Serial squatter strikes again in Regina, stiffing another landlord
Saskatchewan Landlord Association calls on provincial government for help
Daniel Portras has continued to manipulate the system in order to live in the home of yet another Regina landlord without paying, despite the fact that CBC's iTeam shone a light on him a couple of months ago.
Just days before CBC's story was published, Portras and his children moved into the home of yet another Regina landlord.
According to court records, he failed to pay rent in September. Then he proceeded to use the legal process to extend his stay in the home until mid-November, without paying rent.
This recent case followed the pattern that CBC identified in its earlier story.
- Portras failed to pay his rent.
- The landlord gave him a notice of eviction.
- He appealed that notice to the Office of Residential Tenancies.
- He lost the appeal.
- He appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench.
- He lost the appeal.
- He brought his case to the Court of Appeal.
- He was denied leave to appeal.
- He left the home without paying.
In his November submission to the Court of Appeal on behalf of the most recent landlord, lawyer Graham Christie argued that Portras was manipulating the system for his own benefit.
"The proposed appeal is frivolous and vexatious and is a blatant attempt to use the protections afforded by this province's residential tenancies system to extend the time in which the appellant can remain in unlawful possession of the respondent's rental unit," Christie wrote.
System broken, landlord group says
The Saskatchewan Landlord Association said the Portras case highlights what's wrong with the current system.
She said the brazen nature of Portras's actions have led her to conclude this is not merely a matter for the civil courts. She said she believes he's clearly moving into people's homes with no intention of paying.
"I think there should be criminal charges at this point," Lockhart said.
Portras didn't respond to CBC's requests for an interview.
Lockhart acknowledged Portras's case is extreme, because of how many times he's been to court. But she said there are many "professional tenants" who make life difficult for landlords.
Numbers provided to CBC's iTeam show that Portras is not the only one who's appealed eviction notices to the Court of Queen's Bench and Court of Appeal.
From Jan. 1, 2012, until the end of October there were approximately 220 such cases brought to the Court of Queen's Bench, according to the deputy registrar.
In addition, 19 applications for leave to appeal were brought to the Court of Appeal over the past three years, according to officials of that court. Just one of them was granted leave; the others were dismissed.
Lockhart is now using the Portras case to instruct other landlords.
On Tuesday, at a restaurant in Saskatoon, Lockhart talked about the Portras case to a group of 65 landlords at an educational session about their rights and responsibilities.
Lockhart told the landlords Portras's two latest victims made the classic error of allowing him into their homes on the promise that he'd pay rent in a few days.
"That is 100 per cent the number 1 rule. No rent equals no keys. If someone cannot pay you money before they move in, they simply don't move in," she said.
Landlords want government help
Lockhart said more than just education is needed — the government needs to act.
In the summer, Saskatchewan's updated Residential Tenancies Act was proclaimed with the exception of one section dealing with the right of appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench.
It stipulates that if a tenant's appeal of an eviction notice to the Office of Residential Tenancies is unsuccessful, they will be allowed to appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench, provided they pay "the equivalent of one-half of one month's rent."
"If that was proclaimed, we wouldn't be in the situation we are right now," Lockhart said.
Right now, tenants are merely required to pay a nominal fee before appealing, which Lockhart said is not much of a disincentive.
The government declined an interview, but in a written statement said it is working on regulations around this provision and "cannot speculate on timing," though it says "the process is well within a typical timeframe for the development of the regulations."
"The delay is simply the government," Lockhart said. "The government has put the brakes on because they are concerned about tenants on social services not being able to have the funds."
Housing advocate has concerns
Carmichael has a program designed to help low-income people with their housing needs. She said requiring half a month's rent in order to gain access to the courts would be unfair.
"Proposing such a fee to most of our folks, who most of the time have very valid concerns, would be a significant obstacle to reaching any form of justice in their cases," Gajari said.
But Lockhart said the new provision would level the playing field between landlords and tenants.
"We're not asking [the provincial government] to make people homeless. We're asking for them to have accountability," Lockhart said.