'Crack pipes and beer cans': Renters trash Lloydminster house, leave landlord down in the dumps

A 27-year-old single mother is reconsidering her future as a landlord after her first tenants left her rented home in terrible condition.

Service Alberta recommends landlords check credit histories and call multiple references

An old TV and a beat-up couch were among the garbage left behind by Ashling Bracken's former tenants. (Ashling Bracken )

Ashling Bracken is reconsidering her future as a landlord, after the first tenants she rented to left her Lloydminster home in terrible condition.

"Disaster, it was disgusting," Bracken, 27, said in an interview with the CBC on Wednesday. "He left all his furniture and dirty diapers and there was spray paint all over the walls. I mean, they just trashed it. They didn't care."

Black spray paint has Ashling Bracken wondering whether some of the damage was malicious. (Ashling Bracken)

Bracken, a single mother, became a landlord about a year ago, and her first tenants were a couple with four or five young children.

"They seemed to be decent and they were really nice and just said they wanted to upgrade from where they were and needed more space," said Bracken.

She had no problems with the family until the fall.

'It just kind of got worse from there'

"They started being late on rent," she said. "And then it just kind of got worse from there."

Bracken was notified by the city that the water bill hadn't been paid, so she arranged for an inspection of the property.

"They knew I was coming, so they were able cover up some of the holes and the carpets, so it didn't look nowhere bad as it actually is."

Bracken gave them a deadline to clean up.

Before they moved out, the tenants used black spray paint on the dryer and a door. (Ashling Bracken )

"I told him he had 30 days to start fixing up the damage, and that I would be back to see how it was going. And if there was no improvement, then I would proceed with evicting them. They had plenty of warning."

When she went back a month later, there had been little improvement.

"I went back and he had a couple of mud patches on the wall and it was still not great. But by then he had not paid for January rent, so I proceeded with the eviction notice anyway. And they refused to leave.

Bracken threatened legal action.

'It was beyond repair'

"I just kind of waited it out, I wasn't really too sure on what my options were. They have a bunch of kids and I kind of felt sorry for them.

"But they ended up leaving."

When Bracken returned to the vacant house, she was in for a shock.

"I thought it was beyond repair," she said. "Obviously it was upsetting, it was very overwhelming. Crack pipes and beer cans, it was pretty horrible."

Bracken doesn't want to believe any of the damage was done purposely. But the spray paint made her question that.

Ashling Bracken says her tenants tried to repair the drywall but didn't finish the work. (Ashling Bracken )

"I would hope it's not malicious but ... spray paint on the door? I feel like it's kind of intentional."

In addition to the damage, the family left their cat behind.

Bracken will put the damage deposit toward repairs but said that won't cover the costs.

"It's definitely not comparable to the amount of damage that they left, it's not even close," she said.

She notified police but was told there isn't much they can do. She was advised to pursue civil action in the courts.

'They left a lot of trash'

"I don't think there's any point," she said. "I mean, when they're not working I don't think you're going to get anywhere with that either."

Service Alberta said it encourages landlords to take action in such cases.

"Landlords whose property has been significantly damaged and who cannot recoup the repair costs solely from the tenant's security deposit may have recourse against tenants through the courts or the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service," spokesperson Cheryl Tkalcic wrote in an email to CBC News.

Once an application is filed, RTDRS will set up a hearing where both parties and any witnesses will be heard by a tenancy dispute officer, who will normally issue an enforceable order.

"The applicant then files the order at the Court of Queen's Bench, and serves it to the respondent," Tkalcic wrote. "The order takes effect as soon as it is filed. If there is a monetary judgment and the respondent doesn't obey the order, the next step is debt collection."

Ashling Bracken posted this warning to other landlords on a Lloydminster Facebook page. (Facebook)

For now, Bracken is focused on the home and plans to tackle the mess on the weekend with the help of friends.

"Just start cleaning it and getting all of their stuff out," she said. "Just got to start doing dump loads first, before we even think about anything else. Because they left a lot of trash."

Bracken also posted a warning to other landlords on a Lloydminster Facebook page.

"I just felt extremely bad for whoever was going to get them next," she said. 

'Wanted to maybe give a heads up' 

"I mean if you do it to one place I feel like you're going to do it to the next and the next, and I would hate for anyone to go through what I'm going through right now."

Hundreds of people have reacted to Bracken's post, which includes pictures of the damage. Despite being encouraged to name and shame the family, Bracken decided against that.

"Because of the kids involved, and they're fairly young kids, and I just don't think that's the way to go about it," she said.

The ordeal has made her rethink her future as a landlord. If she does continue, she'll be more cautious.

"I think I just need to do more due diligence and reference checks, and I've learned now, so I will not be as lenient in the future, I guess," said Bracken.

Reference checks are certainly encouraged by Service Alberta

"When renting out a property, we recommend landlords check credit histories and call multiple references, including previous landlords," Tkalcic wrote. "They can also check for any past judgments from previous RTDRS disputes by searching the name of the prospective tenant with the Court of Queen's Bench."

About the Author

Scott Stevenson

Journalist

Scott Stevenson is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. He has worked in the news industry in Alberta for nearly 20 years, including 10 years with Alberta's other public broadcaster, CKUA. He has also worked in newsrooms in Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Cold Lake. Share your stories with Scott at scott.stevenson@cbc.ca.

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