Alberta's landlords and tenants share advice, experiences in growing online group
'They should complain if they want to get their problem solved,' says group founder
Kavin Sheikheldin used to live in one of the 210 units in Bridgeland Place until the city decided to decommission the subsidized Calgary housing complex in March 2021.
One month earlier, propelled by ongoing frustrations with life in the building, she launched her Facebook group.
"There was a cockroach and bedbug infestation and other maintenance problems such as plumbing," she said.
"I was always annoyed with what was going on in that building.… I just wanted to share what was bothering me and also hear what other folks are going through, if it's just me or other people in this province going through the same problems."
In the year and a half since starting, Alberta's Landlord/Tenant Complaint Group has grown to nearly 2,500 members — made up of both tenants and landlords. It has become a space where Albertans can share their complaints and questions as well as information and resources with each other.
Sheikheldin says group members post about lots of different issues, including evictions, rent payments or non-payments, and a lot of general questions that come down to "what are my rights?"
"I'm not a lawyer, but I will look up answers or ask volunteer lawyers — and often other folks in the group know the answer to the question being asked," she said.
"I just hope that when someone posts a question, comment or concerns, that other people or myself that might have experiences can help folks instead of them having to wait on hold for long periods of time with the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service."
'They should complain'
Sheikheldin says that doesn't mean the group is trying to replace the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS), but that in many cases the group can save someone a lot of time and energy. In other cases, they may advise someone to get in touch with the service anyway.
"People shouldn't fear going to RTDRS or to any other resources that is certified to help people deal with landlord-tenant issues," she said.
"I know, for example, some tenants are worried and fear that they may lose their housing if they complain. But really, they should complain if they want their problem solved."
Long-time renter Cassandra Pollock joined the group a few weeks after it launched. She relies on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and she's living in rental unit with a "really awesome" landlord she trusts and who has treated her well.
But that hasn't always been the case.
"I had a situation where a corporate landlord had taken advantage of one of these public-private partnerships for subsidized housing," she said.
Her case went to court and the landlord tried to get the judge to fine her for the subsidy amount that they had already been paid by the provincial government.
She ultimately won her case with the help of the resolution service, and the judge gave the landlord's lawyer a "finger wagging" over the attempt to collect money already received from the province.
'People don't know their rights'
Pollock says she can help other people in the group navigate similar disputes or point them in the direction of the appropriate resources.
"A lot of times, people don't know their rights as tenants and there's also landlords that don't necessarily understand what they can and cannot do," she said.
"Generally, people react positively when they hear somebody else has gone through this and there is a way through it."
Pollock said the best thing about the group is it doesn't pit landlords and tenants against each other.
"There's a lot of good advice that come from it. There's some landlords that are honest people that want to help and do not see it as a landlord versus tenant situation and try to assist and give good valuable advice," she said.