How to Improve Outdoor Space to Appeal to Today’s Rental Market

Outdoor spaceSpring is finally here; or rather, we skipped spring all together and jumped straight to summer! Either way, we are not complaining. With this amazing weather comes an increase in potential tenants looking to settle into a new rental just in time to enjoy the summer weather.

The outdoor area of a rental property, whether it be a detached home, townhome, apartment or a multiplex, can be a deciding factor in a renter’s choice. In many cases, the outdoor space is more important than the actual interior of the property. For this reason, it is important for landlords and investors to recognize the significance of the outdoor space and ensure that their unit is meeting renters’ wants and needs.

Often times, the yard space expands the living space for the tenant adding more livable square footage. Renters are similar to home owners in the fact that they desire outdoor space for entertaining, relaxing and outdoor grilling and this should not be overlooked.

Be careful, too much yard or outdoor maintenance for the tenant can be detrimental. We suggest to keep landscaping fairly low-maintenance and include easy-to-maintain structures such as mulch and a patio/deck. If there is a substantial amount of grass on the property that requires cutting, we suggest having the lawn professionally trimmed by a landscaping company rather than making this the tenant’s responsibility. Including gardens or window boxes allows for tenants to make the space their own with plants, flowers or vegetables and herbs.

Another important item to note is to ensure the outdoor space has sufficient outdoor lighting. Tenants want to feel safe in their home and providing sufficient lighting is a great way to accomplish this. Installing solar lights can help minimize costs while providing a safe and relaxing atmosphere to tenants.

Attractive and functional outdoor areas make any property more desirable to the average tenant. Connecting the outdoors to the rental unit through sliding doors or designated pathways is a great way to ensure the space is functional for tenants. Planning to scale is also a huge factor in creating an appealing outdoor space. If the space is small, do not try to clutter everything into one space with too much furniture or too many amenities. Having a BBQ and a bistro set on a small patio is better than cramming the space. Providing plenty of room for stretching, relaxing and enjoying the space is very important. Keeping the grass maintenance regular including pulling weeds and trimming bushes helps keep the space visually appealing.

If you want to improve your current outdoor space to attract new tenants to the rental property, even the simplest fixes can make dramatic results and improve curb appeal for the property. If a property is becoming vacant, try to look at it with new eyes and say to yourself: “What bothers me? What can be improved?” Realistically if something doesn’t look right to you, it will not look right to potential tenants viewing the unit. We suggest trimming gardens, flower beds and bushes to create clean lines and add fresh mulch if necessary to freshen the space up. Trimming or removing any greenery that blocks the line of sight at the property can help open up the space and give the appearance of the area being larger. Power-washing driveways, walkways and patios can make a huge difference in the appearance of the home. The first impression is extremely important and making sure the curb appeal is there for potential tenants can help you maximize your rent collected and fill the unit faster.

Even the smallest investment in outdoor space can generate large returns by increasing property value and expanding the living space for renters.

St Patrick’s Day – Party Responsibly and Respectfully

shamrockWith St. Patrick’s Day arriving tomorrow, University of Guelph students and residents should note that the City of Guelph Police and Bylaw Officers will have a heavy presence on March 17th. The City is not discouraging celebrating for the occasion, but is reminding everyone to party responsibly and be respectful of the community in which we all live.

As a reminder, the late night bus service will be operating during the evening of March 17th to provide everything with safe transportation home. Guelph Police Services will also be operating RIDE programs throughout he City to reduce drinking and driving.

Student Life Off Campus Living has sent out a newsletter we find may be helpful while preparing for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. This newsletter is attached below.

Some tips to consider:

  • Limit the number of guests you invite to any parties
  • Be courteous and let your neighbors know ahead of time that you plan to have guests over
  • Remember noise bylaws will still be in effect (city bylaws, condo rules and regulations, etc.)
  • Have a designated driver if you plan to drive anywhere

Be warned! Below is a list of a few common fines the City of Bylaw can issue.

  • Public intoxication           $65
  • Open alcohol in public    $125
  • Noise                              $365
  • Nuisance party                $750

For a larger list of tips and common fines, please refer to the attached Student Life Off Campus Living Newsletter.

