Following a bad experience with renters amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Gardom Lake couple is hoping their experience can prompt change in the way landlords and tenants interact.
Clive Callaway and Cathryn Rankin accepted two new tenants into the rental unit at their Gardom Lake property at the start of February 2020. The couple said rent cheques stopped coming from one of them on April 1 – she moved out without warning shortly thereafter and left no forwarding address.
The other tenant, who Callaway and Rankin said was on social assistance, had stopped paying rent as of July 1.
The landlords say matters were complicated by the eviction freeze put in place by the B.C. government from March to September. The freeze came with a provision giving tenants who owed rent which would have been due during the freeze until July 2021 to pay it back. They said they were eventually able to evict the remaining tenant on medical grounds before the end of the freeze as her smoking was irritating Rankin’s asthma and Callaway also recently had a pacemaker implanted. This, they explained, was a lengthy process requiring letters from doctors.
As non-working pensioners, Callaway and Rankin described the income from the rental unit as an important piece of their fragile financial situation. While attempting to collect the unpaid rent, which they said amounted to $4,600, they found how difficult and expensive a process it can be.
Callaway said they have paid more than $350 in court, registered mailing and Residential Tenancy Branch application fees. In addition, he said they have driven more than 500 kilometres on errands to the courthouse and bank.
Also adding to their mileage total was an attempt to locate their former tenants to serve the summons to a payment hearing. In absence of a forwarding address they had to operate off rumours and intuition. Callaway and Rankin said the search made them feel like vigilantes.
Hiring a professional skip tracer to handle the service of the papers was a possibility, but Callaway and Rankin said it was a further expense they could ill afford and they were unable to find one based anywhere closer than Kelowna. More than a month after their initial search for the former tenants, Callaway said they still have not been able to secure a skip tracer’s services.
Unable to successfully serve the former tenants with papers, Callaway said he had to cancel the payment hearing they had scheduled with the courts. Frustrated, he noted if another product or service were taken without payment, it might be possible to get the police involved.
The couple believe better solutions should available for situations such as theirs, to improve things for both landlords and tenants when conflicts arise.
One possibility is more government supports for landlords who rely on rental income to make ends meet. Rankin said when the rent money stopped arriving, both tenants were provided with information on how to apply for a rent relief program. There was no indication they ever applied. Callaway and Rankin said the situation could have been approved if there was some way for landlords to initiate the rent relief process when tenants choose not to.
They also said they wouldn’t be opposed to paying into some sort of protection fund to assist low-income landlords in the event of non-payment.
Callaway and Rankin said situations like the one they experienced can lead to reduced rental inventory. They said they have heard from other landlords who have chosen to rent out their properties on a short-term basis or not at all due to negative experiences.
The non payment led Callaway and Rankin to consider selling their property, but they said they now have good tenants in place.