Nova Scotia landlord who struggled to evict tenants calls for system reform

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Posted Saturday, September 3, 2022 7:13 a.m. EDT

Last updated Saturday, September 3, 2022 at 7:13 a.m. EDT

The financial and emotional stress of evicting tenants who are months behind on rent has made Patricia Celan an advocate for reforming Nova Scotia’s rental system to include an enforcement division .

The 29-year-old doctor says his story of trying to evict non-paying tenants began on June 15, five days after Angela Sutts and Wayne Provo’s security deposit and rent checks bounced.

Celan, who is studying to become a psychiatrist, said on Friday she had fallen further into debt as mortgage payments on her property rose, adding that she had delayed her school schedule to focus on resolving the situation.

“I’m on leave and hope to go back to school once I know for sure that they (the tenants) have moved out,” she said. “It’s hard to think of anything else.”

She says too much of a burden falls on landlords and tenants in Nova Scotia when one party doesn’t comply with the Residential Tenancies Act. “I shouldn’t be here three months later asking a sheriff to take them down,” she said in an interview last week.

Last Wednesday, Provo and Sutts failed to appear in small claims court for an appeal of their eviction — an appeal they initiated. Referee Darrel Pink upheld their eviction and gave Celan the option to have a sheriff or police officer enforce it. It was the end of a long process.

After the rent checks failed, Celan initiated eviction proceedings, which gave tenants 15 days to pay rent, move out or request a hearing. When the tenants refused to pay, Celan had to apply for a residential tenancy order requiring them to leave, which required a three-week wait. When the evacuation order came on July 26, it allowed for an appeal to small claims court, which Provo and Sutts filed on August 5.

Neither Sutts nor Provo called the Small Claims Court appeal on Aug. 31, despite being notified of the date.

Reached the evening of the Small Claims Court decision, Sutts said she was aware of the evening hearing, but was working and could not attend. “It’s not worth my headache arguing with this woman (Celan). I’m leaving,” she said Thursday.

When asked his opinion on whether to levy fines for willful non-compliance with lease law, Sutts said it depends on the circumstances. “Everyone has a situation and everyone has a story and there are two sides to a story,” she said, adding that her checks hadn’t cleared because she had other bills to pay. pay at the time.

Celan now faces another hearing later this month to try to collect $5,100 in rent, and she said she realizes that if successful, it will be difficult to receive the money.

“If these tenants don’t pay me anything for the back rent and don’t pay anything for the damages, they don’t suffer any consequences,” she said, adding that going to a bailiff would cost money and trying capturing wages can be difficult.

Carrie Low, a former tenant who won her appeal against a rent increase last year, said many tenants also see the need for enforcement.

Low said in an interview last week that during her hearing, the rent manager received written evidence that she and a former tenant were threatened with significant rent increases if they insisted on moving to a lease. on a monthly basis, rather than an annual lease. The owner involved did not respond to a request for comment.

Fines are necessary to deter violations of the Residential Tenancies Act, Low said. “If there is no recourse against something that was done illegally, then the behavior continues,” she said.

Mark Culligan, a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid who represented Low at the hearing, said his group supported the creation of an enforcement regime, but cautioned against penalizing tenants who struggle to pay their rent.

“It’s important not to equate willful non-payment of rent with poverty and the cost of living crisis,” he said.

Colton LeBlanc, minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services, said in an interview last week that his department is doing an analysis of enforcement mechanisms in other jurisdictions. He said there was a “small minority” of landlords and tenants who were not complying with the law, and that his department was “looking closely at what a compliance and enforcement division would look like in Nova Scotia.” Scotland”.

However, when asked if law reform would be within the mandate of the Progressive Conservative government, the minister replied that no specific timeline had been set.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 3, 2022.

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