Guelph’s Low Vacancy Rates Affecting Low Income Households

payingcashIn April, 2015, Guelph’s vacancy rate was the lowest seen in Ontario at an admirable 0.6 percent. Although this may seem to be great for investors and landlords in the area, many low income households  are suffering.

Typically, housing is deemed affordable by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) if the household is paying less than 30 percent of their income before taxes. The current range of available Guelph rental units does not meet these guidelines for affordable housing, according to a newly released City report.

Guelph’s rental market is in need of smaller rental units, meaning one bedroom or bachelor apartments, to account for a lower income household and Guelph’s reduction in the average number of persons per unit. This lack of available smaller housing is causing families to seek larger units with higher rental rates and spend beyond their affordable limit.

As affordable rental housing is becoming a large issue within Guelph, the City of Guelph is aiming to finalize an affordable housing strategy before the summer. You can read more about this issue and its effects in the Guelph Tribune’s article found below.

If you are searching for a 1 bedroom apartment, we currently have a few options for you. Please contact our office for further details about these units at 519-515-0411 x 228.

Low income families challenged by Guelph’s low vacancy rate

Housing stock not meeting all of city’s affodability needs

Guelph Tribune    By: Doug Hallett

Guelph’s extremely low rental vacancy rate is part of a challenging housing situation for low- and moderate-income households in the city, says a new city report.

Renting is generally more affordable than home ownership in Guelph, but renters are experiencing bigger challenges than homeowners, says the report, which is part of a city hall effort to finalize an affordable housing strategy before next summer.

“Rental households face a greater challenge in finding housing given the city’s vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent (as of April 2015), which is the lowest in Ontario and . . . well below a widely accepted balanced and healthy vacancy rate of three per cent,” the report says.

In general, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation considers housing to be affordable if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household’s pre-tax income. While 20 per cent of ownership from front page households in Guelph have been spending over 30 per cent of their household income on housing, 41 per cent of rental households have been above the affordability threshold.

The report, which goes to council’s infrastructure, development and enterprise committee today (Oct. 6), says the range of housing options available in Guelph is not fully meeting the affordability needs of low- and moderate-income households.

“The potential involvement of the city in financially incenting the creation of affordable housing across the full continuum will be reviewed” next year once the affordable housing strategy is finalized, the report says.

The approaches that the city comes up with for “addressing affordable housing issues on the market end of the continuum” will complement non-market strategies contained in the approved Guelph and Wellington 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, it says. “This review will provide direction to the future of the city’s affordable housing reserve, which has historically been used to support the creation of affordable market and non-market housing.”

The local market hasn’t been produced enough smaller housing units – bachelor and one-bedroom units – to meet the needs of smaller households in Guelph, the report says.

One-person households have been the fastest growing household type in the city over the past 15 years, accounting for one-quarter of all household types and 43 per cent of all renter households. The number of persons per household is also shrinking in Guelph, furthering the need for smaller housing units.

“A comparison of the city’s current housing supply with the number of bedrooms required by a household shows an insufficient number of smaller units for today’s smaller households, which means households need to seek out larger units which may result in affordability challenges,” the report says.

On the non-market side, no new social housing units have been created locally since 1995, and, as of the end of 2014, there were 881 Guelph households on the rent-geared-to-income waiting list for social housing units, the report says. Social housing in Guelph and Wellington County is administered by the county and financed on a cost-sharing basis.

Within Guelph, about 96% of the housing supply is market housing – 65% ownership and 31% rental, the report says. This leaves four per cent as non-market housing, which includes social housing and subsidized market housing, as well as emergency shelters, transitional housing and supportive housing.

On the positive side, overcrowding and the state of repair of the overall housing stock are not significant problems, the report says. And although the city’s targets for affordable rental housing haven’t been met, its annual affordable housing target for ownership housing – set at 27% of new residential development – has been met over the past five years.

The rental market consists of “primary” market units and “secondary” market units, and it’s in the primary market that the city’s vacancy rate was down to 0.6% in April.

The primary rental market includes buildings containing three or more units specifically developed for the rental market, typically apartment and townhouse units.

Secondary rental market units include accessory apartments, rented condominiums and other housing units rented out by the owner of the unit.

In recent years, the city has generally exceeded its target for creation of at least 90 accessory apartments, which are generally created in houses by their owners.

An average of 117 registered accessory apartments were created since 1995, and that rose to an average of 145 accessory apartments being registered annually from 2009 to 2013, the report says.

The secondary rental market provides choice of affordable dwelling types, but the supply is “not as secure” as the primary rental market, the report says.

It says the secondary rental market accounts for about 45 per cent of Guelph’s rental housing stock.

Hello Fall and Furnace Calls

fallToday is officially the first day of fall and the cool, crisp weather this season brings is fast approaching. Bring on the pumpkin-spice lattes, knitted scarves, dig out your autumn boots and prepare to turn on that furnace.

