Fun in the Sun: A Snowbird’s Guide to Renting Your Condo

Ahhh, to live the life of a snowbird. Jet-setting from north to south, enjoying the warmer months here in Canada before heading down to enjoy some more warm months Stateside – that’s the way to do it. About one of the only drawbacks we can see when it comes to snowbirding is the concern about what to do with your condo while you’re down soaking up the sun in Arizona, laughing at all your Canadian friends back home complaining on Facebook about how cold it is. For many snowbirds, the answer’s easy: you rent it out!

Renting your condo is a great way to have your property pay for itself while you’re busy chasing the sun south of the border – but the specifics around how to rent your condo (and particularly, finding a decent, reliable tenant) come along with a bit of a learning curve. Don’t worry, though – that’s what we’re here for.

First Thing’s First: Know the Law

When it comes to renting your condo to support your snowbird habit, the first thing you’ll want to look into is the law. We’re not referring to your condo’s by-laws, either (that comes later) – instead, we’d suggest getting good and familiar with the actual laws when it comes to Canadian residency and extended stays in America. Depending on your situation, you really only have the opportunity to spend a certain number of days in the U.S. of A. each year before being considered a United States resident and needing to pay taxes without actually being an American citizen.

There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there on the subject – and being that our expertise lies in condo management as opposed to tax law, we don’t want to pretend to speak too authoritatively on the subject. That said, we’ll go so far as to suggest it’s worth giving the term “Substantial Presence Test” a quick Google, and to implore any would-be snowbirds to commit an evening to learning just how much time you can spend in the States – and, ultimately, whether you should be considering long-term or short-term rentals for your condo as a result.

Speaking of Short-term Rentals…

We’ve written at length about short-term condo rentals in YYC and YEG before, and would definitely recommend that any snowbirds looking to explore this option take a read of those articles for any background details they might want to learn. For those not inclined to click through, here’s the gist of what we covered in those blogs past:

  • It’s a condo, not a hotel. With short-term rental services like Airbnb and Vrbo continuing to grow in popularity, there can be a tendency for condo units to quickly turn into revolving doors, with new tenants arriving every other week and leaving just as quickly. In addition to these sorts of rentals potentially running afoul of your building’s bylaws, not properly vetting your renters could end up with your condo being treated poorly, or even getting out-and-out trashed – not the sort of call we’d want to have interrupting us on the Floridian beach!
  • Be sure you’ve got the right insurance. This is a big one. Renting out your condo short-term means that suddenly, you’re essentially operating a tiny business right out of your home, and you’d better believe the insurance companies are going to want a slice of that action. Make sure you’re covered before you find yourself needing to make a claim and you’ll be saving yourself one massive headache.
  • Get ready for your neighbours to hate you. Well, maybe not hate. Hate’s such a strong word, after all. Unfortunately, though, most folks aren’t keen about having herds of people parading in and out of the condo unit next door week after week – particularly because these guests aren’t truly community members, and often don’t have the investment or respect that permanent residents or long-term renters have for the space and property. Many condo owners see short-term rentals as disruptive or even unsafe, so don’t be surprised if you get an earful about a rowdy renter when you get back from sunny California next spring.

The Importance of Undertaking a Tenant Undertaking

One of the biggest, most important moves you’ll want to make before opening up your home to a renter while you’re away is getting them to agree to a tenant undertaking. Unfamiliar with the term? No problem – that’s why we’re here.

Many condo boards and property management companies are now requiring owners who lease out their units to have the renters sign tenant undertaking forms. Essentially, these documents bind renters to abide by the bylaws, rules & regulations, and policies of the condo. The idea behind tenant undertakings is that they work to make up for the lack of personal investment that can often come part and parcel with renters, outlining all the ways that tenants are expected to behave as part of the larger condo community. In many cases, tenant undertakings are mandatory by your condo corporation’s bylaws when renting out your unit – and in all cases, these forms are helpful in ensuring your tenants put their best foot forward while renting out your condo.

Handling Responsibilities While Living Carefree

The last thing to keep in mind while renting out your condo is that even though you might be in another country entirely, you’re still on the hook for those same renter/rentee responsibilities as if you were back home. Condo fees, for example, still need to be paid – and regardless of what agreement you’ve worked out with your tenant, it’s you who’s ultimately answerable for them, even though you might be several thousand miles southward.

Likewise, if something requires a major fix in your unit while you’re gone, “Sorry, I’m drinking maitais on the beach” likely won’t be a satisfactory answer for your tenant. If you’ll be gone for long stretches at a time, be sure to make arrangements so that your residence (and your renter) are looked after in your absence.

Renting your condo properly can be tricky, but when you’re down in Phoenix debating SPFs levels while the rest of us are up here worrying about windchill, it’ll be all worthwhile.Learn more about what it takes to make your next rental a success – get in touch with us at Catalyst Condo Management Ltd today to pick our brains about everything you’ll need to know to snowbird in worry-free style.