Many tenants are pet owners, especially in recent years, in which pet ownership has skyrocketed due to the pandemic. However, the rules regarding pets can sometimes be difficult for both landlords and tenants to grasp. In this quick guide, we’ll cover the basics for both parties involved and clear up some of the confusion regarding pet rent, pet fees and pet deposits.
What Is Pet Rent?
As the name suggests, pet rent is a monthly payment charged by the landlord to a tenant who has pets in addition to their regular rent. This non-refundable fee is charged to cover any potential damage caused to the property, as well as cover up the costs of wear and tear caused by pets. The price of pet rent will vary depending on the size, type and the number of pets a tenant has and can range from $10 to up to $100.
If you’re a renter in Canada, you’re in luck: charging pet rent is prohibited here. Moreover, the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act prohibits “no pets” clauses in rental agreements. Other provinces, such as Alberta or Quebec, give landlords a bit more leeway, so make sure to check the lease and building rules on whether pets are allowed or not.
What Is a Pet Deposit?
Similar to the security deposit, a pet deposit is a one-time, refundable fee charged to cover the cost of property damage caused by a tenant’s pet. However, unlike pet rent, it is paid upfront as a lump sum rather than having it spread out in smaller installments throughout the lease. It is calculated as a percentage of the monthly rent and usually ranges between 40% and 85%.
A pet deposit is used by the landlord to cover things like scratched floors, damaged carpets, broken furniture or appliances, or even damage caused by chewing. However, it cannot be used to pay for wear and tear.
In the U.S., Pet deposit laws vary from state to state. In some cases, no separate pet deposits are allowed. Additionally, some states can cap the pet deposit to a quarter of the month’s rent, while others place the cap at $2,500.
Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s essential to keep in mind that a pet deposit cannot be non-refundable. As a rule of thumb, the pet deposit should be refunded at the end of the lease, minus any expenses needed to repair the damage caused by the pet.
What Is a Pet Fee?
A pet fee is a one-time, non-refundable fee charged upfront to allow pets on the property and cover any damage they may cause. Some landlords may prefer charging a pet fee rather than a deposit, not necessarily because it’s non-refundable, but because it can also be used to cover wear and tear, such as cleaning the carpets and upholstery after the tenant has moved out.
As a tenant, a pet fee may be off-putting because you can’t get it back, but on the plus side, it’s cheaper than a pet deposit, costing anywhere between $100 and $300.
It’s important to note that, as a landlord, you are not allowed to charge pet rent, fees or deposits for service animals and emotional support animals. This is because these animals are not pets; instead, they play an essential role in helping people with disabilities with their day-to-day needs. However, as a landlord, you can request that the tenant pays for the damage caused by their service animal, should such damage occur.
Durable, fast-drying and moisture-resistant, lead paint has been used in homes and domestic items for centuries. Yet despite its widespread use, this product has an equally long history of health concerns. So when you’re in the market for buying or selling a home, it’s worth knowing a few key points about lead paint. In this guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know.
Why Is Lead Paint Harmful?
Lead is, by its very nature, a toxic substance. The long-term effects of lead poisoning are irreversible and can range from high blood pressure to heart disease, kidney disease, reduced fertility, permanent brain damage and even death. Children are particularly susceptible to lead paint poisoning because, given their curious nature, they’re more likely to put lead-painted items in their mouths. Also, the fact that lead tastes sweet doesn’t help.
The U.S. banned lead paint use in residential homes in 1978. In Canada, the 1976 Hazardous Products Act limited the use of lead paint on furniture, household products, children’s products and exterior and interior surfaces of any building frequented by children to 0.5% by weight.
Identifying Lead Paint
The easiest way to determine whether your house has lead paint is by checking the year it was built. Homes in the U.S. built before 1978 can have lead paint not just on the walls but also on door and window frames, stairs, porches and banisters. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 87% of houses built before 1940 are likely to contain lead-based paint. Canadian homes constructed after 1992 are virtually lead-free; however, lead paint can be present in properties built before 1980.
If your home falls within that age range, there are several methods you can identify lead paint. Numerous hardware stores now sell lead paint test kits. Although cheap and easy to find, they’re not always completely accurate. The best solution is to hire a professional, whether it’s a qualified contractor or a certified lead inspector.
Identifying lead paint in your home is essential not just because removing it can cost thousands of dollars but also because the removal process can present a health hazard if done incorrectly. If you’re buying an older home, always ask the seller about lead paint. Or, better yet, bring a qualified inspector or risk assessor on site. Similarly, if you’re planning to sell a house built before 1978, you are legally required to provide a Lead Paint Disclosure in both the U.S. and Canada.
