Obligations and rights of tenants and landlords when ending a tenancy in Saskatchewan

You may have read the Star Phoenix story in yesterday’s paper regarding two tenants of the Barry Hotel who successfully appealed their eviction notices allowing them to continue to reside there until May 31. It’s important for tenants and landlords to understand their rights and their obligations when it comes to the termination of a tenancy. Here’s a quick look at the legislation as outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act.

Under Section 60 of the new Residential Tenancies Act:

A landlord may end a periodic tenancy respecting a rental unit if:

(a) the landlord enters into an agreement in good faith to sell the rental unit;

(b) all the conditions on which the sale depends have been satisfied; and

(c) the purchaser asks the landlord, in writing, to give notice to end the

tenancy on one of the following grounds:

(i) the purchaser is an individual and the purchaser, or a close family

member or friend of the purchaser, intends in good faith to occupy the

rental unit;

(ii) the purchaser is a family corporation and an individual owning

voting shares in the corporation, or a close family member or friend of

that individual, intends in good faith to occupy the rental unit.

A landlord may end a periodic tenancy respecting a rental unit if the landlord has all the necessary permits and approvals required by law, and intends in good faith, to do any of the following:

(a) demolish the rental unit;

(b) renovate or repair the rental unit in a manner that requires the rental unit to be vacant;

(c) convert the residential property to condominiums pursuant to The CondominiumProperty Act, 1993;

(d) convert the residential property into a continuing housing co-operative as defined inThe Co-operatives Act, 1996;

(e) convert the rental unit for use by a caretaker, manager or superintendent of theresidential property;

(f) convert the rental unit to a non-residential use.

Also under Section 60:

(8) A notice pursuant to this section must comply with section 63.

(9) A tenant may dispute a notice pursuant to this section by applying for an order pursuant to section 70 within 15 days after the date the tenant receives the notice.

(10) If a tenant who has received a notice pursuant to this section does not apply for an order pursuant to subsection (9), the tenant:

(a) is deemed to have accepted that the tenancy ends on the effective date of the notice; and

(b) must vacate the rental unit by that date.

Regarding proper notice, Section 63 states:

To be effective, a notice to end a tenancy must be in writing and must:

(a) be dated and identified as originating from the landlord or tenant giving the notice;

(b) give the address of the rental unit;

(c) state the effective date of the end of the tenancy;

(d) state the grounds for ending the tenancy; and

(e) when given by a landlord, be in the approved form.”

Additional Tenant Rights

Having received a notice of a termination of the tenancy, a tenant has the additional right to end the tenancy earlier by giving the landlord at least 10days written notice and paying the proportionate amount of rent.

In the event that the landlord does not carry out the intended purpose stated in the Notice, a tenant may seek compensation for having moved.

A form which is approved for use can be found here on the province’s Justice and Attorney General website.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

If you want me to act quickly don’t give me all the time in the world

This is the lead statement in the general comments of a property first offered for sale on February 5, 2008.

Act quickly!! Offers will be accepted until February 20th 2008.

I have to ask myself, “Why should I act quickly?” It would seem to me that I have at least two weeks to get over there.

Most of us can understand a seller’s desire to leverage a seller’s market.

In my opinion, this is a good example of a seller shooting themselves in the foot, and most likely failing to achieve what they’re hoping to accomplish. It’s terribly difficult to generate a lot of excitement around a property that isn’t even really for sale. This property will be old news before the seller is anywhere near ready to look at offers. Many buyers will probably be reluctant to even give it the time of day.

Last year, while this was going on I did my best to keep my sellers focused on two day time periods. This is plenty of time to reach the most motivated buyers and create a bit of a buzz around a property. Any longer and time begins to work against you.

Read also: Seller’s will review all offers…someday

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

The ethics of “bidding” for Saskatoon real estate

The ethics of bidding for Saskatoon real estateI came across an interesting “Letter to the Editor” in yesterday’s Star Phoenix which I wanted to touch on. The letter was submitted by Maureen Shebelski, a Saskatoon resident and mother.

Maureen’s decrial of the current state of the Saskatoon real estate market is a testimonial to her social conscience and it’s obvious that her concerns are sincere at every level. She points to the challenges and consequences which are inevitable in a market that experiences such rapid and significant change. Rising property taxes and insurance rates, increasing levels of debt, and uncertainty about the future are all things which are on Maureen’s mind right now.