It is important for tenants and landlords to know their rights according to the Landlord and Tenant Board through the Residential Tenancies Act, specifically when it comes to heating a rental unit around this time of year. We highly recommend that landlords schedule an annual furnace inspection around the end of August to ensure that the furnace is in operating order for the fall.

Whether your lease includes utilities in the monthly rent or the tenants are responsible for paying their own utilities, the landlord must ensure the heat is in working order for the tenants’ use during their time of tenancy.

If the landlord provides heat to the rental unit (i.e. heat is included in the monthly rent), the Act requires the landlord to keep the heat in the unit at a minimum of 20 degrees Celsius between September 1 and June 15 of any given year. In addition to this, many municipalities across Ontario have their own regulations regarding heating of a rental unit. You can contact your local municipality to inquire and obtain further information on these bylaws. The City of Guelph’s Property Standards Bylaw, for example, requires each rental unit to maintain a minimum indoor temperature of 21 degrees Celsius in all occupied areas of the unit. Guelph’s Bylaw also states that no portable heating equipment shall be used as a permanent primary source of heat in any room.

Tenants: If you are responsible for paying your own utilities and the furnace breaks down, you should contact your landlord immediately for this repair. They must ensure that the furnace or means of heating is in good working order during your tenancy. If your landlord fails to provide heat to the unit in accordance with the RTA, you may submit an application to the LTB to have the Board determine the appropriate remedy.

With the cooler weather arriving and winter temperatures fast approaching, tenants are reminded that windows should be kept closed to preserve heat in the unit. If you as the tenant have any plans to leave the rental unit unattended for a weekend or any extended period of time, please ensure that the heat is left on to prevent pipes from freezing and damage being caused to the unit. You have been warned! If the pipes freeze and burst causing a flood in the unit, it is often the responsibility of the tenant who shut off the heat to pay for the cost of repairs and replacement of the property that has been damaged.

So now that you know your rights and obligations as landlords and as tenants, you should be prepared for what this cooler weather has in store for us in the coming weeks.

How to Avoid the “Problem Tenant”

frustratedThere is no denying that every landlord/investor is nervous about “problem tenants”. These are the tenants that are late in rent every month, usually with a different excuse each time, or the tenants that damage the property and vanish, leaving behind many repairs without payment. This brings on the question many investors ask our company before hiring us to manage the unit, how do you avoid renting to these problem tenants?

Although the truth is you can never fully avoid renting to these problem tenants no matter how thorough you are with processing an application before acceptance, you can take some precautions to help your chances of avoiding the wrong type of tenants for your rental property to protect yourself and your investment. The odds of renting to the dreaded problem tenant will drastically decrease if you follow the suggestions below. Trust us on this; we do this for a living.


More times than not, your gut will be accurate about a person upon meeting them for the first time. Pay attention to the individual’s appearance, behavior and body-language as this can tell a lot about the person as a tenant. An unkempt appearance or rude behavior can be seen as red-flags.


We suggest to ask an applicant for a minimum of one reference from a previous landlord. It is best to have the applicant provide the landlord’s contact details for you to contact the individual directly to ask any questions you may have about the potential tenants (i.e. how long they rented, if rent was paid on time each month or if there was any damage done to the property during their tenancy with this previous landlord). This type of reference can be a huge lifesaver as most landlords will be very helpful when providing a reference either over the phone or via email. Trusting a letter already written provided by the applicant is not always a great idea, as this could be written by anyone. Obtaining the reference yourself helps to ensure the information is accurate and current.


Something as simple as an applicant providing a current pay stub or a letter from an employer is an easy way to confirm that the applicant is in fact employed where they are claiming to be and making the monthly income they have written on your application. If you have any doubts about the employment, a simple phone call to the employer to verify employment is a fast and simple way to confirm this information.


We typically do not suggest trusting a credit check that a potential tenant has provided to you. It is always best to conduct your own credit report to ensure the information is up-to-date. This helps to identify if the applicant has had any issues paying bills late in the past, whether this is a regular occurrence or a one-time situation, or if they have been placed in collections for any debts. Although this will usually cost the landlord/investor a small fee to perform, this is well worth the money to save you from large losses going forward.


Asking the tenant for photo identification as proof of identity is always recommended. We suggest making a photo copy of the identification and keeping this on file in case it is ever needed in the future. This will also show you that they have put the correct, legal name on the application and will verify spelling if necessary. It is very important to place the tenant’s legal name on the lease agreement with correct spelling to hold the tenant(s) liable to the terms of the lease throughout their tenancy.


