From Where I Sit – Lessons Learned

About a year ago our son suggested we buy an income property as an investment. The return would be better than GICs or stocks he argued. Greg and his wife, Carrie, had been successfully renting out two half duplexes for about ten or eleven years.

So began an adventure. He arranged for some viewings in our price range. One evening we saw three. I was sold on the first; Roy began doing crazy talk about buying farmland instead. I loooove being blindsided. He’s also famous for making announcements in front of strangers rather than at home where we can fight it out! Needless to say, we hesitated for just long enough for another offer to come in that obviously bumped up the final price.

You’ve heard the expression about education not being free? So true. We took possession March 24, got the property ready by replacing the front door and painting the raw plywood basement steps, and had it occupied by April 4. I really liked the place and could see myself living there if and when the time came. In hindsight, we should have waited for a better tenant. (If You’re paying attention, this is Lesson One. Doing a good job screening tenants prevents/minimizes trouble later.)

Greg and Carrie had become our property managers and did the ads, showings, accepted the tenant applications, and did the credit and reference checks. But they tired of showing the place and we were worried about ever finding a tenant. So, we all agreed to accept a common-in-law couple with two or four kids (depending on custody arrangements). She had a good credit rating; he did not. But they talked a good game.

By July, Carrie was receiving texts and calls from her complaining about him, referencing visits by Social Services and police. They separated. I got calls from utility companies saying the gas and power would be disconnected. Things settled down until the December rent cheque bounced.

We wanted them out. Now. Lesson Two: the landlord and tenant act seeks to protect both parties but feels hopelessly lopsided when You’re the wronged party. Contrary to myth you can evict someone in winter but there are myriad steps to follow, to the letter, first.

And so our education began in earnest. I called and visited the Landlord and Tenancy Advisory Board and bought their kit of documents ($15). We served him 14 Days Notice of Substantial Breach (unpaid rent, unapproved people living there). Had he complied with that, they would have moved out before December 23rd. Lesson Three: In reality all that did was delay the inevitable by two extra weeks and add to our costs. In the meantime I stumbled across a couple of websites that are extremely helpful. ( and I bought Bill’s eviction guide ($40), watched the videos, read everything. He even answered my email questions.

By this time we had the soonest hearing date we could get (January 2) through RTDRS (Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service) ($75). That entailed completing the application form and gathering all our evidence into four packages, two of which needed to be served to the two tenants even if one was long gone. Then, we get an Affidavit of Service sworn?dthe law dictates how and by when. We show up for the hearing in downtown Edmonton. It starts twenty-five minutes late because the tenant is lost, dare I say in more ways than one. So we agree to proceed with him on the telephone.

Bottom line, we got what we wanted: an unconditional order for eviction by noon, January 5th. Of course, to make it legal we needed to register it at Court of Queen’s Bench. We were also awarded December’s rent plus a daily rate for each day he ?overheld? in January plus hearing fee plus two unpaid water bills. The total being roughly $2300. Have you ever tried to get blood out of a stone? Collection options exist but also add to our costs and inconvenience.

But still it wasn’t over. If he chose not to be gone by noon, we would have needed to go back to court to serve a notice of breach that would then allow us to hire a bailiff to physically remove him. (Estimated at $400-800).

And in all this we had no idea of the state of the property. Would he, or had he already, trashed it? Would he leave the taps running, windows open, and furnace turned off? We arrived early that day and parked up the street like private investigators on a stake out. The nitwit had backed his truck over the curb, public sidewalk, our sidewalk, and over some shrubs to get right up to the deck steps. Alberta was in a deep, deep freeze. Temps were about minus thirty that weekend. December had been balmy and would have made moving so much more pleasant. By hey, he needed a cozy roof over his head to open the big screen TV that Santa must have brought.

At the appointed time Greg, Roy, and I entered. It was not trashed, but was filthy. The garden shed had a hole punched in the door, a corner strip on the siding was broken, and the drywall in the basement stairwell had holes and gouges. The furnace filter was so plugged that it had collapsed and been sucked damn near into the furnace. The fridge, chest freezer, and dishwasher had dents. The back yard was strewn with stuff, both good and garbage.

With a fresh paint-job, a day of professional cleaning, and shampooed carpets, we hope to erase any trace of this tenant. The first few showings indicated strong interest from decent people. Our screening process will be stepped up. We now know the scams ?professional tenants? use.

While this tenant may be gone, the lessons learned remain forever, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..

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