I share many of the concerns which she expressed. I am also a parent, and coincidentally I have one daughter and one son, both young adults, so I’ve spent lots of time considering how this “new Saskatoon” will affect them. I’m also keenly aware that there are many residents in this fine city who will face challenges which will dwarf those that my own kids might experience as a result of this “boom.”

Maureen also takes the opportunity to place a little blame for what’s going on, starting with Premier Lorne Calvert and wrapping up with the real estate industry. She says, “I also blame the real estate industry and its new method of taking bids on houses, instead of taking offers. When my father was in real estate, there were some ethics involved. I don’t see that now.”

This attempt to “blame the real estate industry” and suggest that there is something unethical about “the new method of taking bids” would be easy enough for most to agree with, particularly those who are facing the challenge of buying a home in this market. Ultimately, it demonstrates a lack of understanding as to the role of a “seller’s agent” in the real estate transaction.

Since it is “ethics” which are questioned here, let’s take a look at some of the ethical guidelines which may apply from the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Code of Ethics which all REALTORS® are sworn to uphold.

Article 3 – Primary Duty to Client – A REALTOR® shall protect and promote the interests of his or her client. This primary obligation does not relieve the REALTOR® of the responsibility of dealing fairly with all parties to a transaction (Also appears in provincial statutory legislation in the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission Bylaws, section 702).

Article 12 – A REALTOR® shall render a skilled and conscientious service, in conformity with the standards of competence which are reasonable expected in the specific real estate disciplines in which the REALTOR® engages.

Article 18 – The business of a REALTOR® shall be conducted in strict accordance with all statutory and regulatory requirements.

Ethics and statutory regulation aside, we have volumes of agency law decisions which define an agent’s obligations to his or her client. Agency law provides a history of expectations which are considered reasonable and holds an agent accountable and liable for damages which result from a failure to act as a fiduciary to the person or persons who have hired them. In its simplest form, the agency relationship is founded on obedience, confidentiality, competence, disclosure, accountability, trust and loyalty.

Finally, the listing agreement used in Saskatchewan binds a seller’s agent to the following promises to his or her client;

  • obey the seller’s instructions on the Exclusive Seller’s Brokerage Contract and all lawful instructions of the seller;
  • represent the seller’s best interests;
  • fully disclose known facts which might influence the seller’s decision;
  • maintain confidentiality of personal and financial information discussed with the seller even after the Exclusive Seller’s Brokerage Contract expires;
  • safeguard the seller’s documents and money; and
  • exercise reasonable care and diligence.

I expect that most people do understand that multiple offers on a property most likely places the seller in the best possible position to negotiate a favorable price and terms. Given that are bound by a Code of Ethics, statutory law, agency law and our promise in writing to act with complete loyalty to the seller, how is it that we are viewed as “unethical” for making as many prospective buyers as possible aware that a client’s home is for sale? I would suggest that failing to make every effort to deliver the best result for a client would be unethical and unlawful.

Discussions which I’ve had with Al Jacobsen, Registrar of the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission and with Randy Katzman, a local real estate lawyer suggest that agents who fail to provide adequate exposure for a client’s property could be subject to both prosecution and civil litigation with potential consequences including large fines, license suspension or cancellation, and damages which might result from that negligence. Personally, I’m not much into any of that.

Every time that a seller’s home is sold without a reasonable level of exposure to the market, a betrayal is committed. Every time an agent brings a seller’s property to the market and provides buyers with reasonable access, a promise is fulfilled. Seller’s benefit and so does the community of Saskatoon real estate buyers.

Please don’t call the Saskatoon real estate community unethical for doing right by its sellers. They pay us a hefty chunk of change for representation and they deserve to get exactly what they’ve paid for; obedience, confidentiality, competence, disclosure, accountability, trust and loyalty. Acting as one’s agent is an honour and a privilege that should be taken seriously.

Read also: Deceptive agent practice could cost sellers money

Read also: Who is your real estate agent looking out for?

Read also: Premium Saskatoon homes sell while market is still at work

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Sellers beware: How an unconditional offer can work against you

Sellers beware

For a seller, the obvious allure of an unconditional offer is the certainty which it immediately provides. In the past, unconditional offers were typically made in rare instances when the buyer has the resources to finance the purchase themselves and does not require anyone’s approval. Today, we see many buyers submitting offers which contain no “subject to mortgage approval” clause in spite of the fact that they will clearly require a mortgage approval to complete the purchase of your home.

