Pet owners searching for an apartment to rent may face a steep damage deposit, as new tenancy laws come into effect tomorrow.
Several major changes have been made to Manitoba’s Residential Tenancies Amendment Act, aimed at making rent increases more predictable and reducing red tape for landlords.
Landlords can charge a higher pet-damage deposit (one month’s rent instead of two weeks) for new tenants to encourage more landlords to allow pets.
Wendy Roels, resident manager at Governor’s Gate apartments in Brandon says one month’s rent for pet damage is simply "not enough."
"I have seen $5,000 damage to an apartment from a cat," she said. "I’m not saying all owners are like that …most of my pet owners are very, very good but we have seen it."
In the past 10 years, there’s been only three apartments with major problems due to pets at Governor’s Gate, however Roels said they were expensive renovations.
"Under the windows, thousands of scratches, the blinds are ruined, the screens are ruined, they have urinated from one end of the place to the other," she said. "Had to replace every piece of carpet, underlay, flooring, baseboard, and even some of the proboard underneath had to be replaced or treated with something because of the smell."
Now the 96-suite complex allows cats on a "case by case" basis, Roels said.
One change that affects all renters is how the province’s basic annual rent increase will be calculated. It will now be based on the consumer price index for Manitoba and must fall within the Bank of Canada’s inflation-control target range.
"People will know ahead of time," Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux said last week. "If landlords want anything over that, they have to go to the Residential Tenancies Commission to get approval and prove that they’re doing extra renovations so that they can get over and above what that rate is."
Roels said with the way gas prices, hydro costs, wages and general goods have gone up over the past several years, the owner’s costs have gone up significantly.
"I know the owner’s bottom line has been going down, down, down over the years and tenants don’t understand that," she said.
"One per cent doesn’t cover inflation."
The new rules also mean tenants must be compensated for moving costs and higher rental fees when a landlord carries out renovations that create a major inconvenience and are intended to drive tenants out.
Roels said that situation would be "pretty rare" in her apartment block.
"We’ve put new carpet and flooring in tenants’ apartments and that doesn’t drive them out," she said.
"We do half the apartment one week and the other half the next week … but obviously if you’re doing renovations to a point that they have to be driven out, somebody needs to be paying for that."
Roels said she hopes there will be stipulations on this component, as tenants may try to take advantage of it.
Also beginning tomorrow, landlords can now evict law-breaking tenants who pose a risk to other tenants, as long as they have proof.
Jason Roblin, chief executive officer at Vionell Holdings Partnership, said this component isn’t anything new, as the Safer Communities Act allowed landlords to evict tenants who may be putting others in danger.
"Maybe landlords didn’t know about it … so this may be just a way of writing it right into the tenancies act so they know about it," he said.
Vionell Holdings Partnership manages nearly 500 apartment rentals in Brandon, including Fernwood Estates, Argyle Courts and Sheridan Apartments.
Roblin is in favour of the increased pet deposit, as it may help outside investors be more confident in allowing pets in their buildings.
"They know that there’s a good chance that the deposit would cover substantial damage if caused by a pet," Roblin said.
"A lot of places (allow) cats now, maybe they’ll look at dogs too which would be great because there’s a demand for that."
The appeals process is amended so landlords can act faster on rulings in which tenants have not paid their rent.
More regulatory changes will come into effect Jan. 1, 2015. The province says they will strengthen requirements for exemptions from rent regulation due to renovations and limit how often landlords can apply for those exemptions. The changes will also spread the cost of some improvements over a longer period, which could result in smaller rent increases.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press
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