Calgary apartment owners enjoying low vacancy rates and high demandare hiking rents.

Two years ago, landlords complained they couldn't find enough renters to fill their buildings. Today, a flood of people moving to the city has dropped the vacancy rate to less than 1.6 per cent.

One apartment dweller's rent is going up 37 per cent and the company that runs the building said it's raising rents on 1,200 apartments across the city by similar amounts.

The Calgary Apartment Association notes that most landlords are raising rents, yet there arefewer rentals to choose from thanks to the demand for condominiums.

"Many rental units have been taken out of the market and so the numbers have dropped. We've got fewer rental properties available in Calgary today than we had in the past," said executive director Gerry Baxter.

'Basically gouging us'

Calgary tenant Shawn Belcourt recently discovered the rent on his one-bedroom is increasing from $690 to $950 a month starting Oct. 1. The rent increase means he won't have any spending money left at the end of the month, he said.

"That's basically gouging us. There's no explanation," he said. "In Alberta we have no cap on rent increases or nothing. There's nothing to protect us from this type of thing. A landlord can do what he wants."

Alberta is one of three provinces without some form of rent control.

Belcourt says he'd like to see a cap placed on the amount landlords can increase rents in a given year, tied to inflation rates and the cost of living.

Landlords playing catch-up

The rent hike may be steep, but his landlord says it's necessary.

Mainstreet Equity Corp. runs Belcourt's building and the company ismaking similar increasesto the rents ofits 1,200 apartments across the city.

"Us landlords have gone through terrible times in the last four years," said president Bob Dhillon.

"Taxes have gone up 17 per cent, insurance by 100 per cent, utilities by 75 per cent, and labour costs are going through the roof in Calgary. So this is an opportunity for us landlords to catch up."

With the exception of a small increase six months ago, the company said it hasn't been able to hike rents for five years because of high vacancy rates.

As of April, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary was $675.