Needles, blood, destruction: Landlord on the hook after tenants wreak havoc
Nicole Ivey-Cross disturbed by children's toys found among needles left in rental home
Nicole Ivey-Cross entered her rental property to find an unnatural disaster — hundreds of needles scattered, and blood on the walls and ceiling.
Two sets of tenants, in the upstairs and downstairs apartments, had destroyed her home, she said.
I don't know how people live like that.- Nicole Ivey-Cross
With her phone recording, she walked through the rooms with her father to survey the damage.
"Be careful," she told him. "There's needles everywhere. You could get stabbed."
There were holes in the walls, cupboard doors ripped off their hinges and used hypodermic needles strewn across the house. She estimates the damage at between $15,000 and $20,000.
But what disturbed Ivey-Cross the most was the children's toys she found in the upstairs apartment.
"I was shocked. I really don't know how people live like that," she told CBC News on Thursday.
"I think when I saw the stuffed animals for the children, that's what really concerned me the most. There could possibly have been children in that house at some point."
Trouble evicting terrible tenants
Ivey-Cross and her husband rented the upstairs unit first and said the trouble began right away.
Several tenants in the downstairs unit moved out because of the noise, the couple said. Earlier this year, the upstairs tenants were served with a three-month notice of eviction.
For privacy reasons, CBC News has agreed not to publish the address of the house or the names of the tenants.
After three months went by, the tenants still wouldn't leave. Ivey-Cross went to Service NL and spoke with the landlord and tenant board.
On the board's suggestion, Ivey-Cross and the tenants signed a mediated agreement stating the renters would move out and there would be no appeal process.
But she said they still refused to move.
Ivey-Cross said she called the police, but they told her it was a civil matter and there was nothing they could do. She eventually paid a $325 fee to sheriff's officers, who came to serve a final eviction.
It was too late — the tenants were gone and the house was destroyed.
Throughout the process, Ivey-Cross said the downstairs tenants had also become an issue. They were served with an eviction notice by sheriff's officers last week.
Who is going to pick up the needles?
When both sets of tenants were gone, Ivey-Cross was able to go inside and survey the damage.
She was overwhelmed by the number of needles on the floor, and worried about the risk.
"With all those needles around, that's very unsafe," she said. "I really wanted to find out how to dispose of these needles. Who do we call?"
Her husband called the police, who told them to call the City of St. John's who told them to call a pharmacy.
After posting their story on social media, a friend suggested they call the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP). On Thursday, members of SWAP cleaned all the needles from the home.
In an emailed response, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said it would clean up needles if there was reason to believe they were related to a criminal offence.
Time to change the laws, landlord says
Ivey-Cross has joined many across the province calling for a change to the Residential Tenancies Act.
The piece of legislation, which governs interactions between landlords and tenants, was last revised in 2000.
"After 17 years and after numerous complaints, I think this should be looked at," she said.
A review of the Act was completed in 2012 by the Progressive Conservative government, but the recommendations were never published.
Since the Liberals took office in 2015, there have been three ministers of Service NL, all of whom have committed to doing their own review of the legislation.
On Thursday, Service NL issued a statement once again saying it was looking forward to doing a review. No timeline was given.
Ivey-Cross wants to see more rights given to landlords to evict tenants at the first sign of "malicious damage."
"There should be no grey area," she said. "There should be something written down saying that you can evict them, because this goes way beyond your normal wear and tear."
Can cops do more?
Disturbed by the children's toys on the floor, Ivey-Cross again called the police, who told her to call the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development.
She wishes the police could have done more to help — not just for them, but for the tenants too.
"We went to police a couple times regarding our apartment," she said. "They kept telling us it is a civil matter so we have to go to the tenants board."
Ivey-Cross was irked by the situation being dubbed civil — she said there were people destroying her property every day, and she felt helpless to stop it.
"At what point does it become criminal?"