Ah, the life of the snowbird. Living on your own turf for the lazy days of summer and then heading south when the going gets tough and cold winds begin to blow. We get it! Who wouldn’t? But you’ve got to admit it can get a little expensive. If you’re finding the cost of the snowbird life is getting hefty, don’t worry, you won’t necessarily have to give it up. We’ve got two perfect hacks that will help you earn money, so you can maintain your snowbird lifestyle:
- Rent out your Toronto home when you’re down south AND
- Rent out your vacation home while you’re in TO
Although not all of us want to be landlords, owning two homes allows you the opportunity to take advantage of both when you’re not there. Here’s our 101 Guide to becoming a snowbird landlord.
Pros of Renting Your Toronto Home
There’re a number of benefits to renting out your Toronto home while you’re living the life down south. The main reason though is that it’ll help you take care of the expenses of owning a second home.
If this isn’t necessarily a problem, it can also help keep your property safe, as you won’t have to worry about break ins or vandals while you’re away. Tenants can take care of the home and should anything happen they can let you know such as freezing pipes bursting if we’re experiencing one of those lovely extreme cold winters we’re known for.
Cons of Renting Your Toronto Home
Becoming a landlord isn’t easy. You’ve got to make sure you don’t find it too weird having people living in your home. For a normal landlord/tenant relationship this isn’t a problem as you don’t have to move in once they’ve left. You’ll also have to remove all your personal belongings, and act like you’ve really moved out. This can be troublesome if you’ve got tons of stuff stored.
It can also be hard to find short term renters, but good candidates could include people waiting for a new build that is late on completion, or even working with Airbnb. You might also have to consider having someone act as a property manager since you’ll be away.
Even if you don’t own your Toronto home, you could look into sub-leasing. It has the same pros and cons that homeowners have, but you could be under more restrictions depending on your lease. Make sure you read the fine print and speak to your landlord before you make any rash decisions.
What if I Own a Condo?
If you live in a condo, you’ll have to look at the rules to make sure you can rent out your unit. With housing challenges in Toronto, you might face strict condo rules. Some condos outline rules about how long someone has to live in your condo when it comes to renting due to affordable housing laws. This can often be six months which might work depending on when you plan to leave. This also might limit your chances of using Airbnb.
The Right Coverage Here and There
Many home insurance plans have rules about tenants. If you don’t have the right insurance and your tenant damages your home, you might not be covered. Speak to your broker and find out what changes you might need to your policy and also if they require your tenant to have rental insurance.
For your U.S. vacation property, you also have to consider personal liability as unlike us polite Canucks, Americans love to sue. From slip and falls to other seedy scams, you don’t want to be on the hook for either a legitimate or not so honest personal injury law suit, so you’ll need liability insurance. Check to make sure you have a rider specific to frequent rentals if you go along the tourist rental route.
Look into a landlord’s insurance policy as it might have everything you need covering your furnishings and year-round coverage. It’s probably not possible to find one that includes liability insurance though. In the U.S. check your ownership structure as it can assist in making liability protection easier. Structures such as limited partnerships or irrevocable trusts not only assist with insurance, but can also make your U.S. taxes easier to manage.
Oh, Those Taxes
Of course, taxes always come into play whenever you’ve got a chance of coming out ahead and so not surprisingly renting has a number of tax implications. However, you’ll also get some deductions from advertising to property management costs and even utilities and condo fees. Your best bet is to speak to your accountant to find out what it entails. You can also check out the CRA website, but that can get confusing.
For your U.S. property you’ll have to report your income regardless of the number of days it’s rented BUT you get foreign tax credits which can help offset how much you pay. Don’t even think about not reporting your income because it can lead to hefty fines and interest that kicks in and continues to build as of the day you should have paid. You’ll also not be allowed to carry forward losses when filing taxes in the future.
You’ll have to report U.S. rental income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for any rentals that last 15 days or more per tax year using Form 1040NR. There’s also a withholding tax of 30 per cent but you can speak to your accountant to see if they can assist you by filing IRS Form W-8ECI with your Form 1040NR, so you only have to worry about paying tax on your net rental income.