If you are having a party, please contact Off-Campus Living at extension 56276 or email for information about hosting safe and responsible parties, city regulations and fines or general neighborhood issues.

St paddy’s day poster – 2015

We wish everyone a fun, safe and responsible St. Patrick’s Day! Party smart!

Is Collecting Rent in Cash a Thing of the Past?

payingcashWe have found the shift in the demand for methods of rental payments changing within the last few years. There was a time where tenants would prefer cash payments for rent over writing cheques, especially as many tenants did not know how to write a cheque.

With technology continuously changing and expanding, there are now several forms of rent collection available to tenants. This is making cash payments dated and less desirable for the new generation of renters.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each method of payment.

1. Cash

Pros: Depending on the amount of monthly rent, tenants can easily withdraw cash directly from any banking institution or ATM machine nearby.

Cons: It is important to obtain a written receipt for the cash payment. This means that the landlord and tenant must meet in person to count the cash and write receipt which can cause problems due to scheduling and accessibility.

It seems that cash is becoming more and more of a hassle for both the landlord and the tenant in today’s rental market.

2. Post-dated/Personal Cheque

Pros: This can be argued to be the most convenient method of payment for the tenant. Tenants can write several cheques in advance for the duration of their tenancy and not worry about making arrangements for payment each month. Both the tenant and the landlord can keep records of these cheques to ensure a proper trail is documented for the rent collection.

Cons: There are a few issues with this method that are important to consider. Some tenants may not have cheques, and are unwilling to pay to obtain cheques from their bank. Others may not know how to write a cheque. The biggest disadvantage for landlords accepting personal cheques is the potential for bounced cheques and the necessary bank visits to deposit each month.

Today, we are finding about 50% of our tenants are paying rent with post-dated cheques.

3. E-Transfers/Electronic Deposit

Pros: This method is extremely quick and convenient for those tenants who are tech-savvy. E-transfers and electronic deposits can be done through any online banking service and takes a matter of minutes. Tenants can ensure the rent is paid on time with this method regardless of their location. Often times landlords will live out of town or tenants will be away on vacation, this is very convenient in these circumstances especially.

Cons: The only real disadvantage to the tenant is that he/she may experience bank fees associated with e-transfers or electronic deposits. Although these costs are minimal, some tenants may not want this extra expense. A disadvantage for the landlord is the need to provide the tenant with a bank account number, where many owners may not want to disclose this personal information.

We are finding more tenants requesting this type of rent payment each month. If you as a landlord do not offer this payment method yet, we would highly recommend looking in to this option.

4. Visa/Mastercard

Pros: This method can be convenient for both parties as the individuals do not need to meet in person necessarily. Most tenants will have a credit card if they are over the age of 18 or a parent will have a credit card to make the rent payments.

Cons: There are several cons to consider. There can be processing fees that are applied when paying via credit card. This could be a charge to the landlord or the tenant, depending on the credit card company. In addition to this, tenants may dispute the charges and file for chargebacks from the landlord. This can also be a dangerous form of payment for the tenant as they may not have the funds immediately in their account and could find themselves getting into debt quickly.

This is not a method of payment that we prefer and would recommend landlords to avoid this method when possible.

5. Pay Pal

Pros: This can be a good option for both tenants and landlords. Many people are familiar with Pay Pal and already have an account created. If both parties have accounts, tenants can easily transfer rent payments using the landlord’s email address or arrange for automatic payments.

Cons: The major downfall of paying by Pay Pal is the associated account fees and transaction fees. If both parties do not have Pay Pal accounts and are unwilling to create an account, this will be impossible.

This could be a great option if both the landlord and the tenant have accounts and are willing to continue with these accounts.

As we have mentioned, there are pros and cons associated with each form of rent collection. Landlords should decide which methods have positives that outweigh the negatives before deciding on which options to provide to tenants. Obviously the more options you offer, the more likely a tenant will pay rent quickly and efficiently.

Rise of Purpose-Built Student Residences in Guelph Set to Shake Up the Market

Inspirah Rental Management Ltd. was mentioned in the Guelph Mercury over the weekend. Missed it? Read the article below about how the City’s student market is changing, for better or worse.

