November 10, 2014:
Global Relocation Counsellor
There have recently been reports that some Calgary property managers are charging prospective tenants viewing fees to see their rental units.
Let’s start off with some facts. In recent years, Canada has seen growth in the number of temporary foreign workers and immigrants as well as inter-provincial migration. At the same time Canada has also experienced a significant decline in the construction of new rental units. The result – low vacancy rates in many centres across the country with some of the worst being in Alberta, including Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.
According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the 2014 average vacancy rate dropped to 2.7% with the lowest vacancy rates in Edmonton at 1.4%, Calgary at 2% and Red Deer at 1.2%. This makes it difficult for corporate human resources and those that they relocate permanently or on assignment. But none of this is breaking news. All Points has been educating Human Resources about the challenge of low vacancy rates for some time now, helping them to establish reasonable cost of living housing subsidies and managing transferee and assignee expectations in order to achieve the most successful relocation.
The CBC has recently reported that certain landlords and/or property managers in Calgary are taking advantage of this already tight housing market by charging prospective tenants to view a rental unit. See the full article here. Given there is almost nothing in the Residential Tenancies Act regulating these “viewing” or “application” fees, while this practice may be unethical, it is legal!
All Points’ Western Relocation staff has reached out to well-known property management companies in Calgary and Edmonton and has confirmed that they are not charging viewing fees. In addition, All Points has not come across these viewing fees elsewhere when assisting transferees or expatriates. For now, this unconventional practice seems to be fairly limited. All Points Relocation will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates should this practice expand or contract.
At this point we recommend that Human Resources and relocation providers make transferees and assignees bound for Calgary aware of this possible request for viewing fees and that it is not a prevalent practice at this time. However, it is also a good reminder as to how high demand is for Calgary rental properties and all transferees should be willing to put in applications quickly if they like a given property. Human Resources and/or Compensation departments should also be frequently updating their cost of living studies for most cities in Canada, if they are not already, as market conditions can change quickly and data can quickly find itself out of date.