Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Northview Canadian High Yield Property Investments, who have told Inuvik Drum they are suspending the new payment system until further notice.
Changes to how Northview renters across the NWT pay rent as of Dec. 1 are not in line with the Residential Tenancies Act and anyone who pays a convenience fee or web fee through their online payment system is entitled to their money back, according to the territories’ chief rental officer. Northview has told Inuvik Drum they will suspend the new system and refund any improperly collected payments.
Renters of Northview REIT properties were recently informed in an email that the company has been taken over by Northview Canadian High Yield Properties, which is a company owned by investment firms Starlight Investments and KingSett Capital. The two firms purchased Northview REIT’s assets for $4.9 billion on Nov. 2.
In the email, residents are told that the new landlords will not accept payment by cheque. Instead, renters are required to register with an online web portal to make digital payments. Using the website, renters are charged an up-to 2.5 per cent “web payment” fee as well as a “convenience fee.” For a renter paying $1,500 a month in Inuvik, that amounts to at least an additional $37.50 a month.
Both are considered illegal rent increases, said NWT chief rental officer Adelle Guigon.
“Any fee attached to a payment for rent could constitute an improper rent increase, even if alternative methods of payment are offered that do not include a fee,” she said. “The tenant’s obligation is to pay the agreed upon rent amount when it is due. Any fees required by the landlord for the tenant to pay their rent would be inconsistent with the Residential Tenancies Act.
“If the landlord wishes to recoup any transaction processing fees incurred by a certain method of payment, then they could do that by rolling those costs into a rent increase. However, rent increases in the Northwest Territories may only be made once in a 12-month period by giving the tenant at least three months advance written notice.”
Noting her office has asked Northview about the fees, Guigon said any residents who pay the extra costs can recover the amounts by contacting the chief rental officer’s office and applying to recover the fees as an improperly collected rental increase. However, she encouraged residents to attempt to work out the issue with the landlord before bringing it to the rental office.
On top of that, in spite of the email the new management firm sent to renters about the web portal being the only means of paying rent, Guigon said her office was told differently by Northview Canada High Yield Properties.
“It is the rental office’s understanding from Northview Canadian that there are alternative methods of paying the rent available to tenants other than through the web app, although Northview Canadian may not yet have clearly communicated that information to their tenants,” she said. “I encourage tenants to reach out to their landlord at their local offices to confirm what payment options are available.”
Northern News Services Ltd. (NNSL) rents suites from Northview Canadian High Yield Properties, which owns numerous buildings in Inuvik, across the North and elsewhere in Canada. Because NNSL has a business account with the property management group, the company is able to pay by cheque.
In an email to Inuvik Drum, Northview Canadian High Yield Properties Investment Fund vice-president of operations Linay Freda said the company would be suspending the new payment system and refunding any improper rent collected.
“In response to feedback from our residents, Northview has suspended the additional payment options and associated fees until a more detailed review is completed,” she said. “Furthermore, any residents that have been charged the additional fees in November will be refunded. All previous payment options for our residents will remain in place. Northview will be communicating the new revisions to our residents on Monday.”
Northview Canadian High Yield Properties Investment Fund owns 228 rental units in Inuvik, 174 in Iqualuit and 1,026 buildings in Yellowknife. It owns over 10,000 across Canada.