Landlord says higher rent is not only reason it's harder for people to find rental units
© Derek Montague
The landlord's living room furniture set is fit for the dump. According to the landlord, his previous tenants did the damage.
Earlier this month, a landlord in Happy Valley-Goose Bay walked into a recently vacated one-bedroom apartment that he owned. He was stunned and upset by what he saw.
There were several holes in the wall, which were covered sloppily with plaster. The couch and chair, which he used to furnish the apartment, were ruined. The oven was so dirty, the landlord figured it would be better to replace it rather than try to clean it. The dresser in the bedroom contained a large crack and there was also a crack in the bathroom sink.
He claims the apartment did not have any of this damage before the tenants moved in.
The landlord, who wishes not to be named, has been renting apartments in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for decades. He says finding such costly damage is not rare in this town.
"It's fairly common...there are good tenants but they're hard to pick."
The reputation of landlords as a whole has taken a beating in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in recent months. With the Muskrat Falls project causing an economic boom, the demand for houses and apartments have gone up. So, too, has the rent.
The apartment that the landlord had damaged was being rented for $900 a month, before the tenants moved out. Less than a year ago, it was being rented for $750 a month. Five years ago it was between $500-$600 a month.
"Of course the demand's there...so there's supply and demand. Then you got (increased) property tax and water tax...all that makes a difference," says the landlord.
"Landlords are like anybody else, they see a chance to make money, they got to make it. Because for a long time the demand wasn't there, and we weren't making that much."
The landlord invited The Labradorian into his damaged apartment so people can realize that it's not an easy job.
He also wants people to know that bad tenants who cause damage only makes it harder for the general population to find apartments, due to lack of trust.
"Unless you know somebody (personally), you're very reluctant to rent it. Or unless they got good references," he said.
"Anybody who's just starting out renting, it makes it very, very, difficult for them."
In this recent case of apartment damage, the landlord claims he didn't see any damage until last winter.
"For the first couple years there was no damage...the first time I noticed any damage was last winter. I noticed the outside door broke and that's supposed to be from when they locked themselves out, which doesn't really add up," he says.
When the landlord came back in the springtime, he says he began to notice the bigger damage inside the apartment.
"I was pretty upset; disgusted with it all," he says.
The tenants - who lived in the apartment for four years - gave an initial damage deposit of $400, according to the landlord. But before they moved out, the landlord claims, the tenants gave him an extra $1000 for the damage.
The landlord says that still won't cover all of the damage, especially the furniture that was ruined.
One of the main problems for landlords in town, he says, is the lack of resources in getting retribution for damages and unpaid rent.
The landlord says he tried to sue tenants in previous years that caused damage to his property, but that the court system is difficult to navigate.
"I have taken that (court) route and it's hardly worthwhile," he says.
"It's a long process, there's a lot of applications, lots of fees, and a lot of wasted time."
But for the landlord, the biggest issue is not having a permanent provincial official in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to deal with landlord-tenant disputes.
"If there was a landlord-tenant representative here that could come in and see the damage, maybe it would be easier...it might be a month or two months before anybody shows up."
For now, says the landlord, anybody renting an apartment should do everything to make sure a new tenant is responsible and reliable.
"The only thing you can do is be very careful and try to screen the people that you put into your places and that's what landlords are trying to do now, by making it very, very, difficult for some people to get apartments."
He also adds having furnished apartments may just be an invitation for more costly damage.
"That was probably a mistake, to leave my apartment furnished."