Cashin Ave. tenants face power, water cutoff, landlord AWOL
Residents in a building in St. John's say they're facing the cutoff of multiple services, through no fault of their own, because their landlord hasn't been paying his bills or taxes.
CBC News previously reported on the situation at 12 Cashin Ave. in March, when one tenant in the building was facing a cutoff from Newfoundland Power, as well as a broken window that she couldn't get fixed.
Jennifer Peddle said she thought there might be some resolution since she first approached CBC, but she's since received another notice from the power company that her services are yet again set to be cut.
"Our light bill is supposed to be paid by our landlord, it's in our lease that it's heat and light included on our rent, but he hasn't paid our light bill since we moved in in November."
Peddle receives social assistance from the government, and her rent money — including that used to pay her utilities — goes directly to her landlord, who she said she hasn't been able to reach.
Tenants said landlords Stephen and Deborah Hynes live in Dublin, Ireland, and haven't answered phone calls or emails for months.
'Kick in the butt'
According to Peddle, she and some of the other tenants feel hopeless about their current situation.
"[It feels] like a kick in the butt. It's like one thing after the other, ever since this building, this is just gone so downhill in the last three or four months it's unreal," said Peddle.
"The proof is in the pudding. He didn't pay our light bill, and he was getting money to pay our light bill from the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador."
A notice from the City of St. John's of water shutoff at the building has added to the stress of people living in the building.
"The city inspectors have been here, I think, five times. They have taken pictures of all of the damages and everything that's happened in this apartment, along with the other five apartments that have been damaged, but they basically told me that there's nothing else that they can do other than to take him to court and that's what they doing now," said Chaulk.
"But we have also been told that he has over 100 court cases already about this place alone, so we don't think that anything is going to come out of it."
Chaulk said she and her husband moved into the apartment after the landlord said he would fix the problems with the unit, but that never happened.
"We have nowhere to go. When we initially moved into this apartment, this was the only apartment that we could find and at the time my social worker wanted me to move into this place without even looking at it."
Problem a provincial one
Chaulk contacted Gerry Rogers, the MHA for St. John's Centre, about the situation tenants in the building are facing. Rogers stepped in to get a delay for the water shutoff, but said the city is still owed its taxes.
"I think what's happening in this house is a microcosm of the housing crisis that we see across this province. This is six families who are going to be out there on the market looking for affordable housing. Income support provides $525 for housing - how can you find a two-bedroom apartment if you're a family if you only have $525 in this city? You cannot," she said.
"Government has to intervene. These are people who are very vulnerable, these are people who have done the right thing, they have paid their rent, many of them have paid their heat and light, and they're out on the streets through no fault of their own."
Rogers added the landlord is essentially getting free government money, without providing the service he's supposed to be providing.
"This is money from the province, money from the taxpayers, going into the pockets of slum landlords, and in my opinion, this, in fact, might be fraud," said Rogers.
"The government is paying for a service, government is not monitoring the type of service that they're paying for, and these people are going to be homeless. Government has to step in, the department has to step in and do something to help these people."
The city is taking legal action against the landlord, but the process could take months, while people at 12 Cashin Ave. still need to find somewhere to live.