Northview’s new owners can expect NWT tenants to take action if they are charged a new “web payment fee,” the territory’s rental officer says.
Southern investment firms Kingsett Capital and Starlight finalized a deal for Northview Apartment REIT last week. NWT tenants now have a landlord named Northview Canadian High Yield Residential Fund, or Northview Canadian for short.
Tenants of Northview Canadian have discovered that if they try to set up rent payments online – as instructed by the company – they will be charged a “web payment fee” if they opt to pay by credit or debit card.
That fee is set at 2.5 percent of the tenant’s monthly rent, in an apparent bid to offset the portion of each transaction taken by the card provider.
“This makes renting in the capital city very unattractive,” said one Northview Canadian tenant, who asked for anonymity as they feared retribution from their landlord.
“It is slightly deceitful that they didn’t warn of this up front.”
Adelle Guigon, the NWT’s rental officer, told Cabin Radio any form of additional fee runs the risk of being considered an improper rent increase under territorial legislation.
She said tenants who end up paying the fee would be welcome to subsequently file an application to the rental officer.
“The imposition of a transaction fee – or this ‘web payment fee’ – would effectively be telling the tenant, ‘You have to pay the rent plus this,’ which is a rent increase,” said Guigon.
“When December 1 comes around, when the tenants actually incur this additional fee cost, that’s when they’ll be in a position – if the landlord doesn’t retract or return it – to make an application to the rental office.
“Any kind of fee imposed on the tenant to pay their rent could constitute an improper rent increase. The tenant’s obligation is to pay the rent. That’s all they have to pay.”
A Cabin Radio reporter who is also a Northview Canadian tenant wrote to their landlord on November 5 and November 6 asking for clarification regarding the web payment fee, using the online messaging system the new company provides. Neither enquiry was acknowledged.
Todd Cook, Northview Canadian’s chief executive, did not respond to a request for an interview.
‘The ball is in their court’
Northview Canadian inherits more than 1,000 NWT residential units alongside many commercial properties, making it the territory’s largest landlord.
The average rent in Yellowknife is already more than $1,600 per month before fees are added.
Northview Canadian’s web payment fee asks tenants to pay an extra $37.50 for the privilege of paying a monthly rent of $1,500, or $50 for a rent of $2,000, and so on.
The fee – which the company states is to be paid every month – only applies if a tenant chooses to pay by credit or debit card. There is no such fee for payment by one-off electronic transfer or direct monthly debit from your bank account.
Even so, Guigon said, NWT legislation doesn’t let landlords apply fees to rent in that fashion.
She said she had contacted Northview Canadian and spoken to a representative about the fee.
“They’re talking about it. Their representative needed to make some more enquiries themselves with their higher-ups. They’re having the conversation at their end,” Guigon said.
“My goal in reaching out to them was letting them know what the rules are in the Northwest Territories, and that they may want to revisit this particular action, which might be considered an improper act under our legislation.
“This is early days here. I haven’t heard back from them yet and the ball is really in their court to re-evaluate things.”
Guigon said that if Northview Canadian does want to increase rent to cover card issuers’ transaction fees, there are ways to do that. This is not one of them.
A rent increase can only take place once in each 12-month period and tenants must be given 90 days’ written notice, Guigon said.
“I anticipate that they are going to be sending out clarifying information to their tenants,” she concluded.