So, here’s the situation. Individual puts a load of money on the line, hoping to build a bit of a nestegg for retirement. Self employed for years, there was no pension plan in site and the RRSP’s had taken a beating.
So the individual buys a house, spends a fair bit of time and money cleaning, sanding floors, painting and preparing for tenants. Sets a fair price to attract good tenants. Offers free laundry, parking, and a few other amenities.
Nice young couple with great references, both employed, move in. Bring a dog. Bring a cat. Offer to shovel the driveway in lieu of $100 rent. Sounds good. Their pets are wonderful and they walk the dog all the time. Their references check out.
New landlord breathes a sigh of relief and figures this just might work. It’s going to take more than a year before the house will carry itself, but it’s a good investment.
The tenants, it turns out, were a poor investment. Didn’t seem to have their jobs any more. Never went to work. Never shovelled the driveway. Never walked the dog. And bounced every postdated rent cheque they had handed over, each with an excuse more miraculous than the one before.
Enter April Stewart. These kinds of tenants make her blood boil.
“This landlord did everything right. If anything they were too trusting, but they should not be penalized for being nice. And the law works on the side of the tenants… there’s free legal aid for tenants but there’s nothing for landlords.”
That’s why April gathered up her resources, took paralegal training, learned the Landlord & Tenant Act backward and forward. And opened up Landlord Legal.
“I became a mediator, and a paralegal and in 2000 I opened a business where I managed residential properties. All my experiences as a landlord were very good. But that’s because I knew how to select good tenants. Landlords I knew were approaching me with tenant horror stories. There is nobody to advocate for landlords and the legislation seems biased towards tenants. There’s no free legal aid for landlords, and unless they hire a lawyer, there’s nobody advocating for a landlord.
April rolled up her sleeves and went to work. She launched her business seriously just as landlord/tenant disputes were removed from the court system in favour of the Landlord and Tenant Board with an adjudicator. Because she’s been both a landlord and a tenant, April can see things fairly from both points of view. “The landlords who end up in a tribunal are usually landlords who’ve been victimized by a tenant who knows the system. They vandalize. They don’t pay their rent. They refuse to leave. Often tenants will take over a whole building and take total advantage of a landlord.
“I am the terminator. If a tenant can’t or won’t pay, they can’t stay. I’ll do whatever it takes to get them out.”
April says her message to tenants is very real; she’s either their best friend or their worst nightmare.” They get to choose. She serves papers, attends hearings, collects on judgement. She’ll be as involved as the landlord wants her to be.
April tells the story of a call from the police last week. It was for a unit in a complex that she manages. The tenants had moved out, completely, but left three cats and a large dog in a tiny crate. No water or food for any of the animals. As he watched his humans leave, the dog became hysterical, and restricted to a cage too small to turn around in, he became distraught, and dangerous.
April helped the OSPCA get the dog into their truck. It was 2:30 am. April will bill her landlord client who lives out of town and doesn’t have to get up at 2:30 am. The tenants were charged with animal cruelty, among other things.
April helps landlords. She gives workshops on how to deal with tenants. She teaches realtors how to find tenants for their lease properties. Her advice? The first month a tenant goes into default, deal with it. “If you’re very nice, a good business person, treat your rental property like the business it is and deal with it. If you can’t deal with it, call me and I”ll deal with it.
“I’ll get the order to evict. I’ll use the sheriff’s office to enforce the eviction. If they don’t pay all the back rent they owe, I’ll go to small claims court and guarnishee or lien wages or property.”
She knows there are often two sides to a story and she qualifies every situation. She does not represent an irresponsible landlord. She represents caliber landlords. She takes on crisis properties, cleans them out, hires superintendents and fills the units with great tenants. Then she moves on.
And she will. She’s not called The Terminator for nothing. And she’s not intimidated by anybody.
Good landlords deserve good tenants. Good tenants deserve good landlords. The rest deserve each other.