St. John's tenants face power cutoff, landlord hasn't paid bill

A couple of renters in St. John's who are living on social assistance are saying they've been living in terrible conditions for months, without any word from their landlord since they moved in.
Jennifer Peddle says she hasn't been able to get in touch with her landlord since she moved in to her apartment in November. She says heat and light is included in their rent, but Newfoundland Power says the bill hasn't been paid in months and they'll be cutting off the power soon. (CBC)

A couple of renters in St. John's who are living on social assistance are saying they've been living in terrible conditions for months, without any word from their landlord since they moved in.

Jennifer Peddle approached CBC News, saying that between the threat of power being cut off and a shattered living room window, she's at her wits end with what seems to be another slum landlord situation in the capital city.

Peddle said her landlord seemed like a nice guy when she was looking at renting a unit at 12 Cashin Ave.

Peddle said when he interviewed her for the apartment, he said he didn't want "any shenanigans," and only quiet tenants who would take care of the apartment.

She said the apartment was in a state of disrepair when they moved in back in November due to a previous tenant, but she was promised work would be done to bring it up to standards.

But the apartment still has no proper floors in the living room, a window that shattered in a storm and hasn't been properly fixed, and the bathroom door is still broken and off its hinges - and no word since from her landlord, who she said is living in Ireland.
The living room window of the apartment was shattered during a wind storm almost a month ago, but Jennifer Peddle says she hasn't been able to get the landlord to get someone in to fix it. The City of St. John's boarded it up on Tuesday, but she doesn't know when it will be a proper window again. (CBC)

"The [living room] window blew out in the wind storm we had about a month ago. I had to get my friend to come and hastily [fix it] for me because the wind was whipping through here, the snow was actually all in the living room that day and we were froze to death," Peddle said.

She couldn't get in touch with her landlord to properly fix it, so they compromised, calling a friend to help board up the window using old foam, a sheet of plastic, and an old deflated air mattress.

On Tuesday, the City of St. John's arrived to properly board up the window until the actual owner of the property made appropriate repairs.

But Peddle said figuring out who to go to with the problems is getting confusing. She said the person responsible for maintaining the building while the landlord is away either doesn't respond to calls, or doesn't seem inclined to do much.

"We're going to be boarded up here until the landlord can give us windows, and he's not going to give us windows because … he's in Ireland, and nobody can get in contact with him," she said.

According to Peddle, she and her roommate even discussed pooling money to get resources to make repairs to the apartment out of their own pockets, but just weren't able to afford it.

She said the conditions they're living in are sub-standard, and they are unable to keep furniture in the living room with the apartment in the state it's in, but they try to make the best of it.

"[The apartment] is deplorable, but we keep it clean — try to, anyway. It's not a palace but we keep it clean. But other than that, there's only so much we can do."

Bigger problems

Peddle and her roommate pay $475 a month for rent, with utilities included, but she said Newfoundland Power has sent them a notice that their power bill hasn't been paid in months — with an outstanding balance of $788.

"Our main concern right now with this property, more than anyone else in the building, we are the only ones with heat and light included in our rent, and we currently have a cut-off notice for our light and power because our landlord hasn't paid our light bill since we moved in the first of November," Peddle said.
There has been steady water damage coming in to various parts of Jennifer Peddle's rental unit at 12 Cashin Ave. in St. John's. (CBC)

She's been in touch with Newfoundland Power to ask what can be done, but she was told that the bill needs to be paid by the person whose name is registered to the property.

But she's been told that if weather conditions improve and the temperature reaches 0 C for three consecutive days, the utility will cut power to her apartment.

Peddle said without the authority to pay the bill, she can't even get it registered in her own name without the landlord first getting in touch with Newfoundland Power.

"We're stressed about the house, but that's being taken care of somewhat by the City of St. John's because they're stepping up, but our main concern … our power is about to be cut off," she said.

Peddle said she's left messages with the government's Landlord and Tenant's office to explain their situation and get some guidance, but she hasn't heard back from anyone to date.

She said she's looked on various online classified website like Kijiji, but hasn't been able to find anything within their budget.

Last week, St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said the city would crack down on slum landlords in the city — as long as tenants reported the problems.

He said the city was powerless to do anything if they were unaware of the problems, but said council would act on complaints once they started coming in.

O'Keefe said council would also start naming the landlords in public meetings if they didn't start making proper repairs.


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