If you are hesitant on any of the items performed above but would still like to proceed with this applicant as a tenant, consider asking him/her for a guarantor to sign the lease agreement with them. This can help ease your mind if there was a minor blip on their credit history or if the landlord reference provided a few concerns. A parent, family member or friend who may be willing to sign the lease to guarantee the rent will be paid and the terms of the lease will be met is a great option, especially for first-time renters or an individual who is newly employed. Don’t forget to take the necessary steps outlined above on the guarantor as well to ensure they are financially stable and the information they are providing is accurate.

It is essential to take your time to locate the right tenant for your rental property. Don’t rent to the first person you meet without performing these recommended steps before accepting the tenant. Renting a unit out quickly without taking the appropriate steps because you don’t want your unit to sit vacant is the worst thing you can do. It is always better to take your time and allow a unit to sit vacant if necessary to get the right tenants in your property that will care for the home and pay rent on time each month. This will help you avoid those dreadful problem tenants and will save you money, time and headaches in the future.

Guelph Council Passes New Permit System to Allow Food Trucks

food truckGood news for Guelph residents!

As of August 1st, ice cream trucks are permitted to operate on residential streets and food trucks will be allowed to get permits to operate in industrial/commercial areas across Guelph. Some elements of the bylaw change will not come into effect until next year.

This change brings much excitement to local residents and special events organizers around Guelph.

Read more about yesterday’s Council decision below.

Guelph council says yes to food trucks
New permit system will allow gourmet food truck in the city

Guelph Mercury – July 22, 2015

By Joanne Shuttleworth

GUELPH — Council paved the way at Monday’s council meeting for an influx of food trucks in the city. Jakki Prince says start your engines.

“I’m super excited about it,” said Prince in a phone interview Tuesday. “There’s been widespread interest from the community and from special events organizers. I think food trucks will add another layer of excitement to festivals and community events.”

Prince spoke to council at Monday’s council meeting, urging councilors to vote in favour of a staff recommendation to allow food trucks in the city.

They did, giving the new bylaw unanimous support.

Prince has a bricks and mortar restaurant herself — Sweet Temptations Cupcakery in the south-end — but is excited about how a food truck will help grow her business and get her name known in the city.

Her truck will sell her gourmet cupcakes plus ice cream, which is a natural pairing.

“I see the trucks as adding value,” she said. “Everywhere we’ve broadcast information about it, food trucks have been getting huge support.”

After a bylaw review, city staff recommended allowing food trucks to operate in the city. Some elements will take effect Aug. 1 while others will have to wait until next year.

Until now, the only mobile food services permitted in the city were coffee trucks, who set up in company parking lots on agreement with the company, or hot dog carts. Every year businesses had to apply for their site and run the risk of not getting it.

After forming a working group, which included the Downtown Business Association, the United Food Truck Unlimited, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, Farmers’ Market vendors and staff from various city departments, the group addressed question such as who should be licensed, where should vendors operate and what classes of licenses should apply for food truck operators.

The new bylaw will allow ice cream trucks to operate on residential streets beginning Aug. 1. Also on Aug 1st food trucks will be able to get permits to operate in industrial and commercial areas.

Trucks will be allowed outside the Guelph Farmers’ Market in the back parking lot or on Gordon and Wilson Street as long as it does not interfere with traffic.

Prince asked council to consider allowing trucks on Freshfield Street, which is behind the farmers’ market, as an alternate to setting up on Gordon and Wilson.

Doug Godfrey, manager of bylaw compliance and security, said staff hadn’t explored Freshfield Street as a possible location for food trucks.

“Freshfield hasn’t been raised before,” Godfrey said, adding the location falls within the mixed use being considered for the downtown core. “We would ask for time to review the changes as well as parking and washroom considerations. Until then, food trucks can operate with a special event permit.”

Godfrey is expected to bring back a report to council next year.

How to Find the Perfect Roommate

roommateMoving to a new city? Starting a new school year? Need a roommate?

We have seen our fair share of hits and misses when it comes to tenants finding roommates. Finding someone that will fit your personality and lifestyle can prove to be a difficult task. Whether you are looking for roommates to help pay the rent or simply for the social aspect of living with others, it is important to find an individual or set of individuals that you will remain compatible with during your tenancy. But how do you locate the perfect match?