803-807 GordonRise of purpose-built student residences in Guelph set to shake up the market

Guelph Mercury
By May Warren

GUELPH—This fall and winter the student-geared downtown nightclub Trappers Alley/The Palace has hosted “Solstice Saturdays.”

A promotional video set to a booming house music track shows a crush of exhilarated undergraduates wearing glow sticks and throwing beach balls into the air as the screen changes to stills of apartments and the words “modern features” and “spacious living” flash across the screen.

But Solstice is not an energy drink or new flavoured vodka; it’s a place to live.

It’s a student-targeted residence, slated to open its first development, with around 600 beds, this fall.

The quickly-taking-shape six-storey structure at Edinburgh Road South and Gordon Street is hard to miss. And whether you are an aspiring resident or an already grumpy neighbour, it’s clear this new kind of student living is set to shake up the housing market, for undergraduates and their landlords.

Solstice is one of two new large, student-focused residences slated for occupancy this fall. Students are also set to move into the 100-bed Gordon Terrace, also on south Gordon Street, in September. It’s not clear when Solstice 2, also slated for Gordon Street, will open.

As manager of off-campus living at the University of Guelph, Kathryn Hofer is something of an expert on where about 13,500 students live off campus.

“Definitely I would say we’ve seen a shift to rental housing geared to students in the south end in general over the past 10 years as development has happened, but with these units, this is new to Guelph,” she said in a recent phone interview.

It’s called “purpose-built housing,” built to cater to student needs. Sometimes referred to as luxury student housing, it features comforts such as bathrooms for every bedroom and shiny new appliances.

Waterloo has had “purpose built” for years now, with properties such as The Luxe, which offers tanning beds as an amenity.

But it’s new for Guelph. Hofer said she’s already hearing about the impact the upcoming developments are having from local landlords, who have rented out single-family homes for years and who this season are finding it’s taking a little longer than usual, with fewer students responding to ads.

Mark Roberts, the president of Inspirah Rental Management Ltd., has also noticed owners “pushing the panic button a little bit,” and calling his company because they haven’t rented student houses yet this season.

“The winds of change are coming through Guelph,” he said, over mocha, at a local coffee shop one afternoon this month.

“We’re already feeling it this year because this year’s a big year.”

Roberts, who is also an investor, bought one-third of the units of the new Gordon Terrace development with his business partner. All of the 27, three- and four-bedroom units in that building have been sold to Guelph investors, he said.

Although change is certain, Roberts is not sure exactly how it is all going to shake out.

The competition is already “fierce” here because there are so many investors who want to get into the local student-rental housing game. This drives prices up for such properties, he said.

He believes the ones who will be left behind are the places that are already in less-desirable condition for renters.

“I say to every owner, drive down Gordon once and really open your eyes and understand what’s going on in this city,” he said.

As a property manager, he said he tries to engage with his student tenants and provide them with a positive experience, not “create animal house.”

Roberts said he agrees with the luxury label.

“We have a lot of parents come and sign leases with their kids, a lot of them say, ‘this is nicer than my house.'”

Hofer said there’s been a “surplus” of student housing in Guelph for years now.

Edinburgh Village, also known as Chancellor’s Way, was built near Stone Road Mall about a decade ago to meet the swelling demand of the student population at the time.

“Right now, we don’t have a growing student population, but we have more and more purpose-built housing coming on line. So we definitely see a changing landscape and it will definitely have an effect on people who have rentals geared to students. The surplus is growing and it will be a more competitive market for sure,” Hofer said.

Whether the infrastructure exists to support such high-density student areas is definitely a concern. With 600 students living in one building who may all be trying to get on the same bus for 9:30 a.m. class, these sorts of things can be a live issue, Hofer added.

Brittany Skelton, local affairs commissioner at the university’s Central Student Association, has questions about that too. She said she’s also worried the newer, upscale units will push up rental costs and price some students out of the market into poorly maintained units, where they are vulnerable to precarious living situations with bad landlords.

Skelton said she fears students may feel isolated, from both the community and from the other students around them in large purpose-built developments.

“They’re essentially like dormitories without a RA (residence adviser), so there isn’t anyone checking in on you anymore,” she said, adding that she’s heard about an increase in mental health issues in some student-geared housing in Waterloo

Solstice, with its free swag, promotional photos of good-looking young women, and marketing via student bar nights, is selling a lifestyle that’s not for everyone, she added.

