Home Run program more marathon than sprint 

WHA, Mountain Country Property Management outline steps involved with housing initiative

click to enlarge FILE IMAGE - AT THE PLATE The true benefits of Whistler's new Home Run matching program for landlords and businesses may not be realized in the short term.
  • file image
  • AT THE PLATE The true benefits of Whistler's new Home Run matching program for landlords and businesses may not be realized in the short term.

Though businesses and property owners keep signing up for the Resort Municipality of Whistler's Home Run program — 40 businesses and 30 property owners as of Feb. 7 — the real benefits will likely be realized in the long term.

"We knew when we launched it in the middle of December, going right into the holiday season, that that was going to be a tough time, but nevertheless we wanted to get it out there," said Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) general manager Marla Zucht.

"I think it's to be expected that it's going to take a little bit of time to get the program going, but I think a lot of the groundwork now has been done."

The program hasn't resulted in any matches to this point, mostly because many of the property owners signing up already have tenants for the winter.

"That's the main challenge," said Gord Low of Mountain Country Property Management (MCPM), the WHA's licensed property manager.

"A lot of the property owners that I've been speaking to and meeting with, they're really looking for an opportunity starting in the summer time, so after, say, March break, once the vacancies start coming up and they don't have as many rooms rented."

And many inquiring property owners have questions about the structure and various steps involved with the program.

It starts with interested homeowners signing up at www.whistlerhousing.ca, after which their information is forwarded along to MCPM.

Once a homeowner has expressed interest, the process starts with an in-person meeting for a walkthrough of the property, Low said, adding that he's done about 20 such site visits already.

Once a property is on the list, the WHA and MCPM contact businesses that have signed up for the program.

"We would identify that there is a property that has come available, this is the rate, this is the term, this is what the property owner is looking for," Low said.

"If you're interested, let us know, and we'll set up a viewing."

After a business has viewed a property, both sides can agree on terms and a lease can be drawn up.

"The lease is catered specifically to the property, because everybody wants something a little bit different, so depending on what the property owner wants, the lease would be catered to that," Low said.

Rent is based on market rates (through a direct comparison of similar properties in MCPM's inventory), and homeowners are paid electronically on a monthly basis (minus the cost of property management fees — in this case, 10 per cent of collected rent plus tax).

Businesses pay rent to MCPM through post-dated cheques or preauthorized payments, which are deposited into a MCMP trust account and sent to property owners each month.

Though property owners are required to carry their own insurance, tenants are responsible for utility costs like hydro and Internet.

Condition inspection reports are completed before the move-in process, and properties are fully photographed as backup for any potential damage claims.

"There's inspections on the property to make sure the property is not overcrowded or misused," Low said, adding that MCPM helps remedy any problems that may arise, whether caused by the tenant or not.

"That could be 1,000 different things, so depending on what it is we help find a solution to those problems," he said.

Minor maintenance issues throughout the tenancy are taken care of by MCPM staff, while "major" issues are contracted out.

One major problem many Whistler landlords face is a lack of accountability on the part of tenants — Home Run aims to remedy that.

"They're renting the property to a business instead of an individual," Low said.

"They're established businesses in Whistler, they're not going anywhere, so if there is one of those problems that happen with the property whether it's damages or somebody moving out in the middle of the night and leaving the property with unpaid rent, the business is there, and they're accountable to the landlord."

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