A local branch of Century 21 is apologizing after one of its agents marketed a single-family home as a revenue property for seven tenants, contributing to an illegal rooming house problem plaguing the area around the University of Manitoba.
Real estate agent Terri Yu with Century 21 Bachman and Associates recently marketed a Fort Richmond home as a revenue property that could fetch $35,000 per year.
But that meant bringing in seven renters to the 1,363-square-foot home for a single family — something that could contribute to an illegal rooming house problem area residents have been battling for years.
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Michel Brémault went to an open house for the home this summer and wasn't impressed when he was handed a sheet of potential earnings that required a seven-person occupancy.
"They are a family dwelling home and somehow something is not jiving. There is something wrong with the picture here," said Bremault. "At the bottom, net $ 35,000 income, so, do the maths. That's a nice selling feature, eh?"
While the home has six bedrooms and two kitchens, it's not divided, and remains zoned as R-1, meaning it's meant for only a single family.
Marketing tactic was accidental, agency says
Century 21 Bachman and Associates manager Shirley Przybyl apologized for how their agent handled the sale.
"It is an error on Ms. Yu's part, and she understands now that she made the error," said Przybyl.
When CBC contacted Yu and pointed out renting the house to so many people might re-classify the residence as an illegal rooming house, the agent admitted it was "probably not a good idea to market this way."
Pryzybyl said Yu didn't know she wasn't allowed to market it that way, and the practise was "not something Century 21 Bachman condones."
Przybyl said it was an isolated incident and was dealt with immediately, though the home was sold before that happened. A policy is now in place at their office to prevent it from happening again.
Real estate association reviewing complaints
Peter Squire of the Winnipeg Real Estate Association said his organization isn't currently reviewing complaints about this kind of marketing tactic, but he said it's definitely something either the Manitoba Securities Commission or the Manitoba Real Estate Association might investigate.
Squire said agents shouldn't be making assertions about a home the zoning can't support.
"If they are stating that it is clearly a great revenue opportunity with a number of rooms possibly for rent, then that doesn't fit within an R-1 zoning, like a single-family. So in my view they would be misrepresenting this property," said Squire.
Residents in ongoing battle to get rid of rooming houses
Over the past year, residents of Winnipeg's Fort Richmond neighbourhood have raised concerns about illegal rooming houses in the area. Noise, garbage, multiple vehicles parked on the street and safety issues are among their complaints.
"They were not complying with the zoning," said Dennis Hallick, who lives on the same street as a rooming house in Fort Richmond.
He complained to both the City of Winnipeg and the bank that holds the mortgage on the house, but neither have done anything about the property.
The city didn't shut down the home, and the bank told him the mortgage was a private matter with their client.
The councillor for South Winnipeg, Janice Lukes, knows illegal rooming houses continue to be a problem on many streets near the U of M as students struggle to find affordable housing.
"One fire and how many young people are going to die? There is a bit of a disconnect," she said. "We've got people that are selling their houses and moving out of the neighbourhood. They can't sleep at night."
She's pushing the city to do more inspections and publish the results. She said she is also working on a housing strategy for students.