“I think it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t necessarily speak to the average Guelph student and I don’t think really encompasses what we value as students at all.”

The idea of the hard-partying student who doesn’t care about their community is something she rejects as an unfair stereotype and sees student houses integrated within neighbourhoods as a better model.

There have already been rumbles in the community about how some of the new developments will fit in.

Last December, at an open house for Solstice 3, on its proposed site at the former St. Matthias Anglican Church building on Kortright Road West at Edinburgh, Ward 5 Councillor Cathy Downer heard concerns from neighbours about everything from the shadow the six-storey building would cast, to parking, loss of community space, and the supervision of all those students.

She said she’s left wondering if we have “the policies in place to effectively deal with these types of development. Is there something more that we could be doing?”

Solstice’s third instalment is yet to go before city council for approval.

There’s also a planned development at Stone Road and Gordon Street, just across from campus where the Best Western Hotel sits. Developer Abode Varsity Living took the city to the Ontario Municipal Board over the property. In April 2013, the board ruled Abode could build a student-housing development of up to 11 storeys on the site, but there’s no sign of construction yet.

The Solstice units will be owned by investors and rented out to students, according to their promotional literature. A property management firm will take care of the daily needs of student tenants.

For Downer this also raises questions about who exactly the investors will be, how many units they can buy and how much oversight they will have over the property.

That dual profile is reflected on Solstice’s website. The homepage, available in English, French, Chinese, German, Hungarian and Korean, showcases a 3D drawing of the Solstice 2 property and links to information about investing in a unit.

A pop-up of a smiling young woman, one eye peeking out from behind hands shielding her face, invites younger visitors to continue to

A blonde woman in a zip-up sweatshirt looking fresh out of the stands from a football game is waiting on that site, which has a University of Guelph-esque colour scheme and links to a Facebook page, asking “what’s your favourite way to unwind after a long day of classes?”

Multiple attempts to contact Solstice’s HIP developments for comment were unsuccessful.

The firm’s promotional literature, regularly available at the U of G’s University Centre, indicates the suites will feature fibre-optic Internet, an outdoor sun terrace “to soak up the rays after a long day of exams,” a video-game den, stainless steel fridges and quartz countertops.

For students like Brenna MacNeil, a second-year marketing management student from Oakville, that sounds ideal.

The 19-year-old was seriously considering leaving the townhouse she shares with three other students to move into Solstice with a friend, but found it hard to get a third or fourth housemate so late in the season. The Solstice website indicates it only rents to groups of three or four students. Still, she said she’d think about it for next year.

“Honestly, it’s a great thing because it’s kind of like living in res(idence) again, you’re surrounded by students. You don’t feel bad making a lot of noise on weekends,” she said during a break from classes.

She calls finding a place off-campus “a very stressful experience, trying to find something that everybody likes and everybody’s OK with.”

Solstice and Gordon Terrace are also offering something relatively novel for the market, an eight-month lease.

“The eight-month lease is really a great thing because we don’t live here during the summer, we go back home, so it seems like a waste to be paying for a space that you’re not living in,” MacNeil said.

Lincoln Farrell, a real estate agent who also owns and manages properties in Guelph, said he hasn’t seen a Solstice effect yet, but anticipates one.

He said he sees a split in his business between investors buying to rent to students, and parents buying to rent to their kids while they study.

Like Roberts, Farrell thinks the nicer places will always be rented out and the ones that will suffer will be the houses that are rundown.

Either way, the student housing saturation point could be near.

“If I were to venture a guess, I think after Solstice 1 and 2. That might be it,” Farrell said.

Guelph Named 8th Most Romantic City in Canada

GuelphromanceJust in time for Valentine’s Day! As you may or may not know, ranks cities across the country each year based on their website’s sales data for the previous year. This data includes sales of “romantic” items such as albums, jewelry, movies and novels through their website.

Did you purchase any romantic comedies this year or maybe you ordered the Fifty Shades of Grey series?

This year, Guelph was named the 8th most romantic city in Canada. Another noteworthy ranking is Waterloo, which was ranked the 3rd most romantic city this year.

