Nova Scotia

Halifax-based landlord calls for better renting laws in N.B.

Sam Pyke, who lives in Halifax, said there was an extensive amount of damage done to his property in Dieppe, N.B. in just a few months.

'There's seriously a flaw in your system here,' Sam Pyke says after damage done to Dieppe property

Sam Pyke says he wants to see more protection for landlords and their properties in New Brunswick. (Steve Berry/CBC)

A couple from Dieppe, N.B., wants to see the province do more to help protect rental properties, after they say tenants left their home damaged and covered in dog feces after just two months.

Sam Pyke said he and a police officer entered the home on March 30 after complaints from neighbours.

"We walked in and the smell hit you right away, it was nuts," said Pyke, who lives in Halifax.

Homeowner and landlord Sam Pyke said tenants left old food, cigarette butts and dog feces in the kitchen. (Submitted by Sam Pyke)

"The kitchen should not be that dirty. The food just covered the floor, the feces covered the floor, the cigarettes covered the floor. Then I knew."

Pyke entered into a month-to-month lease agreement with Bruce and Cathy Smith on Jan. 1 for a house he owns in Dieppe.

'It was like they were taunting us'

He said the couple pulled on his heartstrings, saying they needed to move quickly and couldn't pay the damage deposit, which Pyke agreed to waive.

After the first month, he said they stopped paying rent — and it only went downhill from there.

Pyke said there were scratches along the walls and doors he believes were made by dogs. (Submitted by Sam Pyke)

"We knew there was something wrong," said Pyke's partner, Susan MacDonald. "They were avoiding the phone calls and then it was like they were taunting us."

Pyke said on March 21 he sent the couple a written complaint and faxed a copy to New Brunswick's Residential Tenancies Tribunal.

'It broke my heart'

In New Brunswick, the tenant then gets seven days to pay the rent in full from the time the notice to vacate is sent. After that, they have 15 days to move out.

Meanwhile, Pyke said neighbours told him the Smiths had packed up a van and left for Alberta. So he decided to check on the property.

Pyke said the locks had been changed, but a key was left in the back door. Knowing he couldn't enter the home without giving the tenants notice, but not wanting to leave the house unlocked and vulnerable, Pyke called the RCMP.

He said an officer came to secure the home and make sure no one was inside.

It was then that Pyke saw the extent of the damage.

"It broke my heart. I couldn't even believe it," he said.

"The biggest lesson I learned here is don't rent with your heart, rent with your head."

RCMP Staff Sgt. Mario Fortin confirmed to CBC News that an officer was on scene, but wouldn't comment on the state of the home.

He said the file is concluded unless they receive another complaint, such as damage to property.

Susan MacDonald gets emotional talking about the damage done to her family's home in Dieppe, N.B. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The home is where MacDonald was raised in a family of nine children.

"I don't think I can go back this time," she said, becoming emotional.

"It's like grieving.... What I'd say to them is shame on you."

No emergency eviction

CBC News called Bruce Smith for comment.

While Smith said he did not want to conduct a formal interview, he denied trashing the apartment and changing the locks. He also said he has a lawyer involved.

After seeing the damage, Pyke wanted to apply for some kind of emergency eviction — but such a thing does not exist in New Brunswick.

Kim Snow, chief residential tenancies officer for New Brunswick, said a landlord has to give tenants a deadline to repair any damages.

'There should be a law'

If it's still not resolved, she said, a request can be made for the tribunal to investigate.

"They have to give them the opportunity to correct it and if it's not corrected, then we could escalate it up to and including termination of the tenancy," Snow said.

If rent is even a day late, the landlord can issue a notice to vacate. A tenant has seven days to pay the rent in full or they have to be out in 15 days.

But this means tenants could potentially continue to do damage to the property for three weeks — something Pyke takes issue with.

"If you have physical evidence that there's damage being done, there should be a law that you can stop that damage being done right there and have them removed," he said.

"They destroyed my house. You think they're going to go back and redo my house and pay the rent? They're running from us."

Snow said they always encourage landlords to check references, do periodic inspections, and require both tenant's insurance and a damage deposit.

"Their property is an investment so I would make sure there are periodic checks or inspections of the property done, so they are aware of any conditions and not find out the hard way," she said.

'A flaw in your system'

Pyke also called the amount of work for landlords in these kinds of situations "outrageous."

On top of the rent he's already lost, Pyke may also have to pay for repairs and that takes time — meaning a loss of future revenue. Getting reimbursed for those repairs would mean going through small claims court.

"There's seriously a flaw in your system here," Pyke said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pyke said the the tenancy tribunal handed him back ownership of the property and terminated the lease. 

He can now go back into the house, but still has to store anything belonging to the former tenants for seven days, except food.

He said the whole ordeal has been stressful.

"I'm days for not sleeping...I would not want anybody to go through this."