Nova Scotia

Cape Breton apartment damage blamed on international students

Some landlords in Cape Breton say international students are causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to their apartments.

International student society says students need to be better informed about rental rules

International students at Cape Breton University are being blamed for damage to several rental properties in Sydney and Glace Bay. (cbu.ca)

Some landlords in Cape Breton say international students are causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to their apartments.

One of those landlords is Priscilla Lotherington, the president of the Investment Property Owners Association of Cape Breton who says she's had troubled with some international students.

"These two chaps that I had actually burnt the stove to the point I had to throw it out, they burnt the wall beside it," she says. "They thought the stove was their source of heat, instead of the hot water rads, it was a bad experience.

"I've heard quite a few landlords with similar experiences."

Lotherington says most of the problems stem from students who don't understand their responsibilities and have a poor grasp of English. 

"I don't think the Chinese or any of the international students intend to disrespect our property, but their culture is just totally different and where they come from things are just done so differently," Lotherington says.

"Here we expect them to cook and clean and take care of an apartment like we would, but that's not their experience and they don't plan to live that way. It's just that when you realize it might be a little late and your apartment could be damaged." 

Students feeling gouged by landlord

But the president of Cape Breton University's International Student Society says he's not heard any complaints from landlords.

"I think it's unfair talking about how we have different cultures," Tobi Babalola says. "I mean in every culture everyone knows that after you use your dishes you have to wash them right? I don't see that as a fair point." 

Babalola believes a lack of understanding is what leads to most of the tension between landlords and tenants.  

"Students who are not educated or who do not have English as a first language go out and just sign contracts without ever going through it and going through what's actually written on it," he says. "What they don't realize is that here there are certain rules that you must follow. So I feel we must have an education program or something."

Babalola says many international students also feel they are being gouged by landlords.

"The Saudi Association, I'm friends with their president, and they complain about the prices, the increase and they feel like they're being taken advantage of just like the Chinese kids and it's just not fair." 

Priscilla Lotherington agrees that rental prices have gone up in the last few years, but says it's simply supply and demand. Demand has gone up for apartments in and around Sydney and Glace Bay while the supply has stayed the same, making apartment's more valuable. 

Lotherington says a two-bedroom apartment with nothing included cost about $475 dollars a month a few years ago, but now it costs about $600.  

Babalola says both landlords and the International Students Society should sit down and discuss their concerns.

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