In this particular market, unconditional offers are being made in an effort to create an advantage for buyers when they are competing with other offers. It’s a gutsy move on the buyer’s part. Sellers should be aware that in most cases there are limited benefits to them in taking this kind of offer seriously. In fact, you may be accepting more risk than you ever imagined. You need to understand that at the end of the day, you still have a sale which is conditional upon the buyer receiving a mortgage approval. If a lender won’t lend the buyer the funds they won’t be buying your home. It really is that simple.

When a buyer appropriately includes the “subject to mortgage approval” clause there’s a short term “out” for the seller. If the buyer is unable to obtain financing you can move forward with your selling effort, normally within a short period of time. In this particular market you can likely expect your home to attract a level of interest which is similar to what you experience the first time it was offered for sale. The risk of accepting a finance condition is pretty limited and almost inconsequential.

Consider this; a buyer offers to purchase your home without a mortgage condition in spite of the fact that they’ll require mortgage approval. They provide a ten thousand dollar deposit. You’re happy.

The buyer then proceeds to see his lender and based on some change in his financial situation, or something which he failed to disclose to the lender during his initial “pre-approval” process he is rejected by the lender.

The buyer is distraught realizing that’s he has likely made a move which will ultimately cost him $10,000. He’s not ready to give up and decides that he is going to try to arrange financing some other way. Whether he chooses to tell you about his misfortune today, or 60 days down the road, the same $10,000 is at stake, so there is little incentive which might cause him to come forward so you can deal with a collapsed sale and move forward with your plans.

Meantime, possession date on the home which you’ve purchased draws near. Perhaps you’ve obtained bridge financing which would allow you to possess both homes for a short period of time so that you can move directly from one house to the other. As soon as the sale on your first home completes you’ll pay the lender out of the proceeds. Trouble is, your sale doesn’t close and suddenly you own two homes, and two mortgages. Ouch!

Now, you might say, “At least I’ve got the $10,000 deposit. That will be helpful in dealing with this mess.” Yes, if the buyer should agree to surrender that money you’ll probably be able to find your way out of it. You should be aware however that there is a provision in the Real Estate Act which forbids a real estate brokerage from releasing a deposit which is “subject to dispute.” If the buyer objects to its release, the deposit is staying right where it is until the matter is settled.

Clearly, this would be a sleazy approach for a buyer to take and I believe that contracts which we use in Saskatchewan would ultimately entitle you to the deposit, but you might have to drag this bum to court to make that happen and that can be a lengthy, costly and onerous process. The buyer could try other sleazy tactics like filing an interest in your property with the Land Titles Office making it difficult for you to sell it to someone else. These tactics would be used as a way of strong-arming you into returning all or part of the deposit. I would say that the larger the deposit the more likely it is that a buyer will throw down the gloves and fight.

I know of one instance where a buyer changed their minds on a purchase after removing all conditions. They flew back home to England and they used the very tactics which I just described. The seller had to jump through all sorts of hoops to get their home back on the market and it has been difficult locating these people to serve them with a summons. The sale fell through over two years ago. The seller will have her day in court this May. The deposit was a mere $5,000 which clearly tells me that some people will do just about anything to try to save a buck.

Sellers beware!

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Pricing your Saskatoon home for the greatest return

Pricing your Saskatoon Home for the Greatest return

It’s never been harder to predict the probable selling price of a home in the Saskatoon real estate market. At most points in my career, it’s been reasonably easy to come pretty close with a little prudent research. Now, things seem to be changing so rapidly that it’s hard to answer the question with a great deal of confidence when a seller asks, “What can I get for my house?”

Take comfort in the fact that if a home is properly marketed and given good exposure to home buyers, the price which you ask is almost inconsequential, as long as it’s not too high. What’s most comforting is that if you price your home very attractively, you may in fact get far more than you even expected you might.

A recent experience which I had with one of my clients is a perfect example of how price can impact results. I share it with you with their permission.

Joe and Sally (not their real names) wanted to sell their home. As prudent home seller’s, they decided to interview three agents for the job. During my time with them I stressed the importance of selecting an agent based on services and marketing strategy and I asked them to try to focus on those things in making their selection, and not on the agent’s “price.”