  1. Be honest with each other. Seriously think about your habits and what is important to you for a roommate. Are you a night-owl or a morning person? Are you a light sleeper? Do you like entertaining or do you prefer the quiet? Are you a neat freak or more relaxed with cleaning? Answering these questions honestly and thinking about what you can tolerate in a roommate in advance to your search will help you to determine the type of person you will be compatible living with. Try to find someone who lives a similar lifestyle and has similar preferences to you. If you are a homebody who enjoys alone time, try to avoid individuals who are more interested in partying or may have guests over constantly as this will likely cause problems in the future.
  2. Think ahead. Do not leave searching for a roommate until the last minute, as this will often lead to disaster. A good timeframe to starting your search is 2-3 months in advance. This will give you time to meet the person, view the living space and think through your options cautiously. If you are on a time crunch, consider subletting a room for a short-period of time. This will allow time for you to find a space that is comfortable with individuals you are compatible with rather than renting a space less ideal due to the limited timeframe.
  3. Advertising is key. Do your research. Find out where people are posting ads for roommates in the area by asking some locals. If you are a student, many Colleges and Universities will offer their own advertising pages for rental properties to help you locate other students to room with. Advertising on the same sites as people similar to you will help you attract people you are more likely to be compatible with.
  4. Trust your gut. First impressions are usually correct. When you first meet with potential roommates, you can usually get a good sense for the type of person they are. Pay attention to their demeanor during your meeting as this will tell a lot about the type of roommate they will be in the future. Don’t disregard those red flags.
  5. Evaluate the space before committing. Sure, the space may look modern and pretty, but is it a workable and livable space for your needs? Consider the number of bathrooms in the property compared to the number of occupants. Will you be fighting over bathroom time? Look at your bedroom size. This may be where you spend a lot of your time so it will be important to consider if you have enough space for your belongings and to actually live in the space. Do you need a parking space and is there adequate parking to allow for this? These are all questions you should be thinking about while viewing the unit before committing to a lease.
  6. Do a background/reference check. Once you find an interested roommate, it is important to do your due diligence. Verify their income to ensure they will be able to afford the rent going forward. This can be as simple as a phone call to their employer to confirm their employment or simply asking to see a letter from their employer or some proof of income. Ask for references. These can be former roommates or landlords to ask questions about the type of tenant they were previously. Look the individual up on social media. Their page may display a different part of their personality that wasn’t seen during the meeting.

Finding the perfect roommate is never an easy task. It is important to take your time and seriously consider your options before signing a lease agreement with another person you barely know. By following these suggestions, you can help find a roommate that will be compatible with you for the long hall.

Cambridge Landlords Concerned with Recent Water Bill Changes

waterusageIf you are currently renting a property in Cambridge or own a rental property in Cambridge, there is no doubt that you have noticed the recent change to the water billing system. The City of Cambridge has made the decision and implemented the change to the water bills for rental units having accounts placed in the property owners’ names, regardless of who the final consumer is. This means that landlords in Cambridge are on the hook for the payment of water bills for their rental properties, relieving tenants of the responsibility to pay these bills.

As you can imagine, many landlords are not happy about this change in billing policies and are fighting this decision, arguing that collection of rental payments from some tenants is difficult enough, let alone collecting money to pay for the water bills on top of this.

Some people are suggesting for landlords to increase monthly rents to offset the costs of the water bills for the unit. This may prove to be difficult due to Ontario’s Rent Increase Guidelines and landlords needing to apply for an above guideline rent increase which can be a time consuming process with no guarantee of approval.

Another concern that many landlords are voicing is tenants may start taking advantage of their water usage, conserving less than normal, knowing they are not responsible for paying these bills.

Our suggestion to Cambridge landlords with tenants currently responsible for paying their own utility bills is to have a written agreement in place as soon as possible with your tenants stating that the tenant agrees to pay the monthly amount of the water bill directly to the owner. Once the current lease agreement term is up, and with the proper notice, landlords can then amend the rental rate to offset the monthly water bill costs.

A CTV Kitchener article released yesterday stated that a group of Cambridge landlords are continuing to fight the City of Cambridge’s new water billing policies. Read more on this below.

What do you think about this change? Is it okay for Cambridge place bill’s in the property owner’s name or should they keep the bills in the tenant’s name?

Cambridge landlords want power to shut off delinquent tenants’ water
CTV Kitchener
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2015 1:07PM EDT

A group in landlords in Cambridge say they’ll continue to fight the city’s water billing policies – and that the province is looking into the matter as well.

The city recently decided to put property owners’ names on all water bills, even if the property is being rented out for the use of somebody else.

In an interview, Coun. Donna Reid said the system is the same one used in Hamilton.

“We can’t afford to not collect the water bills. This way, it’s ensured,” she said.

Reid said she understood why some landlords might be upset with the decision.

She suggested landlords worried about collecting water payments consider adding the cost of water to their basic rent amount.

“I understand that’s it’s difficult to … collect water bills when people are not responsible,” she said.

“To put that on the backs of all the taxpayers is … not a very responsible decision either.”

One landlord told CTV News she worried tenants might end up using more water than whatever amount would be factored into the rent.

“This is not a way to conserve the natural resource of water,” Kayla Andrade said.

A group of landlords met Tuesday night to discuss the issue.

They suggested finding a way to allow landlords to take responsibility for administering water bills, including being given the power to shut off water when tenants don’t pay their bills.

Andrade also plans to continue pursuing action through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

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.