and would have destroyed the carpet, the hardwood on the kitchen level etc etc. In this case the toilets were frozen, the porcelain cracked and the frozen water all leaked out. There was damage on the ceiling and it will require $500 worth of work. The plumber was there the next morning and replaced the 2 toilets $850. We turned on the water and nothing else leaked.

The fill valve on the washing machine froze and broke. $260. We turned off the water to the washing machine and waited for the part to fix it.

When all was said and done, we had $1660 worth of damage. Very Lucky.

Had the property manager (Rentch) not responded immediately, we would have had 10’s of thousands in damage and the tenants would not have been able to return to the home. Think about it, had the toilets on the 2nd floor continued to run, water would have destroyed 2 floors in only a few hours. Hardwood floors, celings, drywall, carpets. All would have had to be replaced let alone other issues. 

Do not turn off your furnace in the winter.

If you want to save a few bucks, reduce the heat to 12 degree C. Regardless, have Rentch Rental Services on your side!

Here are some photos of the damage:

 

Do I earn Interest on my Security Deposit in Calgary?

Sept 21st 2017

By Aaron Weinstein

Do I earn interest on my secuirty deposit in Calgary? A classic question that I often get asked, which it seems to be a semi contentious issue with some long term tenants, is:

I’ve lived in this rental unit for 5 years, shouldn’t I have earned interest on my secuirty deposit?

The answer is painfully simple. Yes, you do earn interest. That being said, interest rates are so low in Canada, that the provincial government of Alberta has set it at 0%. So you do earn interest, it’s just that the interest is zero percent. It is set based on the Bank of Canada’s interest rate.

https://www.servicealberta.ca/interest-chart.cfm

Interest rates in Alberta are 0%

Although it floated between 0.3 and 0.5% between 2007 and 2008, the interest rate on secuirty deposits has been 0% since 2002.

During the 80s landlords paid 8% interest.

Landlords are still required to keep security deposits in an interest bearing trust account as things change and deposits could earn interest one day. Keep an eye on the charts, until then:

Security Deposits Earned 0% Interest from 2009 to 2017

A case for Sponsor Energy: Why we have had enough of the big utility companies.

July 19th 2017

By Aaron Weinstein

A case for Sponsor Energy: Why we have had enough of the big utility companies.

Part 1: Goodbye Direct Energy – Hello Sponsor Energy. Enmax, you’re part 2. 

Sponsor Energy, for some background, is a Calgary start-up that provides 50% of all energy proceeds to a charity of your choice. Learn more here, now to the story:

As a preamble: This is the 2nd time this exact story has happened to Rentch this year.

It’s autumn 2016 and I have a 4 bedroom townhome for rent in Calgary’s inner city. With close proximity to downtown and Mount Royal University, this home is notoriously rented by groups of students. This particular fall, much like last, 4 students walk up and decide this townhome is for them. They complete the application, send in the security deposit and plan on moving in Sept 1st. Great! We meet, sign the lease on Sept 1st and I explain to them that they are responsible for the utilities.

These are first time renters and they are not sure what utilities they have to pay.

I explain that they have a few choices. They can pick various utility retailers that operate in Calgary for electricity and natural gas, but must sign up with Enmax for water, sewage and garbage collection. I tell them that the previous tenants were using Enmax for electricity and Direct Energy for natural gas, which is a typical setup for the majority of people. They look a little confused but decide that it’s easier to just use one utility provider, so they’ll call Enmax.

They agree to switch over the utilities, call Enmax and off we go.

The next 9 and ½ months go by uneventfully. They pay their rent on time each month. They had one furnace maintenance issue when it was very cold and otherwise seemed like ideal tenants. As their property manager I was quite happy with their tenancy and hoped it would continue.

Without warning Direct Energy cuts off their natural gas for what will be 14 long days of cold showers.

It’s now the middle of July 2017, and out of nowhere I get a text from one of the tenants saying that a notice was left at their door that their gas had been disconnected. They could not understand why and were irate. Upon calling Direct Energy, they were told that only their landlord could discuss the bill because it was in the landlord’s name. My tenants explained that they;

Thought they were paying all the utilities with Enmax and had not received any prior notice from Direct Energy.

Here’s what happened. When the previous tenants moved out, they called Direct Energy and transferred their natural gas service to their next address, as well as their electricity with Enmax. My new tenants signed up with Enmax assuming they had both electricity and natural gas covered, and never heard otherwise. They paid their Enmax bill every month and never received any mail or notices from Direct Energy. Although in fact, Enmax only switched over the existing utilities; in this case, only electricity, water, sewage and garbage collection, leaving natural gas under Direct Energy who instead…

Direct Energy mailed the bills to an unclaimed P.O. Box and did not drop one bill into the mailbox of the property in question.

Rather than using common sense and sending natural gas bills for a property to the property, Direct Energy pulled title on the property to find the owner’s address and started mailing the natural gas bills to an old P.O. Box belonging to an investment group. Yup. Instead of telling the people who actually live in the home that their gas was about to be shut off, they went out of their way to find a third party P.O. Box to chase after.

Direct Energy was expected to show common sense and use its powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen.

I explain the situation to Direct Energy. Zero care. I ask for a manager, who informed me they could do nothing. Zero budge.

Zero notice given to the property, and zero F***s given when I called.

Direct Energy refused to acknowledge their lack of sensibility for mailing the bills who knows where, and refused to restore natural gas service immediately nor without a reconnection fee. They explained that this is common practice for them. Zero f***s given and we have to pay for it.

Direct Energy then demands full payment personally from the landlord, in this case myself, before they restore natural gas service.

Since the tenants’ lease expires Sept 1st and they are obviously moving on after this terrible experience, I will cover the cost and we all move on.

