Dear Editor:

Media coverage and political debate always seem to focus on the experiences of tenants.

Where is the balance?  Why don’t we hear from those who own properties and provide housing?

Here’s my reality and I bet the reality that many landlords face.

Landlords must pay our taxes to the government regardless of whether we are able to collect rent.

Landlords bear the risk in financing to provide housing to others who for whatever reason cannot or do not want to become homeowners. We bear the burden of risk in operating and maintaining the properties which include a huge risk of liability. There is a cost attached to those factors which landlords should have the right to factor into their rents, just like any other business or service.

There are no controls on all the costs landlords have to pay – taxes, insurance, repairs, labour.  We are expected to cover all these increasing costs, while some politicians pretend rent control is some kind of magic solution to the problems of housing.

Housing is complex and the social problems associated with housing have generally been ignored by the government.  Why don’t we start there?

Here are some of the social problems that the government is leaving unchecked to landlords who, frankly, aren’t equipped or compensated (like government employees) to deal with.

Rental apartments have become holding tanks for citizens at risk such as:

  • senior citizens who are no longer capable of living on their own and have no support; not enough income to go into private nursing care and no rooms available at (affordable) public nursing homes.
  • citizens with mental health issues who are still deemed to be capable (but are not) and have no support.
  • citizens with addictions / and or mental health issues – same challenges as above plus there sadly arises a criminal factor and risk to safety and security of building and property
Landlords have no effective recourse to deal with problem tenants in a timely manner to minimize damages and costs. The burden of proof is on the landlord and a long-written history/documentation must be provided to handle evictions.
This causes problems not only for the landlord, but also for other tenants who deserve a safe place to live.

Here are two specific examples of what my staff and I experience:

Property damage

Provincial caseworker/social worker not checking in with their clients, with many not upholding building rules, resulting in increased property damage.  The costs of the property damages are paid by the owner, not by the government. There is no help in enforcing tenancy board decisions. In one instance, a Nova Scotia government caseworker promised that rental arrears and damages would be paid. Never happened.  This ended up costing us $25,000 damages and 6-month rent loss due to repairs.

Noise complaints & mental health

Imagine living in a place where one of your neighbours is screaming during all hours.  This happens and nobody does anything to help.  There’s no help from the mobile crisis unit or police. No grounds in assessing an individual unless the person agrees to it. No emergency tenancy board hearings to address severe cases.  You can’t imagine the stress this places on other tenants and our rental offices. The worst-case was an individual who was living in her apartment, she has been known to have mental health issues, threatening other tenants.  She was in rental arrears, we inquired about a hearing, the earliest was 40 days to have the hearing. In the meantime, the individual set her apartment on fire, endangering all tenants in the building.

I could go on and on, but at this point, why bother?  I doubt few of today’s politicians or reporters have ever worked in housing.  They don’t know and they don’t care.  Politicians will promise simplistic, unworkable ideas like rent control.  The media will provide simplistic one-sided coverage.  And the housing crisis will get worse.

Ursula Prossegger