Councillor says city can only do so much about slum landlords

Councillor Bernard Davis says the city has no way to crack down on problematic landlords, like the property owners of 12 Cashin Ave., other than by acting on complaints from residents and social workers.
Councillor Bernard Davis said the city has repeatedly sent inspectors to 12 Cashin Ave. and ordered the rental property to be brought up to standards. (CBC)

A St. John's councillor says not enough people are complaining about slum landlords in the city.

Councillor Bernard Davis, who's also the chair of the Community Services and Housing Standing Committee, said the city has no way to crack down on these landlords other than by acting on complaints.

Jennifer Peddle, a tenant of 12 Cashin Ave., approached CBC News on Tuesday because of her frustrations in dealing with her landlord.

The old, large house is broken up into six apartments.

Peddle said she has been living in terrible conditions in one of these apartments for months — and she's now living under the threat of having the power cut off.  

The apartment doesn't have proper floors in the living room; it has a shattered front window that was destroyed in a storm; and the bathroom door is broken and off its hinges.

Peddle said there's been no word from her landlord, who's said to be living in Ireland, since she moved in.

Davis said the property owners, Stephen and Deborah Hynes, are well known at City Hall for being told to fix up rental properties that aren't properly looked after.

"We've had to do this numerous times with this property owner," he said.

"It's been problematic for the city, and obviously we're disheartened by that."

City can only do so much

Davis said City Hall can only do so much to crack down on slum landlords.

He said it can send inspectors into a rental property and order it to be brought up to standards — something it has done repeatedly with 12 Cashin Ave.

If the property owner ignores the work order, the city can get the work done regardless, and bill it back to the landlord.

The city was forced to do that on Tuesday when it put plywood over a broken window in Peddle's upstairs apartment.

But Davis insisted that the city doesn't have the manpower for regular inspections for all rental properties in St. John's, therefore depends on the complaints to come in for action on the issue.

Davis said tenants might be reluctant to complain, but noted that there are others who might know what's going on, including social workers.

"So [we've] got to make sure we're working together, and all of these agencies work hand in hand," he said.

The policies of both Social Services and the Landlord and Tenant Services are currently under review.

CBC News has been unable to contact the property owners.