Special Report

Regina tenant manipulates system to squat for free at landlords' expense

Daniel Portras has figured out a way to squat in rental homes for free by taking advantage of landlords and manipulating the justice system.

Convicted thief Daniel Portras dodges rent owed to 4 landlords

As Geoff Leo reporters, a Regina tenant manipulates the system to squat for free at landlords' expense. 2:13

Daniel Portras has figured out a way to squat in rental homes for free by taking advantage of landlords and manipulating the justice system.

According to a ruling by the Office of Residential Tenancies, Portras lived in Yolandi Lombard's south Regina house for months without paying rent, though he signed a contract promising $2,200 a month.

Lombard says he left her home in a shambles. Garbage was strewn around the house, and many items like the fridge, microwave, light bulbs and even a toilet seat were missing. There were holes punched in the wall and window coverings were trashed, she alleges. 

Yolandi Lombard is frustrated that her former tenant, Daniel Portras, squatted in her house for three months without paying rent and left behind thousands of dollars worth of damage when he finally moved. (CBC)
"I didn't know people like this existed," Lombard said. "I didn't know that anybody would think it's OK to treat anybody's house this way." 

Lombard said most frustrating of all, she discovered Portras, 39,  has done a similar thing to three other Regina landlords over the past two years. 

But she said the justice system is stacked against her.

"It seems like it's set up not so much to protect the innocent, as it is to protect the tenant," Lombard said. "You're helpless."

Trouble started quickly

In mid-April, the father of five asked Lombard if he could move in immediately and pay the damage deposit later because he was between jobs.

Lombard checked Portras's references and agreed to let him move in.  
Daniel Portras went to Court of Queen's Bench to appeal a decision of the Office of Residential Tenancies, which ordered him to leave Yolandi Lombard's house. (CBC )

"I was set at ease in the sense that his references all said he was a stand-up guy," said Lombard.

But there were problems from the start. Lombard said she spent two weeks chasing Portras for money. Eventually she received the first month's rent. 

Then the money stopped altogether, she alleges.

She said it was one excuse after another. Finally, her frustration led her to confront Portras on the front steps of her rental home. 

"You haven't paid rent. So your option is to pay me the $4,400 you owe me plus the $2,200 for July or you get out of my house," Lombard told him. 

"He just got very mad and frustrated and just said basically, 'I'm not leaving' and he walks in the house and closes the door."

And there she stood, stunned, on her front step, locked out of her own house by a squatter. 

Tried to evict Portras

Days before a Court of Appeals hearing, Lombard learned Portras had moved out, and the back door of her home had been removed. (Geoff Leo/CBC)
Lombard filed an eviction notice, but Portras refused to leave and filed an appeal to the Office of Residential Tenancies. 

That appeal was dismissed, so Portras, representing himself, appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench. 

He lost that action, so he took the matter to the Court of Appeal.

The process took weeks, and all the while Portras lived in Lombard's house for free.

Finally, on Aug. 25, days before the Court of Appeal hearing, Lombard got a call from a neighbour. She was told Portras and his family had moved out, and the back door of her home had been removed. 

She raced over and said she found her home trashed and many of her possessions taken. She had the door put back on and changed the locks. 

Then she received an anger-fuelled text from Portras. 

"Have the door unlocked in the next hour or I will kick it in," he wrote.

Unrelated theft charges

When Lombard called police they told her they couldn't do anything about the damage to her home or her missing possessions because the door had been left off, and they couldn't prove who did the damage. 

In addition, they told her it was a civil matter.

However, they did take Portras into custody to face a different charge

On Aug. 26, he pleaded guilty to stealing $7,075 from the Catholic School Community Council in Regina. 

He had four of his children sell hundreds of coupon books for a school fundraiser, but Portras kept the cash.

He was given a suspended sentence, ordered to repay the money and do community service. 

Over the summer, the iTeam caught up with Portras for a few minutes, in front of Lombard's home. 

He asked the iTeam's Geoff Leo, "So you're just trying to destroy me or what?"

"You put my name in the paper and I'll have you f--kin' sued," Portras said.

He refused to do a formal interview.

Known as serial squatter

Regency Property Managements office manager Taylor Johnson said Daniel Portras checked out on paper when the company screened him as a potential tenant. (CBC)
According to an Office of Residential Tenancies ruling, back in 2013 Portras failed to pay rent  to landlord Chengyi Yang, and he left a mess behind when he moved out.

According to the ruling, garbage and broken furniture were strewn about, there were holes in the wall, a plugged toilet, an overgrown yard and "it looks like the drapes have been deliberately cut or torn off halfway up the wall." 

Portras was ordered to pay $9,600 to cover rent and pay for repairs. 

The iTeam asked about the order while talking to Portras in front of Lombard's house. 

"If you're talking about that Chinese motherf--ker, he already got his money, so I don't care about him," he responded.

Court documents show Portras also had a problem with Shawn's Property Management and Regency Property Management, appealing to the Office of Residential Tenancies and the Court of Queen's Bench before eventually vacating homes those companies owned.

Regency's office manager Taylor Johnson said the company has a rigorous screening process and Portras "checked out on paper."

"So you do your best to follow the process with that and then you get some guy who's using some potential flaws in the system to take advantage of that or take advantage of some landlords," Johnson said.

Landlord doubts she'll get justice

Garbage was littered all over Yolandi Lombard's home after Daniel Portras finally left. (Geoff Leo/CBC)
The iTeam has learned Portras has allegedly failed to pay rent at his new house, which is located right around the corner from Lombard's. 

Lombard said she feels badly for the new landlord and she's furious there's no system to protect people like her who follow the rules. 

Lombard said Portras owes $6,600 in rent and she expects it will cost $10,000 to fix all of the damage to the home she owns. She doesn't expect to see any reimbursement. 

She's frustrated that Portras can continue to keep doing what he has been doing and the Office of Residential Tenancies, the courts and police, can't seem to protect landlords.

"At no point did anybody step in to say, 'OK enough is enough. We're done. This is a pattern that he has established. He's done this multiple times. He shouldn't be allowed to do it any more.'"

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      About the Author

      Geoff Leo

      Senior Investigative Journalist

      Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.


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