It's a simple thing to say that if a landlord
can't handle the challenges involved in rental property ownership, they should
just get out of the business.
Many do, as they see no point in throwing good money after
bad, so it's either sell the property and recoup what they can, or let the
property deteriorate and risk becoming a 'slum landlord'.
Still others feel driven to maintain their properties for
the sake of providing homes to renters, especially those in the inner city,
because that is where their hearts are. Many of these landlords know that they
won't make a profit until they sell their properties, but they persevere in
spite of it.
Below are some of the
issues faced by landlords. Others will be added as they are raised by our
Many factors threaten the viability of a
landlord's business, including but not limited to the following:
- Frequent, costly property damages: In spite of
careful screening of tenants, many landlords suffer repeated, often extensive
damages to their properties by bad tenants, for which they must pay out of
pocket. The cost of these repairs is often prohibitive, especially for smaller
landlords. Damage deposits are rarely sufficient to cover the cost of repairs.
There are no government programs to assist the property owner in maintaining
his property to accepted standards.
- Abandonment of a property: Tenants will often
abandon a property without proper notice, leaving behind unpaid rent and
utility bills, resulting in further loss of revenue.
punitive and discriminatory billing and collection policies of the City of
Winnipeg Water & Waste Department:
- Unpaid water bills are now the responsibility of the
property owner, even if the account is in the tenant's name. If the landlord
does not pay the account, the amount owing is added to his tax roll, and can
be withdrawn from his bank account without his knowledge or authorization.
- Because water
bills are issued for three-month periods as opposed to monthly billing, it
is difficult for inner-city tenants to manage a large bill, whereas monthly
billing would make this expense more manageable for tenant and landlord
alike. To compound the problem, Water & Waste billing policy is to wait
anywhere from 40 to 80 days past the due date of the account before they
will notify the landlord of the overdue amount, thereby allowing the bill to
become even higher and more impossible for the tenant to pay.
- Also due to
the quarterly billing for water accounts, it is difficult for landlords to
monitor water use/abuse effectively. One landlord had a tenant move in, run
up a $1000 water/sewer bill in his first three months, and abandon the
property, stealing the washer and dryer in the process. The landlord knew
nothing about the water bill, due to policy-dictated delays in notification
on the part of the Water & Waste Department, and was subsequently forced to
pay the outstanding bill even though the bill was in the tenant's name.
- Landlords are no longer permitted to request that a
tenant's water service cut off for lack of payment. This is left to the
discretion of Water & Waste, and is not always done when it should be.
- Water & Waste has arbitrarily and without
consultation made changes to the legislation that negatively affect the
landlord's bottom line, but will not allow the landlord to revise the leases
of current tenants to adjust for these changes.
- As tenants become aware of these policies, which are
heavily weighted against the landlord, there is even less incentive for the
tenants to pay their water bill, as they know that the landlord will be
forced to to pay it.
- The Water & Waste Department will rarely make the
effort required to collect the debt from its customer, the delinquent
tenant. Rather, they expect the landlord, with his limited resources, to
collect the debt, often suggesting that the landlord use a collection agency
for the purpose. Most collection agencies will not take on these accounts.
This, in spite of the fact that Water & Waste indicates that it has recently
expanded its collection personnel and resources.
- Individual landlords making enquiries about these
policies or seeking assistance with these issues have received conflicting
opinions and responses from staff at both customer service and management
- We are told that Manitoba Hydro is considering
pursuing the same billing and collections policies as those of the Water &
Waste Department. This will further jeopardize the financial viability of
rental property ownership.
Voice for Winnipeg Landlords