Sometimes, agents will tell a seller almost anything to secure a listing hoping that they may eventually convince the seller to reduce it to a reasonable and marketable price. I refuse to do this. Invariably, it costs the seller something, if not a lower sale price, certainly some lost time and frustration. An agent has a responsibility to provide his or her best advice, even if it’s something the client would rather not hear. At the heart of an agency relationship is the principle, “protect and promote the client’s interests” and that begins with the truth.

The first agent that Joe and Sally interviewed suggested that the home’s value was “somewhere between $155,000 and $165,000.” They were left feeling disappointed as they had hoped they could get more. This agent later revised his suggested list price to $199,900 after researching the market further.

When I met them I explained the complexities of pricing real estate today. I told them that I couldn’t be sure how much we could get, but I proposed a strategy that I thought would deliver a top dollar sale. I knew full well that the first price proposed was too low. Even the most aggressive buyer is only willing to go so far over list price, and a price which is too low can cause buyers to be suspicious and to wonder what’s wrong with the home. I felt the home could look very attractive at $20,000 above this agent’s high range. I suggested that we price the home at $184,900 and I felt confident that it would attract offers above the list price.

The next agent whom they met with suggested a list price which was somewhere above the $210,000 mark. Joe and Sally even felt that the suggested price was “too high” but like all home sellers they hoped to maximize their return on resale. For the record, I’m not suggesting that this agent was in any way underhanded in his suggestion. Sometimes, it’s simply an honest overestimation of the market’s potential, something all agents have done, and what I suspect probably happened here. As I said, it is difficult right now to nail that perfect price.

You can probably appreciate that Joe and Sally’s day was getting better with each agent they interviewed. They’d gone from $155,000 to $210,000 plus in just a couple of hours. Confused, they decided to interview a fourth agent the following week. That agent suggested a price of $197,000, making my suggested list price the lowest of the four.

When all was said and done, Joe and Sally decided to list their property with the agent who suggested the highest price. They talked him down a bit and the home went on the market at $209,900. The property was listed for two full weeks and during that time many people came to see it. Their agent diligently worked the listing hosting two open houses. Thirty eight groups of people attended the first one, but soon traffic began to dwindle to “two or three showings each day.” A couple of people made verbal offers both of which were substantially below list. At one point a decent written offer was accepted but ultimately, the buyer failed to remove conditions and the listing expired without success.

I was surprised, but very pleased to hear from Joe. When I got the call he asked, “Would you like to list our house?”

“Yes, I would,” I said and a meeting was scheduled to get the home back on the market.

This time, I proposed a listing price of $189,900. It was two weeks later and things had changed some. Again, I was confident that with such a price I good generate lots of interest and in all likelihood present offers above the list price. It took some trust on their part to approve this number as it was a lower price than the offer they had received, and even though it hadn’t completed, I’m sure that the offer price had become the benchmark by which they would judge any future offer. Further, it was still well below the price which was suggested by all of the other agents they interviewed. They decided to trust me and I listed the home at the proposed price.

I began with the usual process of preparing my marketing materials including feature sheets, virtual tour and an internet ad. Before I placed the home on the MLS®, I emailed it to over 300 agents and invited them to schedule a showing for this home which would be available the following day. By the end of the day, I had booked about a dozen showings. The following morning I placed the home on the MLS® and the telephone continued to ring and more showings were scheduled. Over thirty prospective buyers went through the home that day, and by the time I met with Joe and Sally later that evening I had seven offers to show them.

Joe and Sally accepted an offer that evening which significantly exceeded the original asking price of $209,900 (by enough to buy some pretty cool stuff) and the sale has since firmed up.

During the previous listing, the buyers called all the shots. They know that the Saskatoon housing market is hotter than it’s ever been and they were probably suspicious that this home had not sold quickly like most others have. Nobody is excited about paying top dollar for a home which nobody else seems real interested in. A lukewarm buyer can be difficult to deal with. Whatever the case, the price at that time was not causing them to really want this lovely house.

On the other hand, our new price created some excitement. Buyers were nearly tripping over each other during that first day of showings and it was totally obvious to everyone who came by that this home was attracting interest and would likely sell today. Buyers came to the table with their very best offer. In fact, if we had four homes just like it, they all would have sold above the previous list price. That’s right; four of those seven offers were above $209,900.

This is a pricing strategy which I’ve used with great success since this bull market began; generating offers which exceed the asking price by as much as 20%.

When you price your home, you’ll want to take some care that you’re not too low, but be particularly careful that you’re not too high. An attractive price which ensures buyer interest is just as important in a hot market as it is in a balanced one.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate