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 use their security deposit to pay for Direct Energy's careless and non-sensible policies. We all lose.
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
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?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will create you a Rentch ad complete with ad advice for free!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Drake style collar, a premature lease termination and the Torontonian who lasts 3 weeks.
May 10th 2017
As I continue to manage properties across Calgary, I continue to have strange and somewhat comical, almost “South Park esque” situations arise that I just can’t resist writing about. This month provided another one for you… Hopefully these experiences can help you avoid similar mistakes. I feel as a landlord, these things will happen and it's best to take them with a grain of salt, shake it off, move on and find a new tenant. Never hold on too tight. Here is what is happening to me...
The rental property.
https://www.rentch.ca/property/135-13th/ - a 1 Bedroom plus den unit on the 15th floor of the trendy Colours building right in the middle of the a rejuvenated 1st street SW. It's literally the “ShiTiPaTown” part of Calgary and people love it. One of Calgary’s newest and trendiest cocktail bars is on the main floor and you can reserve a table from your couch as a resident. Que Torontonian Playboy...
We will call him, Tenant B... a 30 or so year old Torontonian salesman with a small degree of success. Small, as in his stature, he wears tucked in button up shirts and drives a luxury SUV. He also refers to me as pal, which just makes me think of yelling “I’m not your pal, friend." everytime I see him. To which I can only hope he would naturally reply, "I’m not your friend, buddy.” At this point I will not be able to resist saying “I’m not your friend, pal”. And so on and so forth... Alas, none of this happened...
The Residential Tenancy Act aka 'The Rules'.
The residential tenancy act states that leases can be "broken" under 2 scenarios: substantial breach or due to personal circumstances. If a tenant or landlord has committed a substantial breach of the lease agreement then a 14 day notice can be served and / or an application can be made through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) or Provincial Court to end the lease. When it comes to personal circumstances, a tenant can ask the landlord to end a lease early. When this happens and a tenant has a reasonable request (they got a job in another city or just bought their dream/1st home) then sure, I as a landlord go out of my way to work with my tenants to find a new renter and move on. On the other hand, if a tenant finds a slightly cheaper unit across the street, you need to finish your lease before you vacate or find someone else to rent the space. In this case, Tenant B wanted to do neither.
At first everything was fine.
Tenant B was in town looking for a condo for rent after being recently transferred to Calgary. He showed up with what seemed to be his girlfriend, a choker wearing corporate type who smelled like gin who would never be seen again. She loved the view from the 15th floor and talked him into renting it. I emailed the application; he promptly submitted it with reasonable references, employment and positive rental history.
My very 1st sign that this guy was not going to be your average tenant was when he showed up to sign the lease and pick up his keys. Sure, it was winter, it was cold, he was from "the 416" and he was in Calgary during a particularly stormy winter week, but...
He shows up to sign his lease in a Drake style fur coat.
I am talking big fuzzy fur collar on an otherwise normal suede jacket that it would be rude of me to continue to describe. We complete all the paperwork, he gives me post dated cheques and even hands me a cigar to smoke with him. He tells me the girl he showed up with was not his girlfriend and he's moving in alone. I leave with a smile, thinking to myself perhaps this be a reasonable tenant after all.. Nope.
3 Weeks later... He emails me, he wants to break the lease.
“Whats your cell number?” He askes, followed an hour later with another email, copied and pasted verbatim: “Sorry pal in and out of meetings today. Was thrown a curve ball option from work over the weekend which will have me spending half of my time back in Ontario - thus making me have to get a condo there as well. I am trying to see what they will do for me/if it is worth it for me to consider it. I know I have just moved in - but if I was to look at potentially opting out of this lease what would be the options which would work for both of us? Let me know your thoughts dude.”
So I ask if he is leaving Calgary entirely and what exactly he hopes will happen.
“Thanks for getting back to me pal - no the intention would be to probably have a smaller place here and there - and with this being the way it is right now I would probably look at month to month for a lower price in each city. Was there much more interest in this place when I rented it? Let's figure something out if possible.”
I explain to Tenant B that I am managing this unit for an investment group who takes leases seriously.
He made a 1 year commitment, a lease isn't a joke and he should stick to his commitment.
Now it's on, he begins:
“I know how a lease works and I know its not a “joke” but when things change and I try to speak to someone regarding it, I expect to speak with them in order to make a deal beneficial for both of us…” He continues, “I dont want to fight with you pal, I like you and I said I’m going to be flexible but its also my life…”
I think to myself, “I’m not your pal, friend.”
He asks that I start showing his unit for rent and give it a shot. Tenant B explains that he didn’t mean for this to happen, he just moved from Toronto to Calgary and should have understood what his job role would be but he now misses Toronto and wants to spend most of his time there. Blah blah blah... This to me was the disconnect, the moment I stopped believing him. If he was just moving back to Toronto I would let bygones be bygones and move on. But he is not, it's not even clear that he is going back to Toronto, he just wants a cheaper Calgary option. I tell him I am willing to advertise for his apartment but can't do anything unless I rent it.
I agree to try to re rent it and that I will come the next day and take pictures of his unit.
That's when Tenant B ups the madness a notch. He starts texting:
“How did the pics look?” He texts, “Let me know when its up I’ll take a peak.”
