British Columbia has joined Ontario in instituting a Certified Rental Building (CRB) program designed to assist renters.
“The program assures residents that they are choosing a well-run, well-managed building where the property owner or manager and their staff are committed to providing and maintaining the highest standards covering building management practices, quality customer service standards, environmental operations and practices, human resource management, and risk management practices,” said David Hutniak, president and chief executive officer of LandlordBC, the largest landlord professional industry association in the province.
The CRB program is North America’s first and only quality assurance certification program for multi-unit residential apartment buildings.
For a property to be designated as a CRB, a building must successfully demonstrate compliance with 50 standards, including: regular building cleaning schedules and building inspections; response to resident inquiries and all maintenance requests within two business days or less; provision of 24-hour emergency contact information to residents; adherence to the Residential Tenancy Act; and working with residents to reduce energy consumption and assure effective waste diversion practices.
Third-party audit by J.D. Power and Associates
A certified building will have undergone a third-party audit by J.D. Power and Associates to ensure that the building and company staff are adhering to legislative requirements and providing a quality product and service. Similar to a star rating in hotels, the CRB checkmark can provide existing and prospective tenants with peace of mind when selecting a place to live.
The program is almost identical to one first launched in Ontario in 2008. Forty per cent of that province’s multi-unit residential buildings have since become certified.
Hollyburn Properties and Concert Properties were the first two companies invited to enroll since their properties participate in the Ontario program. They have a good understanding of the process and had already implemented many of the standards of practice into their B.C. operations.
“There is a low vacancy rate and people scramble for accommodations, but we certainly have had feedback now that we’ve been in the Ontario marketplace,” said Concert president and chief operating officer Brian McCauley, who mentioned a 2011 J.D. Power and Associates survey that found 74 per cent of renters cited certification as somewhat or extremely important in their decision to rent at a particular building.
“We always pride ourselves on having a high level of service, so we didn’t have to re-invent a lot of our policies and procedures in order to comply with this. But it forces you to look throughout your organization and operation and make sure you’re doing things properly.”
The process takes from 10 to 14 weeks from beginning to end, according to McCauley.
CRB program costs
Hutniak won’t disclose the exact costs of the program, which is only available to LandlordBC members, though he said participants pay a flat amount per unit per year plus the fees of the auditor for certification. They’ll also incur some training costs, assessed on a per participating employee basis, during the initial certification process. The certified status is good for three years.
“I will say that the first year all-in costs for a 100-unit building would range from $1,200 to $2,000, depending upon the number of employees, and then drop off to 20 to 25 per cent of the top of the range in year two,” said Hutniak.
“Hollyburn Properties has always focused on industry leadership and innovation,” said company general manager Allan Wasel. “Launching the Certified Rental Building program in B.C. is an opportunity for us to continue to set the bar for best practices in the rental housing industry.”
Hollyburn has certified 38 buildings and nearly 2,500 suites in B.C.
“Starting in the new year, we have several other rental property owners preparing to participate,” said Hutniak. “Our goal for the first year is 10,000 units in the program. We will definitely meet that target.”