Free rent until 2021: 'Once in a lifetime' rental market price drop leads to crazy incentives

A Canadian website with about 9,000 residential rental listing in Toronto said the pandemic has created an unprecedented market for renters, with many landlords offering tenants major incentives. 

"It's crazy. We've never seen anything like it. The stock market refers to this as a black swan event, where you can't predict it. A once in a life time kind of thing," content director Paul Danison with Rentals.ca told CTV News Toronto.

One listing on the website advertises free rent until 2021. Another offered a $500 move-in bonus in for a place in mid-town and one, free internet.

CTV News Toronto searched and called property managements and found buildings offering up to two free months rent. One included $1,500 cash on a 20-month lease.

Rentals.ca said while Toronto is an expensive city for renters and had low vacancy rates, COVID-19 has made more units available than usual.

"Single one-bedroom homes are down seven straight months, and for the first time the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is under $2,000."

Danison said this is the case especially in the downtown with smaller units, as people purchase homes in outlying areas of the city.

Joe Handler signed a new lease with his girlfriend this summer at a Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue condo. They upgraded from a one bedroom plus den to a two-bedroom place.

He said the regular price for the condo is about $3,000 per month but he snagged it for $2,700.

"We got a pretty good deal," he said.

Vik Singh is studying how COVID-19 is impacting the Toronto-area economy. He said in certain areas residential rent has fallen by $200 a month.

"But most importantly it's the actual trend which is declining. And I think that's significant because it's trending downwards, which means we are going to see further decline in the coming months," Singh said.

He said the supply of residential rent first increased because of a decline in demand for short-term rentals, but low-interest rates have also played a role, with many people working from home and no longer needing to live close to their office.

"It's really an opportunity for people to move to another place," Toronto Real Estate Board President Lisa Patel said.

Patel also pointed to university students studying virtually and a lack of immigration also being the reason for more space in the market, and expects it to shift agian as life and the economy reopens.

"Of course what we've seen on the sale side, we'll see on the rental side," Patel said . "That it will transition, that it will all balance out."

"Ultimately, we know that the rents will increase at some point, it's just a matter of how and when."

Low rises not seeing price drop: landlord

Mathew Diamond has been a landlord in Toronto since 1995. He owns suites in low-rise triplexes and duplexes without lobbies and elevators. 

Diamond said he hasn't had to reduce prices at all since the start of the pandemic.

"My sense of the current rental market is that the low-rise market, which includes houses and apartment flats that do not involve elevators and lobbies with large shared spaces are stable and doing well," he told CTV News Toronto.

"I see the opposite for low-rise landlords. Low-rise landlords who have private entrances, backyards and no elevators are a strong, very in demand alternative to large buildings with higher density renters."