The stereotype of a Burnaby landlord is a wealthy person who owns multiple homes and sits back getting rich on the rents.
That is true for some, but many local landlords are people who need to rent out parts of their home just to be able to pay off a hefty mortgage.
As one Burnaby landlord told me, many are on the financial edge and any disruption can lead them to financial ruin. The COVID-19 has been hard on so many people, especially workers and renters. Landlord have been hit as well, with rents frozen (the rent freeze was lifted to start this year), although it should be noted that the equity landlords have in their property has continued to skyrocket.
For Justin, a now-former-Burnaby landlord who spoke to me, he took the leap to buy a house in his hometown a decade ago, but even with lower prices back then, it was still a struggle for his two-income family because the monthly payments were so high. Justin and his wife rented out a legal basement suite in Burnaby, something that actually made them happy because they were able to offer housing to people.
But they struggled to find good tenants who would stay for a long-term period. Some were good, while others had trouble paying the rent on time.
In the end, however, it was one tenant from hell who pushed them over the financial edge.
“I read some articles you wrote about ‘tenants from hell’ and I decided to share my story,” Justin said. “We had a renter from hell who never paid his rent on time and wasn’t even nice about it. He just would ghost us and then suddenly would pay. He didn’t follow our basic rules about noise or smoking or anything really. When we finally sat him down to ‘lay down the law’ he really punished us for it. When we were on vacation a few years ago, he took a sledgehammer and did a ton of damage to the walls, the bathroom and the flooring. He just went to town on the place. Then he packed up his s**t and disappeared. It was devastating.”
This was the kind of damage that a damage deposit won’t even begin to cover, Justin said. The couple were insured, but the insurance company fought the claim, saying that their policy wouldn’t cover something like this.
Faced with a huge renovation bill, little savings and no rent money coming in, Justin and his wife decided it was better to just sell the house and move on.
“We were just scraping by and were fed up,” he said. “This was the last straw for us. We made money on the sale and decided to downsize so we weren’t always on the edge.”
Another landlord told me recently that a major problem with the Residential Tenancy Board process relates to even collecting damages from a tenant who has wrecked a rental unit.
“I have seen landlords whose homes have been completely destroyed and sure they can get a monetary order to recoup some of the costs but getting the money from these tenants is unlikely as they often leave without leaving a forwarding address and/or they have no income that can be garnished, and even trying to collect beyond sending them a ‘letter of demand’ as per the RTB, if they don’t voluntarily pay, then it can go to collections but this requires going to small claims and another lengthy process. The risk for landlords is at an all-time high.”
So, sure, there are terrible landlords and terrible tenants and they all struggle with a process that leaves few options to rectify their situations.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.