Poll: Canadian landlords are keeping up appearances

The most important thing to note may be that they do, in fact, do it

Of respondents answering an online survey last week, 47.4 per cent say they cut the grass, clear the snow and otherwise keep the outward appearance of their rental properties in line with owner-occupieds in the neighbourhood.

Some 26 per cent say they have handed off those responsibilities to a tenant, usually, but not always, for a discount in rent. That’s slightly more than the 25 per cent who rely on the pros, usually a maintenance company, to do the deeds.

Only 1.3 per cent admit to taking no responsibility at all for curb appeal maintenance.

That small figure may counter concerns that more and more property investors are prepared to shirk those responsibilities given unprecedentedly low vacancy rates across much of the country, including Toronto. There, investors feared a glut of new construction would significantly decrease demand for their rental units.
“It’s just a reality given the very low vacancy rates in Calgary and many other markets that landlords are facing almost no pressure to do things like cut the grass, shovel the walkways and keep up the rental property to the standards of owner-occupied properties in the neighbourhood,” said Chad Bett, an

Alberta Realtor specializing in real estate investment.

Simply put, it’s a landlord's market, with high occupancy rates leaving many tenants with little leverage in demanding the kind of cosmetic upkeep neighbourhood improvement associations cite in complaints about rental properties.

“Landlords are in the position that if they lose a tenant, they can more easily replace them in the current market,” said Bett, himself an active investor with doors across the region.

Still, property investors looking to protect their cash flow in the long-term can’t afford to let that maintenance slip, he said.

“Not only does curb-appeal maintenance help to justify rental increases,Bett tells CREW, "but when the downturn does eventually come, it helps you to hold onto good existing tenants who feel they can really call the place they live home.”

Bett and an increasing number of property investors are now passing those duties on to tenants themselves, writing that obligation into leases and furnishing renters with the equipment – shovels, lawnmowers and, even, plantings and paint – to do the work themselves. It helps to lower carrying costs and stave off the kind of municipal fines plaguing many real estate investments.

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