Nightmare tenants 'an everyday occurrence:' Sask. landlords association

The Saskatchewan Landlords Association says tenants like Daniel Portras, a serial squatter who has a history of appealing evictions while living in rented homes for free, surface more often than people think.

Executive officer of SKLA says official tenant-landlord history list would increase transparency

The Saskatchewan Landlords Association (SKLA) says tenants like Daniel Portras, a serial squatter who has a history of appealing evictions while living in rented homes for free, surface more often than people would think.

"It's an everyday occurrence unfortunately," said Chanda Lockhart, executive officer of the SKLA.

"I hear it almost everyday where a tenant has skipped or been evicted for rent arrears, and on their way out they have done significant damage to the property."

Chanda Lockhart is the executive officer of the Saskatchewan Landlord Association. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)
SKLA represents 40,000 doors and over 700 landlords. Lockhart says educating her members about how to prevent situations like these is key.

She says it's important to fill out a move-in form and assess the state of the residence, take pictures before and after and to only hand over the key once the rent and damage deposit are paid.

She added it's critical that property owners establish a firm eviction policy if rent is not paid by the 15th day of the month.

"When a tenant is in arrears, it is very important that landlords are on top of it immediately," said Lockhart. "If they owe money, you should follow through with the eviction notice."

But Lockhart says the biggest problem is serial squatters who know and abuse the justice system.

"Unfortunately when you have tenants that know the system extremely well, like Mr. Portras, they know how to get through those loopholes and they do the appeal process to drag it on."

Tenant blacklists breach privacy

She said in the past it has prompted landlords to create and share unofficial bad tenant "blacklists," but she says that isn't something her association condones. 

"Due to privacy legislation, we can't post tenant names, issues that they've had, list deficiencies and costs, phone numbers and things like that." said Lockhart. "It's just not allowed."

However, she does agree with the idea because she believes it could benefit both tenants and landlords.

"So [for example], brand new tenants coming into the market right out of high school could go to a list and say 'hey who is a good landlord in this city who will take care of me?' Equally a list of tenants that landlords could refer to and see."

The landlord association has established a registry, which is used for reference checks, that lists basic information, including the tenants name, address and the property owner. 

Changes to appeal rules

Dale Beck, director of the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT), says a new rule change that could limit the number of people appealing ORT decisions is awaiting royal proclamation. (CBC)
The Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) says when disputes do arise, hearings between landlords and tenants are held more quickly in Saskatchewan than most other provinces.

"We have put up our system against any other system in Canada in terms of timeliness, and we're simply faster than most Canadian jurisdictions," said Dale Beck, director of the ORT.

But Lockhart says the problem lies in the court process. Tenants can launch appeals to ORT decisions that can drag on for months.
However, an amendment to the current Residential Tenancies Act, which will make it more difficult for tenants to launch groundless appeals, is on its way. It's awaiting royal proclamation.

The changes to the rules will increase the fee for tenants who challenge evictions in the courts.

Currently, if a tenant is served an eviction notice, it costs the landlord $50 to request a possession order from the ORT.

If the tenant loses, they can appeal to the Court of Queens Bench by paying $50. The new rule would require tenants to pay half a month's rent to the court if they wanted the appeal heard.

"The court certainly made its views known that there was a lot of appeals here of questionable merit, and having the tenant pay a half a month rent as a prerequisite," said Beck.

Lockhart said she hopes the amendments become law, so serial squatters will stop clogging up the court system. 


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