Nova Scotia

Province exploring ways to deal with problem tenants

The minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services says her department is thinking of ways to protect landlords from tenants who don't pay rent, but a balance must be struck between the rights of tenants and landlords.

Investment Property Owners Association director says current act means tenants can avoid rent for months

Patricia Arab is the minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services. (CBC)

The minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services says her department is looking into ways to protect landlords from tenants who don't pay rent.

But how to achieve that isn't clear.

"We don't really have anything that's concrete," said Patricia Arab, the minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act. "We are looking at different options."

CBC News has reported on the case of Jason Selby, a first-time landlord in Cole Harbour who endured months of appeals to evict a tenant from his home. The tenant failed to pay $10,000 in rent. 

Eight people have come forward to say they were unable to collect rent from Nadav Even-Har during tenancies in Antigonish and Halifax dating back to 2013.

Even-Har doesn't know how many times he's been evicted, or the last time he had a successful tenancy.

Arab is aware of those stories. "It wasn't the first time that I've heard of a situation like this," she said. 

Landlords' position

The executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association said his group is satisfied with how the Residential Tenancies Act deals with issues like damage to units or unsatisfactory maintenance. 

But Kevin Russell said it's different when tenants don't pay.

"If you didn't pay your credit card, and then the credit card company wants to cut off your credit, and then you have an opportunity to file for an application to prevent them from doing that but at the same time continue to run up your credit card, it's ludicrous," he said. 

Russell said the timelines for appeals under the act mean that tenants can live for months without paying rent.

Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, says the Residential Tenancies Act effectively allows tenants to live for months without paying rent. (Kevin Russell)

He said landlords cannot ask for an eviction hearing for unpaid rent until the 15th of the month. It can sometimes take a month or two to schedule that initial hearing before a tenancy officer, he said.

If an eviction order is issued, the delinquent tenant has 10 days to file for appeal, which triggers a second hearing at small claims court. That also takes time to schedule. 

If the eviction order is confirmed, Russell said it can take a week or two for sheriffs to enforce it. 

"Their premise is everyone has a right to due process," he said. "Again, we can't see why this is on non-payment of rent."

Closing the loophole

Russell said landlords have expressed these concerns to government in meetings. Arab said she's familiar with their position. 

The province is studying how other jurisdictions deal with the problem. 

Arab said protecting the rights of tenants is a vital element of the act. But so is fairness. 

"The purpose of the Residential Tenancies Act is to find a balance that is fair to both renters and landlords," she said. "So we never want to be in a position where the act is favouring one over the other."

Russell said tracking tenants who repeatedly fail to pay rent could also help the issue. 

But Arab said that's not her department's role. "That would be a [Department of] Justice question," she said.

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About the Author

Jack Julian

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Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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