As mentioned, the ownership structure of the property also has an impact on U.S. taxes and if your U.S. property is in your name you will have to apply for a U.S. personal identity number (which is like our SIN) by filling in an IRS Form W-7. It makes sense to speak to a lawyer to review your ownership structure options.
You could also face state taxes depending on where your home is located. For example, Florida has a tax for vacation rentals that’re paid to the Florida Department of Revenue. It can even get more complicated as some Florida counties have a discretionary sales surtax or a transient rental tax on rental income for rentals of six months or less. In Arizona or California, they also have state, county and city taxes for rentals.
Again, to avoid issues it’s best to speak to an account who understands all the implications of owning and renting property in the U.S.
Setting the Rental Fee
If you live in a high demand area, especially as a condo owner, you might be quite pleased with how much you can charge. However, if you live in a less desirable area the landlord plan definitely isn’t a get rich quick strategy. Keep in mind you’ve got some good selling points such as offering a fully furnished and equipped home which often means you should be able to ask for higher rent. And surprisingly short-term rentals often are more expensive as well. You’ll also want to include utilities and condo fees.
You can just do a search online to get comparable rent prices in your area. At the time this blog was written we saw the average one-bedroom condo rent in Toronto sitting at $2,196. We can provide some insight into what you can realistically ask for and maybe even help you find a potential tenant.
For your home down south, it’ll vary greatly depending on the location, size and time of year. For example, if you’ve got a condo or villa in a gated community or even a golf course, you’re looking at $1,300 to $2,000 a month for a two or three-bedroom rental with amenities such as a pool or tennis courts in Florida. Again, you can hire some help or do your research to find out the going rates.
Finding a tenant
You can list your rental on the usual haunts such as Kijiji and Craigslist, but as a short-term rental you can also consider Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. Don’t be afraid of posting on social media and asking around as nothing is better than having someone you know become a tenant, or provide a referral for a tenant.
You’ll want to have a killer description and pro shots to help draw attention to your rental. We’ve got some kick-ass tips here on how to stage a home. For vacation rentals, make sure you get in all those amenities such as pools, parks and nearby attractions and be clear about policies such as no smoking or no pets. We also ninja’s is the rental market and can assist with our Landlord services.
For your Toronto home there’s a standard lease agreement you can use. Some of the key points you want to make sure are covered include; subletting, and if allowed, that a security deposit is required. You might want to specify they need rental insurance. Some people even like to include a monthly inspection clause, but you’ll need someone at home to do this.
- Rent prices
- Other costs
- Terms of the deposit
- Terms of payment i.e. when rent is due and how it is to be paid
- Any maintenance or upkeep required in the home while they’re there
Finally, speak to a lawyer to make sure you aren’t including anything that infringes on tenants’ rights.
For your U.S. vacation property make sure you have a signed agreement to protect yourself in case the tenant violates the terms. This’ll give you a leg to stand on if you need it. As with your TO agreement look for a regular lease agreement and be certain you include additional rules specific to the unit. Because it’s a vacation rental cover your butt with a cancellation policy that includes a cancellation fee.
Either way speaking to a lawyer who understands the laws in the state and county is the best way to protect yourself from any form of liability.
Your Rental Prep Check List
Here’s our easy check list to help you prep your rental for tenants:
- Store all your personal possessions you aren’t taking such as clothing, files, booze, and valuables
- Ask tenants what space they need and what they don’t, so you can use unused space for storage
- Clean out your fridge and freezer
- Clean out closets and drawers for your tenants’ use
- Vacation tenants will expect to have access to towels, linens, dishes and glassware. Store away the “good stuff” under lock and key if you don’t want them using it
- Leave instructions, or do it in person for anything in the house that’s wonky, like don’t use the water dispenser on the fridge cus it leaks
- Leave special keys such as for garage or amenity access if needed
- Leave the garage door opener
- Leave emergency numbers and contact info (Property Manager info if you have one)
- Garbage process, including the schedule
- Any other instructions they might need
These two simple hacks can allow you to cover some if not all of your expenses. If becoming a snowbird landlord sounds good let us know. Not only do we offer kick-ass leasing services but we can also help connect you to the best leasing agent for your property down south.