Landlording Advice - Difficult Tenant

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Landlording Problems - Difficult Tenant

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Q: I am a new landlord that assumed I was being more than fair and generous to my tenant. I let her move in days early, took care of all the yard work because she was simply just not doing it, and supplying her with paint and brushes to paint a just painted suite.
On May the 1st when my father in law went to pick up the rent cheque she mentioned she thought there might be something wrong with the furnace. He checked all pilot lights, which were working fine and told her it had been fixed only months earlier so there should be not problem. After he left she phoned Terasen Gas, which we had no problem with. Tereasen put a "red tag" on the furnace stating there was a blockage. She let us know and my father in law went over and re-moved the blockage, gave her a space heater, even though the average temp. for that time was over 13 and told her the gas fitter would be there is a couple days to to ensure that he had indeed fixed the problem. The total length of time, according to the tenant was from May 1 - May 6, 2005.

Also, on May 1,2005 she gave notice stating that she had found a place to rent on the reserve for much less.

The part I have the problem with is that a couple days later, she told my father in law that she had put a stop payment on the rent cheque and would only pay a portion of the rent for that month. My father in law stated to her that he was not going to argue with her and that the mortage needed to be paid so he would accept the cheque she was offering. A total of $116.00 was deducted for no use of the furnace and she also charged us for the stop payment of her rent cheque.

In trun, I deducted it from her security deposit. Now that I have been served with arbitration papers, I now realize my error!!!!

She is asking for $550.00, double her damage deposit although she has already cashed a cheque for the remained of her deposit in the amount of $159.00. In her arbitration case she claims that the reason she had to move out was because the "furnace" situation was causing her and her unborn baby stress and that my father in law was uncaring. The tenant also added, in her package, that she had to call Teresan in March, they responded to her emergency to call and fixed the problem immediately. She claims that my father in law gave her permission to deducted the money, which he denies. Futhermore, at the end of her arbitaration package she ask for further monetary compensation because of poor treatment.

What recourse do I have? I really feel like she has all the rights.

Please help, I feel like the wicked landlady who is going to have to struggle for months to pay a crazy amount of money to someone who is working the system, untruthfully.
A: First off, working on the presumption that this is a month-to-month tenancy agreement, the tenant is required to give at least one full calendar month's written notice that he or she is ending the tenancy. A May 1st notice therefore isn't technically effective until the last day of June. So the end of tenancy date gets backed up to then too, and the security deposit is required to be returned or claimed against within 15 days, which takes you to July 15th.
It strikes me that your tenant is trying to finagle 'double the security deposit' but she hasn't thought it all the way through. Neither did she think it through clearly when she lopped money off the rent because paying the rent in full and on time is a material term of every agreement - save for those rare situations where an Arbitrator has ordered that the rent money is to be redirected, credited, etc.
Tenants can make emergency repairs where the landlord can't be reached, but sound documentation is required. Money can be taken off the rent for this reason but it requires more than a 'you said she said' circumstance - people have to be able to substantiate it.
In some situations the tenant can treat the tenancy as ended due to a fundamental breach of the agreement or frustration of the contract, in which case the one-month written notice doesn't apply - but other things do - like notification to the landlord of the breach / frustration and an opportunity to fix it.
This means that the red tag on the furnace by the gas people will come into play when you go to arbitration, and it gets confusing when you say she said (there we go again) Terasan fixed the problem in March when they responded to an emergency call. An Arbitrator will have to decide what's up with the furnace, and when, and could decide that having no working furnace was a deal breaker, and frustrated the whole contract - or that the furnace was already fixed and this is an excuse.
Lopping money off the security deposit and returning a lesser amount wasn't a good idea because it is clear that you didn't get consent in writing to do so. Neither did you have an Arbitrator's order to deduct any amount from the tenant's deposit. Technically, it is the tenant's money, and you can't touch it without her consent, an Arbitrator's order, or a claim filed against it.
The extra money the tenant is asking for due to poor treatment won't go very far because Arbitrators can only award punitive damages in the most egregious of circumstances.

So you're in for some excitement. You will likely counterclaim for unpaid rent, debt and damages. You'll get to serve papers, gather evidence, pour over the Residential Tenancy Act, and spend numerous hours on a computer; you'll prepare what you're going to say several times over and compose how you're going to respond. Then you'll decide that isn't the way you want to go and you'll chuck it all out and start again. You'll get to dwell on this at night when you try going to sleep; you'll muse about it during the day. You may even develop physical ailments like headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea.
(As an aside, I had two cases in one week where one of the parties shut themselves up in the bathroom and wouldn't or couldn't come out. One was having stomach problems and couldn't get more than 20 feet away from a toilet; the other was a germ freak who had used up all the paper towels washing his hands. He couldn't get it together to touch the door without the protection of paper towels so as far as he was concerned he was stuck in there.)
Nevertheless, your day will come. You'll meet with the Arbitrator and hear what the other side really has to say, and it might be nasty. You'll experience the full range of emotions like anxiety, anguish, and frustration, and maybe even disbelief. You'll probably not agree with how the Arbitrator handles the whole situation and you'll wonder how the Arbitrator can't see through the whole thing anyway.
But you'll get your day in court, as it were. And then you'll get on with your life. The only thing you'll really know for sure is that if you'd consulted somebody like me before you rented out the property you'd have saved yourself a whole lot of time, trouble and expense - but hey, some people think they can do it own their own and save a consulting fee. These people often become my best customers.


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