Calgary renters say bidding wars and 'gouging' are leading to desperate measures

WATCH: Some Calgary renters facing high prices and low inventory are falling victim to scammers and unsafe rentals. Tomasia DaSilva reports.

Calgary renters are speaking out about what they feel is “gouging” going on in the city’s housing rental market.

Longtime renter Shanda Rae told Global News she and her three young children were forced to move a few weeks ago after the home they were living in was sold.

She said at first the new landlord offered to let them stay at a higher rental rate of $1,950 a month, only to come back later and tell them they had to leave citing a “mortgage issue.”

Rae said they did move but then noticed the same landlord had posted their old home on a popular listing site.

“To find out he posted an ad for our home that we were living in for $2,300 (a month)… it’s unbelievable,” she said.

After scouring local rental listings and getting nowhere, Rae said they were forced to take temporary shelter in a home used to house newcomers.

“We went to 30 or 40 different house viewings and it’s literally like a (bidding war),” she said.

“We’re not going to an auction. These are people’s lives. We need roots. It’s sad.”

Shanda Rae and family outside temporary home

Shanda Rae and family outside temporary home

Tomasia DaSilva

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Ashley Yaromy has also not been able to put down roots for her family. The mother of three has moved numerous times in the past couple of years. She has to be out of her current home by the end of May.

“We’re very desperate,” she told Global News.

Yaromy was so desperate she responded to a rental message from a stranger on social media. She even signed a lease and handed over part of the damage deposit. But after a lot of back and forth, she found out it was too good to be true.

“It got to the point where I went to pay for a land title,” she said.

“There was no rental. It turned out that they weren’t actually real.”

Yaromy said not only was she out a place, she was also out $1,300, adding she felt she had to act fast in order to get a home.

“Pretty much (it) was desperation,” she said. “It’s just been one thing after another with the last three houses we’ve lived in.

“We just wanted to go somewhere where we could actually be happy, where we could enjoy our new baby.”

The family also hoped to make a home with their fur babies: two dogs, two cats and a reptile. That has proven to be another huge challenge.

“No one really wants pets,” Yaromy said. “Especially pets over a certain size or a certain breed.”

Ashley Yaromy and kids outside current rental

Ashley Yaromy and kids outside current rental

Tomasia DaSilva

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Global News received hundreds of responses to our social media callout for rental stories. Most described the same desperate situation: low supply, high prices and bidding wars.

The Calgary Residential Rental Association (CRRA) confirmed it too has been hearing the same stories, but it doesn’t believe Calgary is at a breaking point.

“I don’t know if we’re at a crisis point,” CRRA president Gerry Baxter said.

He said the market has shifted dramatically since the start of the year due to pandemic restrictions lifting, more people moving to Calgary and the hot resale market.

However, Baxter believes there are still a lot of available listings in Calgary depending on where people want to live and how much they’re prepared to pay.

Zumper.com recently released its latest Canadian National Rent Report. It found Calgary ranked as the 16th most expensive rental market in the nation, with the prices of one and two bedrooms settling in at medians of $1,230 and $1,460, respectively.

“Rents over the last eight years, while they may have increased, they have just been very, very modest increases,” Baxter said.

“Now with the demand, landlords can actually look to increase the rents to try and get caught up.”

He also pointed out landlords are themselves facing increased costs for many things like utilities, insurance rates and maintenance.

“The landlords run a business,” Baxter said. “And like any business, you have to be able to pay your expenses.”

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Both Rae and Yaromy told Global News they believe the rental crunch has more to do with landlords taking advantage of the market than it is about recouping costs.

“Unless you want a studio apartment, you’re really not going to find anything for less than $1,300,” Yaromy said. “So it’s really just become a ridiculous price gouge.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Rae agreed. “There needs to be a rental cap or something in place.”

“The market controls itself,” Baxter said. “It really does. Because it’s a competitive business, and if you’re charging too much for rent, people won’t rent from you.

“The reality is that rent controls simply don’t work.”

The City of Calgary did not weigh in on rental caps. However, it did point out renters can check the city’s site for registered rentals to ensure they are safe and legal.

There are currently 7,500 registered secondary suites in Calgary, with a goal of 13,000 by the end of 2023.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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