CBC Investigates

Serial squatter strikes again in Regina, stiffing another landlord

Daniel Portras has continued to manipulate the system in order to live in the home of yet another Regina landlord without paying, despite the fact that CBC’s iTeam shone a light on him a couple of months ago.

Saskatchewan Landlord Association calls on provincial government for help

Chanda Lockhart, the executive officer with the Saskatchewan Landlord Association, warned some of her members about Daniel Portras at a lunch meeting in Saskatoon on Tuesday. (CBC )

Daniel Portras has continued to manipulate the system in order to live in the home of yet another Regina landlord without paying, despite the fact that CBC's iTeam shone a light on him a couple of months ago.

In September, a CBC News investigation revealed that the serial squatter had used the courts to prolong his stay in four different rental homes over a two-year period, while he refused to pay rent.
Daniel Portras went to Court of Queen's Bench to appeal a decision of the Office of Residential Tenancies, which ordered him to leave a rental house because he had not paid the landlord any money. (CBC )

Just days before CBC's story was published, Portras and his children moved into the home of yet another Regina landlord.

According to court records, he failed to pay rent in September. Then he proceeded to use the legal process to extend his stay in the home until mid-November, without paying rent.

This recent case followed the pattern that CBC identified in its earlier story.

  • Portras failed to pay his rent.
  • The landlord gave him a notice of eviction.
  • He appealed that notice to the Office of Residential Tenancies.
  • He lost the appeal.
  • He appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench.
  • He lost the appeal.
  • He brought his case to the Court of Appeal.
  • He was denied leave to appeal.
  • He left the home without paying.

In his November submission to the Court of Appeal on behalf of the most recent landlord, lawyer Graham Christie argued that Portras was manipulating the system for his own benefit.

"The proposed appeal is frivolous and vexatious and is a blatant attempt to use the protections afforded by this province's residential tenancies system to extend the time in which the appellant can remain in unlawful possession of the respondent's rental unit," Christie wrote.

System broken, landlord group says

The Saskatchewan Landlord Association said the Portras case highlights what's wrong with the current system.

"Daniel is what we know as a professional tenant, who has taken advantage of the system and continues to do so," said Chanda Lockhart, executive officer of the landlord association.
Chanda Lockhart, executive director of the Saskatchewan Landlord Association, wants the provincial government to enact a law that would make it more difficult for tenants to abuse the system. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)

She said the brazen nature of Portras's actions have led her to conclude this is not merely a matter for the civil courts. She said she believes he's clearly moving into people's homes with no intention of paying.

"I think there should be criminal charges at this point," Lockhart said.

Portras didn't respond to CBC's requests for an interview.

Lockhart acknowledged Portras's case is extreme, because of how many times he's been to court. But she said there are many "professional tenants" who make life difficult for landlords.

Numbers provided to CBC's iTeam show that Portras is not the only one who's appealed eviction notices to the Court of Queen's Bench and Court of Appeal.

From Jan. 1, 2012, until the end of October there were approximately 220 such cases brought to the Court of Queen's Bench, according to the deputy registrar.

In addition, 19 applications for leave to appeal were brought to the Court of Appeal over the past three years, according to officials of that court. Just one of them was granted leave; the others were dismissed.

Lockhart is now using the Portras case to instruct other landlords.

On Tuesday, at a restaurant in Saskatoon, Lockhart talked about the Portras case to a group of 65 landlords at an educational session about their rights and responsibilities.

"His name is Daniel Portras," she told the landlords. "So if you have buildings in Regina, or friends who are landlords in Regina, you might want to just spread his name about."
The Saskatchewan Landlord Association's Chanda Lockhart says the case of Daniel Portras highlights what's wrong with the current system. (CBC )

Lockhart told the landlords Portras's two latest victims made the classic error of allowing him into their homes on the promise that he'd pay rent in a few days.

"That is 100 per cent the number 1 rule. No rent equals no keys. If someone cannot pay you money before they move in, they simply don't move in," she said.

Landlords want government help

Lockhart said more than just education is needed — the government needs to act.

In the summer, Saskatchewan's updated Residential Tenancies Act was proclaimed with the exception of one section dealing with the right of appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench.

It stipulates that if a tenant's appeal of an eviction notice to the Office of Residential Tenancies is unsuccessful, they will be allowed to appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench, provided they pay "the equivalent of one-half of one month's rent."

"If that was proclaimed, we wouldn't be in the situation we are right now," Lockhart said.

Right now, tenants are merely required to pay a nominal fee before appealing, which Lockhart said is not much of a disincentive.

The government declined an interview, but in a written statement said it is working on regulations around this provision and "cannot speculate on timing," though it says "the process is well within a typical timeframe for the development of the regulations."

"The delay is simply the government," Lockhart said. "The government has put the brakes on because they are concerned about tenants on social services not being able to have the funds."

Housing advocate has concerns

That's a concern echoed by the executive director of Carmichael Outreach in Regina. Cora Gajari said while she sympathizes with the concerns of landlords, she believes the Portras case, or cases like it, are relatively rare.
Cora Gajari of Carmichael Outreach says any additional financial barrier to the court system would hurt the low-income people her organization serves. (CBC)

Carmichael has a program designed to help low-income people with their housing needs. She said requiring half a month's rent in order to gain access to the courts would be unfair.

"Proposing such a fee to most of our folks, who most of the time have very valid concerns, would be a significant obstacle to reaching any form of justice in their cases," Gajari said.

But Lockhart said the new provision would level the playing field between landlords and tenants.

"We're not asking [the provincial government] to make people homeless. We're asking for them to have accountability," Lockhart said.

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.