News Local

Home wreckers

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Nancy Lowe can only describe her house as a pigsty.

Walking into her rental property on Campbell Avenue the day after her tenants left, Lowe discovered damage to every room in the house.

"There's stains everywhere, there's holes in all the walls, it looks like they had anger management issues and punched holes in the walls and doors," she said, shaking her head as she surveyed the damage.

Lowe bought the house in the Barrie's central neighbourhood in June 2009 as a rental property.

She was impressed with the brand-new carpets, new hardwood floors and fresh paint job.

To keep her heating costs down, she put on a new steel tile roof and began interviewing prospective tenants.

After meeting the parents of one young man and calling the young woman's boss, she felt she'd done due diligence and let the three friends move in.

While monthly payments weren't the issue, a few incidents she now considers red flags cross her mind as she remembers the year.

Once, her husband dropped by the house after a large snowfall and had to tell the tenants not to snowboard off the roof of the old garage.

Another time, Mitch Martin, the upstairs tenant, called her about the destructive noises coming from below.

"It sounded like they had a couple of brawls," said Martin, 29, who lived in the apartment above the tenants for the full year.

There was confusion over the thermostat levels and blown fuses a few times that weren't a big deal, he said.

However, loud music caused enough of a disturbance, the next door neighbour called the police on several occasions, he said.

"You don't put your nose into other people's business," said Martin.

But when he heard a loud crash as if something was smashed against the basement door -- he shares the stairwell and the sounds travels -- he felt compelled to call the landlord.

The hole in the basement door suggests he might be right.

Lowe's complaints -- while some are simple wear and tear from a bit more than gentle use of the floors and carpets -- stem from the three broken windows, a toilet that was rarely if ever cleaned, and huge gouges out of the enamel on the bathroom tub.

Fortunately, she said, she has before and after photos that show the extremely clean condition before the tenants moved in.

A walk through the central Barrie house now shows ripped tiles, a six-inch ragged hole made through a kitchen cupboard into a bedroom for an extension cord, and broken kitchen patio doors; Lowe can put her fingers through the broken frame.

Lowe complained to Barrie police regarding the destruction of her property, but there's little they can do.

Const. Toni Dufour said there's not enough evidence to lay a charge.

"We did contact one of the tenants, who said the damage was done by an unknown person -- there's been several parties since he moved in -- but unless there's a witness, we can't lay charges," said Dufour.

Her advice to the landlord is follow up in a civil court of law.

However, Landlord Legal owner April Stewart said she's literally got binders full of judgments she hasn't been able to collect on.

"You can't get blood from a stone," said Stewart.

The local paralegal said the services she's created to assist landlords collect from destructive or non-paying tenants has kept her running off her feet trying to collect outstanding money owed to landlords.

"I want to stress, this isn't necessarily a problem with 20- year-olds. I've seen just as many adults, right up to 60, who are irresponsible. And they're enabled by this legislation."

The biggest problem is the current landlord tenant act favours the tenant, she said.

Police can't always prove mischief, or the tenant may even have a previous eviction notice, but the sheriff can't legally tell a prospective landlord about it.

"There's no freedom of information about this. There's nothing in the system to protect the landlord," she said.

In the future, Stewart said, when a landlord is approached by younger renters, ask the parents to act as guarantors for their children. Perform a credit check; it will show if a tenant has bounced cheques. And, ask to see photo identification; some renters will use a family member's ID if they know a sibling has a better credit history.

"Visit in the first 30 days to see how they live," said Stewart.

Landlords are required to give 24-hour written notice, but regular drop-ins are worth it.

Last month, a new tenant moved into the house on Campbell Avenue

He's put up posters to cover the worst of the damage, steam-cleaned the carpets and carried the majority of the last owners refuse out to the garage -- or just thrown it out for the trash.

He said he's rented quite a few apartments, but "never saw anything as bad as this.

"I'm a patient man, I don't mind waiting for her to fix this," said the new tenant, who requested that his name not be used. "It's not her fault, but it's her responsibility to fix it."

news@thebarrieexaminer.com



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