What to Do if Your House Has Lead Paint
If the lead paint used in your home is intact and properly cared for, it shouldn’t be harmful. However, problems arise when the paint begins to flake, peel or crack, which is usually caused by water damage or humidity, incorrect paint application, surfaces that haven’t been primed properly, or even old age. In such cases, tiny particles of lead dust can easily become airborne and can cause serious harm if you ingest or breathe them in.
Repairing and Removing Lead Paint
Once you find damaged lead paint in your home, try to take action as soon as possible. For small surfaces, you can paint over the lead paint using an encapsulant such as epoxy or polymer paint. For larger areas that may require sanding down, always use a specialized suit, mask, gloves and goggles, and seal off your work area.
No matter how tempting it is, never attempt to remove lead paint yourself. The risks associated with accidental exposure to lead dust are simply not worth it. Instead, it’s always best that you use the services of a lead-safe certified contractor to help you remove lead paint and renovate your home.
Maintaining Lead-painted Surfaces
Here are some regular maintenance tasks to keep lead-painted surfaces in good condition.
- Regularly check lead-painted surfaces for any cracks, peeling or chipping.
- Keep dust in check by wiping flat surfaces with a damp cloth and mopping the floors once a week.
- Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner and use a steam cleaner for your carpets, curtains and upholstery.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents when cleaning lead-painted surfaces to avoid dissolving the paint. Also, avoid scrubbing surfaces excessively or using abrasive cloths, steel wool and scouring pads to remove tough stains.
Should You Remove Lead Paint from Your Home?
There are no laws that require you to get rid of lead paint in your home. As long as the paint is not peeling, flaking, chipping or cracking, living in a house that has lead paint is safe. However, some homeowners prefer not to take any risks and will aim to permanently protect their family from potential lead poisoning by removing it altogether.
Whichever decision you take, if you have any concerns or questions about the best practices, discussing them with a professional is ideal.
Sending our best wishes at Christmas!
The time between inking the deal on your first home and move-in day is sure to be filled with anticipation and excitement. You’ll be thinking about the empty rooms in your soon-to-be-occupied home and the promise they hold. But it’s important to give yourself some time in the home to let your ideas evolve into better ones.
By all means visit stores, gather information, ideas, colours and fabric samples to begin your decorating plans. But remember, a truly comfortable and functional home that reflects your personal style will develop over time. These tips will help first-time homeowners to furnish and style their new abode:
1. Resist the temptation to immediately purchase new furnishings. Organize and move in with what you have, placing furniture in rooms and finding places for items that go in closets, cupboards and drawers.
2. Measure and make a plan for each room on paper. Explore options on graph paper and consider using masking tape to mark out dimensions on the floor or walls of any furnishing you might purchase. This will ensure the pieces will work within your available space.
3. Consider unwanted elements. Home ownership affords you the luxury of making choices. If you don’t like a lighting fixture or the wallpaper border in the kitchen, you are at liberty to replace it.
4. Consider any changes you would like to make to flooring. Carpeting from the previous owners may be crying out for replacement. Research and price out replacement options with consideration to available products, the temperature underfoot, and any need for noise reduction.
5. Create a budget. Apply a realistic price tag to your wish list and establish a time-frame to achieve your goals. Do things one step at a time and keep a tally against your budget as you go.
Soon enough, your first home will reflect your style and dovetail with your lifestyle. More information can be found at www.royallepage.ca/realestate/info-and-advice/
Homeowners often look to customize their home for personal enjoyment and to appeal to future buyers. So, we ask, which remodelling projects add the most value?
Homeowners are often inclined to renovate to suit their individual preferences and lifestyles. However, while turning a garage into a music studio may be your heart’s desire, it’s important to be cognizant that future buyers will likely just want to park the car.
Regular and systematic home maintenance provides the best return on investment. Although, there are a few renovations that consistently offer above average return on investment.
According to the Remodeling 2016 Cost versus Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) the following are among the mid-range renovations that homeowners who are looking to sell may wish to consider. To protect your investment, be sure to obtain work permits and consult a professional before embarking on any project where maximum return on your investment is sought.
- Attic insulation (fibreglass).You can recoup more than 90 per cent of the costs based on immediate energy savings and your home’s future resale value.
- Garage door replacement. Maximum impact on curb appeal and increase functionality. Recoup up to 90 per cent of your investment.
- Entry door replacement (steel). Quickly improve the curb appeal of your home while reducing heating and cooling costs. Estimated return on investment is more than 80 per cent.