Need a Valentine’s Day gift idea for your special someone this year? Check out for some great romantic ideas and help contribute to an even more romantic city this year!

You can read more about the rankings in the Guelph Mercury’s article below.

Guelph named one of the most romantic cities in Canada
Guelph Mercury
Mercury staff

It may not be Paris, but Guelph is a city of love as far as is concerned.

Guelph has been named the eighth most romantic city in Canada by the online retailer as part of their sixth annual ranking, which looks at sales data of items like romance novels, romantic comedies and Michael Bublé albums.

If you’re looking for even more romance, you might want to head down to nearby Waterloo, Ont., which took the number three spot. West coast cities Victoria and North Vancouver were crowned the number one and two most romantic places in the country.

Saskatoon, SK, Calgary, Alta. and Red Deer Alta., rounded out the top five.

Kingston, Ont., Oakville Ont., London Ont., Kitchener Ont., and Burlington Ont., all made appearances on the top 20 list.

The list is generated by comparing sales data from January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015 on a per capita basis in cities with more than 80,000 residents across categories of romance novels and relationship books, romantic comedy DVDs, romantic CDs, jewelry and sexual wellness products.

Guelph was the named the second most romantic city in the country by Amazon in 2011 and 2012.

It was number five in 2013 and did not make the cut in 2014.

Number of Above-Limit Rent Increase Applications Up Almost 50%

If you are currently renting or planning to jump into the rental market, it is important to get informed. Landlords can increase monthly rent each year by the rent increase limit which is set annually by the Government of Ontario. These limits are calculated by Statistics Canada and based on the Ontario consumer price index each year. Apartments that were built after 1991 in Ontario are exempt from rent control, allowing landlords to increase monthly rents as desired.

rentincreaseLandlords can apply for a rent increase that is above the legal limit set by the Government of Ontario in some cases through the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Over a 12 month period between March 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, the LTB received almost double the amount of applications for above legal limit rent increases compared to the previous year. To put this in perspective, there was a jump of only 17% between 2012 and 2013.

A recent article written by Gordon Paul for the Waterloo Region Record discusses this in further detail and outlines the circumstances in which a landlord can increase the rent above the legal limit. We recommend reading the article below and familiarizing yourself with these regulations to prevent falsely being increased by a landlord in the future and knowing your rights as a tenant.

More Ontario landlords seek to hike rents beyond legal limit
Waterloo Region Record
By Gordon Paul

KITCHENER — The number of Ontario landlords seeking to hike rent above the legal limit shot up last year.

In the 12-month period ending March 31, 2014, the Landlord and Tenant Board received 438 above-limit applications — a 48 per cent increase from the 296 applications in the previous year. The year before that it was 252.

Last year’s rent-increase limit was 0.8 per cent, the second-lowest cap since regulation was introduced 40 years ago. This year’s number is 1.6 per cent.

Landlords can apply for bigger increases — as much as three per cent above the limit each year for three consecutive years — to pay for capital expenditures or big tax hikes.

These applications are not slam dunks, but most get approved, said Mary Pappert, an executive member of Renters Educating and Networking Together (RENT), a regional tenants’ rights group.

The Landlord and Tenant Board has no idea if that’s true because it does not keep track of those numbers, board spokesperson Whitney Miller said.

“Whether most of them are approved, I don’t know,” she said: “They (board) don’t know. They don’t track that.”

In the apartment building where Pappert previously lived, the landlord won above-limit increases five times in 13 years. Often, landlords get most but not all of what they’re requesting, she said.

The only completely rejected application she recalls was in 1982. The landlord wanted six per cent, but got nothing because tenants weren’t given proper notice.

Many above-limit hikes are justified to pay for things such as new doors or energy-efficient appliances.

But landlords sometimes include things that aren’t capital expenditures, but just expenses related to maintenance or cosmetic work, Pappert said. They might also include capital expenditures that wouldn’t have been necessary if there had been proper maintenance.

Landlord and Tenant Board hearings are held to approve or reject items in a landlord’s above-limit application. A board officer at the hearings “may or may not catch things” that don’t qualify as capital expenditures, Pappert said.

It’s important for tenants to go through landlord applications with a fine-tooth comb to try to find items that don’t qualify, she said. Items that get tossed by the board cut the size of the increase.

Pappert acknowledged it can be a tough slog for tenants to examine applications, some of which are 300 pages long.

“You almost have to have an accountant,” she said.

Many tenants don’t fight the applications.

“We have a lot of seniors that are timid, they’re afraid if they say something they’ll get an eviction notice. They don’t understand that they can’t be evicted for fighting.”

Many seniors don’t want to move, so they just accept the increases. Landlords often have the advantage at board hearings, Pappert said. “These landlords coming in have big lawyers and they know the letter of the law, they know how to suck out every nickel.”

Few lawyers work for tenants, Pappert said, and most tenants couldn’t afford one anyway.

The rent-increase limit is set each year by the Ontario government, based on the Ontario consumer price index, a measure of inflation calculated by Statistics Canada. Ontario apartments built after 1991 are not subject to rent control.

Reasons for above-limit increases

A landlord can apply for an above-limit increase for any of these reasons:

  • Municipal taxes and/or utilities have increased by an “extraordinary” amount. The board defines extraordinary as an amount 50 per cent above the rent-increase limit.
  • Costs for security services increased or the landlord began providing security services for the first time.
  • Extraordinary or significant renovations, repairs, replacements or new additions to the building or to individual units. This work is called a capital expenditure.

Eligible capital expenditures include work:

Necessary to protect or restore the physical integrity of the building;

Necessary to maintain the provision of a plumbing, heating, mechanical, electrical, ventilation or air conditioning system;

To provide access for people with disabilities;

To improve energy or water conservation;

To maintain or improve security.

Capital expenditures do not include routine work, regular maintenance work or cosmetic work.

To Furnish or Not To Furnish, That is the Question

furnish2The dilemma between furnishing a rental unit or not furnishing a rental unit is something we come across more and more as time goes on in the rental market. Investors are continuously asking us whether we would suggest offering their rental property as a furnished rental or leaving it up to the tenant to bring their own furniture.

The truth is there are advantages and disadvantages to furnishing a rental property for both the property owner and the tenants themselves.  It is important to keep in mind that every rental situation is different and everyone has different needs/preferences.


Many people view furnished rentals as an easy transition for everyone involved.

Moving gets expensive and if tenants are first-time renters, this often means purchasing all new furniture to fill the unit. Renting a furnished property can help minimize moving costs for tenants and reduces the moving time, which is highly beneficial for many renters who have a busy work schedule or family life.

There are a few advantages for property owners and investors in offering the unit furnished.  By eliminating the number of times tenants are moving furniture in and out after a change in tenancy, this reduces the risk of damage to any flooring or walls throughout the property.

In some circumstances, property owners offer their homes as temporary rentals due to relocation for a work contract or family issue. In this case, offering the unit furnished minimizes moving costs and costs for storage for the property owner for a short-term rental.


Offering a unit as furnished also has several disadvantages for both tenants and property owners/investors.

Many renters want to personalize their home and have a wide variety of tastes and preferences. It is hard for a renter to do this with most furniture provided with rental units. Even more often, renters have their own furniture and do not want to part with these items; therefore, these renters do not need a furnished unit. Furniture can also become dated very quickly and can actually be unattractive and unappealing to potential renters.

As an investor, if your unit is unappealing to a wide range of tenants whom have their own furniture or do not like the furniture provided, this can make it difficult to fill your vacancy as quickly as you could if the unit was unfurnished. Another item for consideration is the cost of repairs and cleaning of the furniture. If a rental property experiences a high amount of turnover, this can lead to a lot of wear and tear to the furniture and added costs for furniture repairs, patches and cleaning.

With our experience in the market, most renters are looking for unfurnished units, however, there is still In order to appeal to the largest range of renters, we typically suggest to an owner to remove any furniture at the property and list the unit as an unfurnished rental.

Another option is to offer a “furnished option” in the advertisements for the property, meaning the potential renter can choose to have the furniture stay at the unit or be removed.  This way, the property appeals to both types of renters, those looking for a furnished home and those who are not.

The rental market is forever changing and it is important for investors and property owners to keep up with current rental needs. A serious question an investor should ask themselves is if the benefits of keeping furniture at the rental property outweighs the costs of having this furniture removed from the location.