Halifax landlord removes doors, windows, faucet to get tenants to leave
Lease expired 4 months ago, but tenants say they can't find anywhere else to go
A Halifax landlord has removed the doors, windows and kitchen sink faucet from an apartment unit in Fairview to get the couple living there to leave.
"It's a huge shock to come home and then find out basically your home was raided," said Melody Baldock.
She and her partner, Laurissa Forrest, have been at odds with their landlord, Adam Barrett, for months. He told CBC News they've been problematic tenants, not paying their rent, fighting with neighbours and causing damage to the building.
When their lease expired at the Main Avenue apartment at the end of April, Barrett would not renew, but he said he tried working with them to clear their rental arrears, and place the couple in one of his other buildings. That deal never came together and at the start of May, Barrett turned off the power to Baldock and Forrest's unit.
After almost four months, Barrett said he resorted to removing pieces of the apartment because he'd lost his patience. CBC has reported on Barrett forcing tenants out of other buildings through renovation disruptions and rent increases, but he said this is the first time he's removed essential fixtures to get a tenant to leave.
Fiona Traynor, a community legal worker who is now representing Baldock and Forrest through Dalhousie Legal Aid, said Barrett's tactics in this case and in those previously reported are unacceptable. She called it "strong-arming."
"This type of behaviour, I don't know if it's common, but it's definitely not unheard of by landlords in Halifax," she said.
Landlord says he'll forcibly remove the couple
Barrett said he had an order for bailiffs to forcibly remove Baldock and Forrest by Friday evening. Traynor said she'd seen no evidence of such an order, and in the meantime she's filed a complaint with the Halifax Regional Municipality based on a bylaw that sets minimum livable standards for landlords to meet.
"The landlord has removed the front doors, the front door to their unit, meaning that they have no safety or security," said Traynor.
The province's Residential Tenancies Act says landlords can't alter entry doors without the consent of the tenant, but since Baldock and Forrest haven't had a lease agreement in months, Traynor said their protections under that law are limited.
Baldock said she and Forrest don't want to stay in their apartment, but they haven't found anywhere else to go after months of searching.
"This situation fell right in the middle of COVID," said Traynor. "That has not helped these two young women to find a place."
Traynor also pointed to Halifax's low rental vacancy rate, which has made it "virtually impossible" for people with low incomes to find affordable housing lately.
Neighbour wants them gone
Baldock said she and Forrest first fell behind on rent because a former roommate left without paying her share. Then, when their lease agreement expired, they were disqualified from income assistance, which included a rental allowance they had counted on to pay Barrett. They haven't paid any rent for the past four months.
Crystal Verge, the couple's next-door neighbour, said she sympathized with the couple when their power was first cut off and occasionally let them use her power. But Verge said they started acting disrespectfully, making noise that kept her up late at night.
"I just cut all ties with them," Verge said.
She said she started feeling threatened and wouldn't take her garbage out or go to the laundry room without locking her apartment.
"Them two girls got to leave," Verge said.
Barrett referred to Verge's complaints about Baldock and Forrest as justification for trying to get them to leave.
Baldock said police were called on at least two occasions to settle disputes with the neighbour, but she said tensions have settled.
"We both went our own ways. We mind our business," said Baldock.
Barrett said the couple trashed their apartment and broke two glass doors in the hallways, but the couple denied this.