I'll save you the plethora of texts. He emails me 64 more times in the next 10 days. 64 times. Most consist of things like:
“How did you make out?”, “I can look at subletting as well?”, “My dad owns and manages a lot of properties in Eastern Canada and my best friends father manages more than a ton here, this is normal.” “Didn’t mean to make it your problem just hoping we could figure it out somehow?”
I ignore as many messages as I can. They continue...
“I found a potential condo for June 1 so trying to figure it all out”, “Do you think it would be easier if I pull my stuff out?”, “So what are our options here”, “What are your thoughts”, “I mean if I was out by May 15th or so you could offer half a month free as an incentive”, “How did it go pal?"
By the 1st of May I had enough.
I explained to him I would be using at least $150 of his security deposit to advertise and I started a Google Adwords campaign as well as a Facebook ad campaign. People started to come view the unit, which I have to then give him 24 hour notice before entering his unit, which invariably leads to a follow up text from Tenant B: “How’d it go pal?”... Incredible.
“Let's rip the bandaid off...” I text.
“Ok, if we rip the bandaid off I could be out May 10th and someone could have the rest of May for free, $1100 value, Also - you guys could keep $900 of the deposit.” Tenant B bargains. “I could even potentially be out earlier to increase the value, over the course of the contact that would bring the value down to $1340 on a monthly basis real costs if I was out on the 8th.”
“I doesn't really work that way if I don't have anyone to move in, buddy.” All I want him to say in reply is I am not your buddy, pal…. He doesnt.
Today is May 10th. A few paint scuffs and an empty apartment later…….
Tenant B ended up paying 3 months rent to live in an apartment for 5 weeks. He paid, April rent, May rent and forfeited his entire deposit. What a guy... I’m honestly never this rude towards my tenants, I respect and do my best to create homes, not just houses, for my tenants. But, this guy... Making it 3 weeks into a 1 year lease and then texting me 64 times in 10 days…
Cya later, Friend.
Eviction Tales - The Sandwich Artists
By Aaron Weinstein
It's Late March 2017 and I find myself in the middle of an eviction situation:
They are a reality... the unfortunate side effect of rental management. There is no need to dread the eviction or try to avoid it. Sometimes its just for the best. At anytime, to any tenant, it can happen. Sometimes, you make friends with your tenants and they start taking advantage of you with late or partial payments. Occasionally, people who faced poor decisions late in their careers fall victims to drugs and illicit sex. Even after years of good tenancy some people fall apart over 3 months time, I thought I've seen it all and then...
Other times things fall apart at the very beginning.
That is what we had here this time: Dec 15th 2016 A Sandwich Artist, his brother and child come to view a townhome I have for rent that was vacant for the month of December. They need to take possession almost immediately, as of Dec 2oth, in time for Christmas. They are both going through a divorce and were ready to sign a contract before the holidays. I send them away to think about it and with an application, which they promptly complete, submit with the details that they own a few sandwich franchises albeit have no previous rental history having owned their last home. I agree to rent them the property.
We exchange 1st month's rent, a full months' security deposit and a signed lease agreement for the keys to the townhome.
Being that he paid for January up front, January 1st went well. There were no incidents, no reason to believe anything but that a new good tenant moved into the townhouse. The 1st indication of trouble was in late January when his utility bill arrived at my office instead of his house and the Sandwich Artist did not transfer the account over into his name. Perhaps an honest mistake? In fairness this is a common error... I contact him and he quickly explains that he forgot and he'll change it over that afternoon. Satisfied I forget about it and move on to my next task...
Its now the last day of January and I get a text from the Sandwich Artist saying:
"Hi Aaron, is it possible to have the rent due on the 8th of every month? The 1st is a bit tricky since all our rents, food and payroll come out from the store. I can even prorate it if it helps. Please let me know. Thanks. Sandwich Artist"
1 minute later, an email pops up with the exact same message, word for word. I must prefer email so I email back accepting his offer. If that will make his life easier and I can forge a solid relationship with this tenant, it's ok that 1 tenant out of a building pays on the 8th.
February 8th comes and goes, Rent has not been paid.
I am holding 1 months rent as a damage deposit and I don't want to give up on this tenant just yet so I propose we work together. From the 8th he asks for an extension until the 12th, he agrees to include a $10/day fee for late payment for rent up to the date he pays. He promises without a doubt, rent will be paid on the 12th.
Feb 12th, the Sandwich Artists email transfers $200... $200... I call him and he promises to transfer $200 per day for the next week plus an extra $200 as some kind of cherry on top for the trouble. I explain that I cannot handle this kind of administrative nightmare, I'm a property manage for many properties and this amount of issues with a brand new tenant is unacceptable. He has 1 week to pay the rent, send it all on the 19th or move out.
Feb 19th the Sandwich artist emails $750 plus proof he has switched the utilities into his name. After only paying $950 out of $1800 rent for month 2;
A final written warning is issued: By March 1st Rent must be 100% up to date. The date comes and goes.
An eviction notice is placed on the Sandwich Artists door. Eviction date March 17th. When it comes to eviction notices you must give 14 days notice which does not include the day you give it nor the day they must vacate.
The calls, emails, texts and sob stories begin. He cannot have his children know he is being evicted etc etc etc.
I send him this email:
He agreed. All in all not a total loss. Without the Sandwich Artist this unit would have been empty for Jan 1st, so we did fill a couple months.
March 19th, at noon, the townhouse was empty...
Maybe not as clean as I could have hoped but all in all, not bad. I changed the locks and wiped my brow..