The Need For A Tenant’s Union in Wolfville

I lived off campus for my entire degree. In 2013, I moved into a shared house at 54 Highland Avenue. My room was fantastic, I always paid my rent on time, and I felt we were pretty well taken care of. I was actually quite excited to keep living there. Then, toward the end of the year, the landlord did a showing of the house to a group of new tenants.

For the sole reason that it was easier to rent out the house to a larger group than dealing with six individual people, I was denied my place in the house for the next year. I had a little over a month to find a new place.

Luckily, me and two others from the house found a new place for the next year. This was at 19 Linden Avenue. The Landlord put immense pressure on us to sign the lease quickly (within two days of the viewing), so we caved and signed.

This house was also quite nice. My room was a bit smaller than the last house, but everything else in this place made up for it. Then a group of six hockey players inquired about the place only a month or two into the school year, and then landlord announced that he was going to rent out the room to them instead of us for the next year. One of the members of that group was a member of the Irving family and our landlord explicitly stated that he was hoping this would be a great business opportunity.

In the landlord’s defense, he gave us much more notice than my previous landlord. We found a new place for the next year within a few months and that was the end of our worries… or so we thought.

During the exam period, one of my housemates decided to throw a house party for his birthday without letting anyone else know. When 50 people showed up in our living room, we quickly called our landlord to let him know. He came over within a few minutes, already drunk, and decided to party with them. He only asked them to leave when his wife came by wondering why he hadn’t returned.

After everyone left the house, the landlord stayed and chatted with us. He told us that he was going to take money from our damage deposits to hire a professional cleaner in the house no matter how clean we left the place. There was no mention of this in our lease or in any conversation we’d had with him before. We met with him the next day to discuss the damage deposits (we recorded the conversation), and he told us he needed the money to pay for damages to other properties he was renting. He also told us that there was nothing we could do to get our damage deposits back. Even worse: our damage deposits were over half of our rent, making them illegal in the first place.

He eventually caved and agreed to give us our deposits back after giving us a list of things he expected to be done in the apartment. We did everything, and he gave everyone their damage deposits back except for two tenants that he believed didn’t do their “fair shares” of the cleaning. Coincidentally, they also happened to be the only two non-white tenants in the house, but I can only speculate about any racial motivations behind what he did.

We took him to small claims court, and he didn’t even attend in person. His only evidence submitted was a falsified cheque for a cleaning service (there was never a cleaner in the house). Obviously, he lost the case. By this point, I had moved out. I accidentally ran into him the day after small claims court, and he had some aggressive words for me.

He never paid the damage deposits back. We tried enforcing it multiple times. He sent one e-transfer several months later that bounced. Needless to say, I would not recommend him as a landlord.

My third place in Wolfville was at 13 Summer Street and I stayed there during my third and fourth years at Acadia. This landlord was definitely the best of the bunch, but I did have a mold issue with my room (I’m very allergic and it caused breathing issues) that the landlord, blatantly denied after a very brief glance at my room.

Because of the mold issue, I moved out with my partner for the summer after I graduated. This was at 7 Riverview Avenue. We were only there for a summer and the only issue we had during the tenancy was some noisy upstairs neighbors. Then came the familiar issue of the damage deposit. When we finished cleaning out the apartment, we had the RM examine the unit and verify that we would receive our deposit in full. He documented that there was no damage and the unit was properly cleaned. Then he withheld about $90 from the damage deposit for professional cleaning (he and his daughter apparently did the cleaning together). Even though it is required to give notice of withholding money from a damage deposit, we only found this out after receiving a cheque in the mail at our new place. At this point, I had completely given up on trying to get damage deposits back. We had moved to Halifax, and B&N Property Management is notorious for not returning calls and emails.

I sincerely hope that a tenant union is possible for Wolfville. Because rentals in Wolfville operate around student schedules, people are left trying to deal with terrible landlords during exam periods – an already busy and stressful time. Even more importantly, this is usually a student’s first rental experience. It’s difficult enough living on your own, buying your own groceries for the first time, and learning how to pay power bills. Students shouldn’t have to deal with negligent or abusive landlords on top of their education.

I hope these stories can contribute to this cause in even a small way.

Thank you and I wish you luck!

If you have experienced mistreatment or any others at the hands of local landlords, please get in touch with Josée Léger (Opinions Editor) @ [email protected] . Every measure to respect your privacy will be taken.

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