I’ve been wanting to blog about this for a long time, but now I finally can. This is the story of my former landlord. He turned out to be quite a piece of work.
In October 2008 I gave notice to our landlord. Up to that point we had a decent relationship. He always told us to treat the yard as our own. He never minded the state the yard was in. He was a bit of a hands off landlord and never did any regular maintenance on the house. The only things he did were at our request. In all we rented the house for 6 years from him. We were excellent tenants and he told us that on more than one occasion.
That all changed with the one phone call. As soon as I told him the news, his demeanour changed. He quickly became hostile and told me he was keeping our damage deposit. He told us that the yard was trashed, the hedge was dieing, and a few other things. He lived in Halifax so he got all this information from his friend who was acting as our property manager. He always lived paycheque to paycheque and I figured that he really needed the house rented to make his mortgage payments.
I took lots of notes, and consulted with the Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) more than a few times. They were excellent and offered lots of advice to me on how to handle the situation. The biggest thing was to document everything.
The next couple months were stressful as we packed up the house, cleaned it, and got ready for Christmas. At the end of November we took possession of our new house and moved. We were glad to be in a bigger house. We were ecstatic the kids each had their own rooms, and we loved the new neighbourhood.
The day we moved out I took pictures of every corner of every room in the house paying special attention to the damaged areas. I then called up the property manager and pressed him into meeting me at the house for an inspection (he was reluctant to do it). I pointed out to him the damages to the house that were caused by us.
I then handed over the keys and waited. The former landlord and I went back on forth on getting estimates for fixing the damages. At one point he wanted to replace the entire door whose paint had been scratched by Yoshi. I pushed back on that one (he quoted up to $1000 to replace a cheap wood core door).
I gave him lots of time and when we were approaching the 15 post move out limit I reminded him about that. In BC, the landlord MUST give back the damage deposit withing 15 days, or else they automatically owe twice the deposit back. If there are damages that need to be taken care of they need to get a quote on fixing them, then file a dispute with the RTO.
I let the 15 day limit slide in hopes we could work things out. I even suggested at one point he keep all but $400 of the deposit. That email went ignored.
time dragged on and nothing was getting done to get us our money. I was getting really stressed out about this which was really unfortunate since we were just about to head to New Zealand. I decided that if there was not a cheque waiting for me when we got back then I would file a dispute with the RTO.
After New Zealand, there was no cheque. I gathered the evidence I needed, including pictures of the damage (I wasn’t trying to hide anything), and went down to the RTO office and started the paper work. I had to photocopy everything and send him copies of it. With that process started I felt better. I was fighting for my rights and felt good about it.
I got the date for the hearing and when the day approached, I got reviewed everything so that I was fully prepared.
The hearing was a conference call with the adjudicator. I got to present my case first, then he got to give his side of things. Finally I got to respond to his comments.
I felt my case went well. I stuck to the facts, outlined what I had done, what I was hoping for, gave all the facts, explained all the evidence. Then it was his turn. It was evident he wasn’t prepared. He rambled on about sick dogs, busted computers, how much he spent on painting the house after we left, and proved he didn’t know the laws very well when it came to being a landlord. I found this a little funny since he quite often mentioned the RTO while we were tenants.
After he was done I got to correct a couple things he said since they weren’t totally true. When the call was done the adjudicator said she would review the evidence, and inform us of the decision by mail.
The former landlord then had a certain number of days to pay us double the damage deposit. He took the maximum amount of time possible, and was actually late by a few days. If it had gone on any longer I could have taken him to small claims court.
Now, why did I wait so long to write this? Well, he still had 2 years from the date we moved out to file a claim for damages done to the house. The 2 year time limit is up.
Now I see why the laws are so skewed to the tenant. It really is very easy for a landlord to screw over a tenant. To anyone who rents, my advice is this. Do your paperwork. Keeps copies of everything. Get a written inspection report done when you move in. Take pictures of everything before you move in, and after you move out. Get a written inspection report when you move out. Most important, know your rights and don’t be afraid to stand up for them.
Incidentally, if he had filed a dispute for the damages I likely would have paid it straight away. I never claimed there were no damages, I just wanted my portion of the damage deposit back. In the 6 years we were there, the only damage was a broken hearth tile, and a scratched door. Some people tried to convince me that those were regular wear and tear on a house. I was all about being fair and didn’t feel like those were normal.