This is all without mentioning the 14 day process of getting the gas turned back on. 

Alright, we pay and we all move on… to Sponsor Energy. Hopefully their small business start-up mentality will make communication between landlord, tenant and energy provider much more transparent. All of this is besides the fact that:

Sponsor Energy charges ~10% less and gives 50% of profits to a charity of your choice.

Sponsor Energy has offered anyone who uses Rentch’s portal 10% off their already low natural gas and electrical prices: click here

Rentch’s Landlord Manifesto – 8 simple steps to rent your property in Calgary

Rentch’s Landlord Manifesto

June 2017

By Aaron Weinstein – Rentch Real Estate Blog

It is coming on 15 years since I started managing properties, 15 years! I’ve seen it all and I have seen a lot of landowners have a hard time with their rental properties while I have managed to excel and keep mine rented. Let me tell you, none of my success was because I was a highly trained business man or born the handiest of people on the tools. I have narrowed down how to be a landlord in Calgary into 4 categories, I call them: Rentch’s Landlord Manifesto and I hope to share with you all the knowledge you need to rent your property:

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Part 1 – How to rent your apartment in Calgary.

Part 2 – How to be the best landlord you can be.

Part 3 – How to maintain your property, what is expected from a landlord and the 1 month golden rule of reinvestment.

Part 4 – How to re-rent your apartment in a recession and a boom.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Part 1 – How to rent your apartment in Calgary

So you have decided to rent your apartment, good for you! For whatever reason or life situation has brought you to this decision, here you are. You’re determined to get your place rented and to move on. But how do you do it?

  1. Research the market.

Google properties for rent in Calgary. You’ll notice Rentfaster.ca pop up as the 1st result that is not an advertisement. This is not a coincidence; Google knows. Rentfaster is by far the best place to find a good tenant as of June 2017 in Calgary or Edmonton. Choose map view, narrow down your search to comparable listings (2bed 2bath for example) and notice the price of similar properties in your neighbourhood. That’s your market. Now the rental world is strange: You only need one person to fill your space. It’s not something you sell over and over meaning that the right person, who has a need for exactly your place, would be willing to pay a premium.

  1.  Clean your place and take photos.

Properties look better when they are properly furnished. Do not worry about fixing every little problem at this point, that’s for later in the process. Repairs can be used in negotiation and will just cause you to stall and stall. Same with perfectly decluttering the place; just leave it be, tidy up and take some photos. It’s important to take new and current photos using a current device because many photos do not maintain their quality as technology improves. You want to concentrate on photos of the living areas as a top priority, with bedrooms as the least important. Take a nice picture of the both the front and back exterior on a sunny day. Capture quite a few pictures of the kitchen, these are key.

  1. List your property for rent online.

Choose whatever website you’d like and start the process. Kijiji is ranked highly by Google and used often but with very low quality replies as it’s very difficult for a tenant to narrow search results through Kijiji. I personally avoid Kijiji like the plague, mostly because corporate buildings or large property management companies can pay their way to the top of search results. So onto Rentfaster.ca you go, create your advertisement, pay for it and wait for replies from prospective tenants. A couple of helpful tips. First of all, changing the tag line and the 1st photo every couple days helps bring attention to your ad. For example, going from “Beautiful 2bed 2bath condo for rent” to “Walkable Inner City 2Bedroom unit for rent” while alternating pictures helps get people who skipped by to click on your property. Helpful hint #2, if you choose Rentfaster, send your rentfaster ID to info@rentch.ca and we will create you a Rentch ad complete with ad advice for free!

  1. Make appointments and show your unit for rent.

Once your property is listed online, people will start replying. We at Rentch have tried to make every communication method available for prospective tenants to contact us, ranging from phone, text, email and even via an online scheduler in which they can pick a predetermined time for a private viewing. If you start having a lot of people replying, you have probably undervalued your rental; on the contrary no replies likely means you need to either take better photos or review your asking rent price. It is currently a renter’s market in Calgary so people like to negotiate. Leave a little wiggle room to drop your rent slightly for the right tenant. We find that the most effective way to schedule showings is private showings only, slotted 15mins apart.

  1. Collect applications.

Everytime I show a property I offer the viewer an application. At Rentch, our application is a PDF form that we email to the prospective tenants.

  1. Vet your prospective tenant.

One of the main benefits of communicating electronically is you can use the internet to look people up. Google their name, look up their name in Facebook. Google their email address and Google their phone number. Often good tenants are very transparent. You can see their LinkedIn account, see where they work, see their Facebook page or Google plus account which really tells a lot about a person in a matter of seconds.

  1. Collect the security deposit and sign the application.

Congratulations, you have found a tenant for your property! You have met them, you have looked them up online and called their references. If required, you have run a credit check and decided you are going to rent them your property. The next step is to collect the security deposit. The rule of thumb for this is to collect it in the same fashion as you would like to collect rent. When using Rentch Rental Services, we only collect security deposits and rent via email money transfer. It provides the clearest track of your deposit, from who to who and makes for very easy accounting.

  1. Sign the Residential Tenancy Agreement (Lease), conduct an inspection of the property and give your new tenant the keys.

You have done it! You rented your property, you’ve got it ready for move-in (steps we will discuss in the next post) and you are ready to turn it over to your new tenant. Generally speaking, you would meet your new tenant after noon on the 1st day of the month that their lease begins. Some tenants are not comfortable handing over a security deposit without the lease being signed; regardless, meet your tenant at the property. Sign the lease. Do a complete and thorough inspection on the premises together with your tenant. Note the current condition of the premises. Anything that is not noted on the inspection cannot be deducted for. Make sure you and your tenant agree on the condition of the premises and sign the corresponding paperwork..

Voila: Property Rented.

Stay tuned…