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.

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.