Indian Act blocks Saskatoon landlord from collecting thousands in rent

A Saskatoon landlord says she's appalled she cannot recover the cost of damages left earlier this year by a First Nations tenant.

Wages earned on-reserve cannot be seized, says SIGA

Perehudoff says the tenant left the home filthy. (CBC)

Erin Perehudoff says a bad renter owes her money after leaving a trail of destruction and garbage at her Saskatoon home.

It was filthy. She didn't clean anything.- Erin Perehudoff

But despite a ruling from the Office of Residential Tenancies ordering Michelle Arcand to pay $3,156.20 to her former landlord, Arcand's employer refuses to garnishee her wages.

Arcand and her dog moved into the brand-new home on Evergreen Boulevard in November 2014, agreeing to pay Perehudoff $1,850 a month in rent, as well as an $1800 damage deposit. 

Arcand soon fell behind on rent payments, and was ordered to leave by the end of March. She never did pay the full damage deposit.

House left 'filthy'

"She left the house a mess, damages from her dog she had there," said Perehudoff. "Scratched up doors, floors, you name it, busted-up cabinets. It was filthy. She didn't clean anything."
Erin Perehudoff says she cannot recover the cost of damages from a First Nations tenant. (CBC)

Arcand did not appear at a hearing on June 4 before the Rentalsman. During the hearing, Perehudoff was awarded rent arrears, as well as cleaning and costs related to repairing damage on the home. In a written decision, the Rentalsman accepted the Perehudoff's claims and photographic evidence of the damage. 

But when a sheriff arrived at the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), bearing a court order to garnishee Arcand's wages, he was rebuffed. 

Citing the Indian Act, (see letter below) SIGA's lawyer Bonnie Missens wrote "SIGA is unable to pay any sum due from wages or salary into court as the Defendant's wages are located on reserve land and exempt from seizure."

Section 89 of The Indian Act states "the real and personal property of an Indian or a band situated on a reserve is not subject to charge, pledge, mortgage, attachment, levy, seizure, distress or execution in favour or at the instance of any person other than an Indian or a band," making illegal for anyone off-reserve to seize wages. 

SIGA said the situation is unusual, but gets one or two instances like this every year. SIGA said it advises the court that it cannot comply, and notifies the employee. 

Consequences for other First Nations renters

"I was appalled, I was just devastated," said Perehudoff. "I thought Canada was equal rights for everyone. And I mean when somebody owes money, I don't care what your race is or where you're from. You owe money. Simple."

Arcand has not returned telephone messages, e-mails or texts from CBC.

Perehudoff said this may make landlords more cautious about accepting tenants who work on reserves.

"If you're a status Indian and someone is abusing their rights as a status Indian, doesn't that affect you?" said Perehudoff.

"I think [status Indians] need to take a stand too because that's not fair for them," she said.

Dale Beck, director of the Office of Residential Tenancies, said he had no recollection of this issue coming up before today.

"I don't know if there's any way they could have prevented this from happening in the first place," Beck said.

"They can't discriminate against a person on the basis of ethnicity because that's a contravention of the Human Rights Act."

But Beck said landlords are free to choose tenants with good credit ratings over those with poorer ratings.
This is SIGA's reply to the court. (CBC)

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.