Canada Business

Nova Scotia landlord who struggled to evict tenants seeks reform of system

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Posted September 3, 2022 7:13 AM EDT.

The financial and emotional stress associated with evicting tenants who are several months past due on rent led Patricia Celan to advocate for a reform of Nova Scotia’s tenancy system to include an enforcement department.

The 29-year-old doctor says her story of trying to evict defaulters began on June 15, five days after Angela Sutts and Wayne Provo collected the security deposit and rent receipts.

Celan, who is studying to be a psychiatrist, said Friday she has found herself even more in debt as mortgage payments on her property have increased, adding that she has delayed her school schedule to focus on fixing the situation.

“I am on vacation and hope to be back at school when I know for sure that they (tenants) have moved out,” she said. “It’s hard to think of anything else.”

She says too much responsibility is placed on landlords and tenants in Nova Scotia when one party allegedly fails to comply with the Tenancy Act. “I shouldn’t have been here three months later and watched the sheriff remove them,” she said in an interview last week.

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

After rent checks failed, Celan initiated an eviction procedure that gave tenants 15 days to pay rent, move out, or request a hearing. When tenants refused to pay, Celan had to pursue a tenancy order requiring them to move out, requiring a three-week wait. When a release order came on July 26, it allowed an appeal to be filed in small claims court, which Provo and Sutts initiated on August 5.

Neither Sutts nor Provo filed an appeal in small claims court on August 31, despite being notified of the date.

Reaching the night of the small claims court decision, Sutts said she knew about the evening’s hearing but was working and couldn’t come. “Arguing with this woman (Celan) is not worth my headache. I’m leaving,” she said on Thursday.

When asked whether penalties should be imposed for willful non-compliance with the tenancy 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 didn’t go through because she had other bills to pay at the time.

Celan will now face another hearing later this month to try to get back $5,100 in rent, and she said she understands it will be difficult to get the money if successful.

“If these tenants don’t pay me anything for the back rent and pay nothing for damages, they won’t face any repercussions,” she said, adding that using a bailiff would cost money and that trying to recover wages could be difficult.

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

Lowe said in an interview last week that during her hearing, a rental officer was presented with written evidence that both she and the previous tenant were threatened with a significant rent increase if they insisted on changing to a monthly lease rather than an annual one. rent. The landlord concerned did not respond to a request for comment.

The fines are needed as a deterrent to violations of the Tenancy Act, Low said. “If there is no way to seek help for something done illegally, then the behavior continues,” she said.

Mark Calligan, a Dalhousie Legal Aid community lawyer who represented Lowe at the hearing, said his group is in favor of creating an enforcement regime but cautioned against punishing tenants who struggle to pay rent.

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

Colton LeBlanc, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Services and Home Services, said in an interview last week that his office is reviewing enforcement mechanisms in other jurisdictions. He said there is a “small minority” of landlords and tenants who do not comply with the law, and his department is “taking a close look at what a compliance and enforcement department in Nova Scotia will look like.”

However, when asked whether the reform of the legislation would take place within the framework of the mandate of the progressive conservative government, the minister replied that the exact time frame had not been set.

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

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