- Manufactured stone veneer. Add curb appeal to the exterior of your home, or to accent specific areas within the home. Recoup up to 75 per cent of your investment.
- Minor kitchen remodel. Based on a mid-range investment of about $20,000, you can expect to recoup about 70 per cent.
- Deck addition (wood). Add a deck to increase outdoor living space and recoup up to 66 per cent of your investment.
The more you align the features and attributes of your home with those preferred by consumers, the greater the value you will create. More information is available at royallepage.ca.
Housing has become noticeably less and less affordable across large swaths of the country throughout the pandemic. But during the third quarter of this year, RBC measured a 2% drop in Canada’s affordability, which, compounded with other recent drops, brought the measure to a 31-year low.
“After a wild roller coaster ride in 2020, it’s now all about intense market heat,” the report reads. “Homebuyer demand is supercharged and inventories are near historical lows in virtually every market, creating intense competition between buyers and pressured prices up. These conditions have widely eroded housing affordability in the past year.”
Although Canada’s housing affordability as a whole has taken a hit, it hasn’t been evenly distributed. Some of the most unaffordable markets — notably Toronto and southern Ontario — experienced some of the greatest erosion while more affordable markets in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada have worsened less.
“Developments in the past year have generally amplified pre-pandemic affordability divergences across Canada,” the report says.
Intense competition over the limited amount of homes coming on the market has been a major driver of increased prices and subsequent unaffordability across Canada over the past year. And according to RBC, even traditionally slower markets can’t escape the trend.
“This became clearly evident in the past year with bidding wars springing up in places that have rarely or never seen them before, and intensifying in places more accustomed to them,” the report reads. “And until demand and supply return closer to balance, prices will continue to rise.”
Many aspiring homebuyers have been looking to enter the market thanks to historically low interest rates, but RBC predicts that as interest rates rise back up, it could affect the national affordability measure by another 2-3.5% next year.
What Is an Assumable Mortgage?
An assumable mortgage is a financial agreement in which a homebuyer takes over, or assumes, the seller’s outstanding mortgage balance and its terms when buying a home, rather than taking out their own loan. Usually, it’s a transaction between buyers and sellers who are related.
For example, you can assume your parents’ mortgage in case you inherit their property, and there’s still an outstanding balance left on it. Or you can assume your partner’s mortgage in case of a divorce if your name is listed on the house title but not on the initial loan.
How Does an Assumable Mortgage Work?
Like any loan, an assumable mortgage will require the lender’s approval before any changes are made to the initial contractual agreement. Therefore, even though, as a buyer, you are taking over the seller’s loan, you will still need to prove to the lender that you’re in a financial position to make mortgage payments. As a result, you will need to meet the lender’s requirements when it comes to credit score and credit history, income and debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a loan.
Once the lender approves your mortgage assumption application, you will take over the title of property as well as the seller’s remaining principal balance. Given the nature of an assumable mortgage, the seller has already paid off a part of his loan. As the buyer, you will continue to pay the remaining balance of the original loan in monthly installments. At this point, the seller may also request a release of liability from the loan to protect themselves in case the buyer defaults on the loan repayments.
Are All Mortgage Types Assumable?
In the U.S., the most common types of assumable mortgages are government-backed loans such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans. Here are some key factors to keep in mind about each:
Although VA loans are granted to military members and their spouses, you don’t have to be a military service member to assume a VA loan. If the loan originated before March 1, 1988, it can be assumed freely without the Department of Veterans Affairs approval.
All FHA loans are assumable as long as the buyer and seller meet the lender’s requirements. For example, the property must be used as a primary residence by the seller, while the buyer must meet the lender’s criteria when it comes to creditworthiness.
An USDA loan is assumable if the property is in a rural region and the buyer has an income suitable for this type of mortgage. However, they must also meet the lender’s debt-to-income ratio, as well as credit score requirements. As a bonus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t charge the 1% funding fee for new loans when assuming an existing USDA loan.
Conventional loans are not assumable because they come with a due-on-sale clause. However, some exceptions do exist. For example, loans backed by Fannie Mae are usually assumable if they’re adjustable-rate mortgages. But if the mortgage switches to a fixed-rate loan, it’s no longer assumable. Conventional lenders can also overlook due-on-sale clauses if the transfer of ownership is between relatives and not third-party buyers.
Is an Assumable Mortgage a Good Idea?
Depending on the circumstances, assuming a mortgage can work out in your favor. The lower interest rates that often come with assumable mortgages can be very attractive to buyers, just like the reduced closing costs. If the outstanding balance is low enough, the buyer may not even have to secure a new line of credit. The downside is that an assumable mortgage can pack many hidden costs.
If the home’s value is greater than the remaining loan balance, the buyer will need to make up for that difference. For example, if the home is valued at $300,000, but the assumable mortgage is only $200,000, the buyer will need to cover the remaining $100,000.
Usually, this requires taking out a second mortgage or a HELOC, which can strain the buyer’s budget and negate the benefits of assuming the mortgage in the first place. Also, if the seller has not reached a 20% equity in their home, the buyer will be required to take out private mortgage insurance (PMI).
Mortgage assumption is an attractive alternative to taking out a conventional loan and can even reduce your homebuying expenses. However, it’s always best to weigh out the risks in advance, especially if it looks like it could become a long-term financial strain.
It’s that time of year again, and as the big day draws near, even the grouchiest Grinches and Scrooges can’t help but feel the tingle of Christmas cheer! If you haven’t got around to decorating the outside of your home yet, have no fear. We’ve come up with a host of ideas to make your home and yard sparkle with festive spirit.
Deck the Porch with Boughs of Holly
Holly has been used to decorate homes since the days of ancient Romans and Druids, and it’s a Christmas decoration that will never go out of style. The spiky, evergreen leaves and red berries spell Christmas cheer instantly. Garlands of holly, fir tree and pine cones wrapped around your porch are both a simple and timeless DIY decoration that will make your home look ready for the holiday season.
Outdoor Christmas Tree
There are no rules against having two Christmas trees. Yes, we checked. So this year, why not have a separate Christmas tree in your yard? There’s still time to pick up a potted fir tree or even an evergreen shrub, like false cypress, yew, American Arborvitae or juniper. Once decorated, it will add a veritable festive touch to your garden and can even become a year-round fixture if you plant it in the soil. We can’t guarantee that Santa will leave presents under both trees, but it’s worth a try.
A Lawn of Festive Gnomes
There’s something about garden gnomes that makes you think of Christmas even in the height of summer. Maybe it’s the knowing smiles, pointy hats and white beards making them look like miniature versions of Santa Claus. So even if your garden doesn’t have a host of gnome residents throughout the year, letting them take over your lawn at Christmas should be a must. And if you’re feeling creative, you can also use them to build a miniature Christmas village.
A Trio of Vibrant Colors
Nothing says Christmas like the red and green color combo. But we promise that breaking away from the traditional color scheme won’t put you on Santa’s naughty list. So if you’re feeling a bit bold, try adding a touch of gold or orange to your palette. For a retro look, muted colors such as mint green, vintage pink and snow white are a perfect pick. Or, for a porch that really stands out, a mix of blue, gold and white is sure to catch everyone’s eye.
Light It Up
With the darkest month of the year in full swing, you’ll need plenty of light to keep the winter blues at bay. So bring out the garlands of fairy lights, festoon lights, star lights, LED rope lights, and let them take over your garden. The secret to avoiding a tacky look is keeping it simple and cohesive. Strings of lights with different shapes but a similar hue will look far more stylish than an RGB display that’s so bright you can see it from the North Pole.
Cozy Up on the Deck
Just because temperatures drop below freezing doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy hanging out on your patio. With a few sheepskins on the chairs and benches, a couple of fluffy blankets, a stack of decorative logs and a few candles in the garden lanterns, your porch will become a cozy nook, perfect for enjoying a cup of hot cocoa.
Edible Decorations for Birds
Christmas is a time for giving. Even though it may not seem it, your garden is still home to many wild birds that need a bit of care over the cold season. Try decorating your shrubs with strings of dried fruit slices, such as apple, pear and orange, or making Christmas decorations out of suet and birdseed. These ornaments are perfect if you’re looking to spread the festive cheer in an eco-friendly way.
No Christmas decor is complete without at least one wreath on the door. You can keep it simple with a classic fir tree, pine cone, red berries and ribbons wreath, or go for a new and unique look. Dried magnolia leaves are a gorgeous substitute for evergreen boughs, especially when you add some poinsettia flowers to the mix. Or you can mix rustic and exotic with a wreath of pine, dried orange slices and peels, cinnamon sticks, and even candy canes.
Repurpose and Upcycle
A few hurricane lamps filled with Christmas globes and fairy lights will instantly give your porch and stairs a warm, inviting vibe. Bring that old sleigh out of your shed, paint it red and green, and you’ve got yourself a rustic outdoor coffee table, perfect for your cozy deck. Got any empty plant baskets left over from summer? Simply fill them with evergreen boughs, globes and tinsel and turn them into hanging garland pots.