Getting even- landlord retaliation. When you were a tenant, did you ever experience it? If so, I’ll be no matter how many years it was in your history, it still stings.
When my husband and I moved to Calgary 8 years ago for new jobs, we opted to rent for a year before deciding to buy.
The condo we rented was built in the 1980s and, although dated, had ample space, a lovely loft area, heaps of light, a heated underground parkade, and was close to my husband’s work and it was reasonably priced. It seemed like a good fit.
I filled in an application, paid the security deposit and the 1st month’s rent, and moved in. Our landlord didn’t run a credit report or check employment or landlord references. During the move-in inspection, he was defensive and angry about any items I noted. Those were clues to his level of professionalism.
We were great tenants. We always paid early, kept the property spotlessly clean, and contributed to the community by helping our aging condo neighbours carry groceries to their units and decorating the lobby for special events and holidays. The board kept asking us to join.
Throughout our tenancy, we had multiple issues with the 25-year-old toilets. I’d call the landlord, who would show up in a three-piece suit with a toolbox, ask me for a piece of fruit, cut slices off and flush them down the toilet. After a few minutes of doing his fruit-flushing trick, he’d proudly declare, “fixed!”.
After the 3rd or 4th visit, he broke down and called a real plumber who told him to replace the 25-year-old toilets because they were beyond their best-before date and couldn’t be repaired. The landlord was furious and shouted that I was costing him too much money and that if I had any other issues with maintenance, I could find someplace else to live.
A month before our lease expired, he sent a lease renewal with a price increase of $250/month. Obviously, in retaliation for “costing him too much money.” He was within his legal boundaries in Alberta, where there is no limit on the amount a landlord can raise the rent.
After reading the email, I told my husband we are not giving that &^%$! Another dime! We didn’t stay.
When working in our former property management business, we conducted a move-out inspection for (what the landlord called) a “troublesome” tenant. When we arrived, the tenant was very polite and respectful and had done an excellent job of the move-out cleaning. During the inspection, he told us the landlord repeatedly entered his unit without permission and would call and scold him for not doing his dishes or putting certain items in the closet. The tenant called Service Alberta, who informed him the landlord had violated the landlord/tenant legislation rules of entry. The tenant reiterated this conversation with Service Alberta to the landlord and gave his notice to vacate. Since the landlord had been a frequent flier with the RTDRS, and knew he would be accused of landlord retaliation, he accepted the notice.
“Samantha Barnes, a single mother with young twins, said her stay in a cold and drafty apartment in Lethbridge, Alta., was “horrible,” as she and her children shivered through the winter months without adequate heat and windows that didn’t stop the cool wind from blowing in.
Barnes said after repeated requests to get the problems fixed, her landlord tried to end the tenancy, refused her rent payment, changed the lock on her door, and then accused her of failing to pay the rent.
March 2021, the two sides agreed to settle the dispute — with Barnes receiving a cheque for $20,000 and Avenue Living insisting it did nothing wrong during the tenancy.” (Alberta Landlord pays former tenant $20,000 in Court Settlement)
“The Hernandezes and their five children lived in a broken-down apartment in the USA for more than nine years. In 2019, the couple, along with other Spanish-speaking residents, were ordered to pay a so-called $350 penalty for having items such as bicycles and children’s toys on their patios. Alejandra Hernandez and the Housing Justice League and Los Vecinos de Buford Highway helped organize neighbors in June to protest the penalty.”
“The $350 penalties were dismissed, but the Hernandezes started receiving notices they were violating apartment rules by leaving a garbage bag outside their door or leaving a stroller in the breezeway. Alejandra Hernandez continued to organize residents during the summer of 2019, who now called themselves Residentes Unidos. They continued to protest dangerous living conditions, called The City of Brookhaven officials, called and wrote to corporate management to demand repairs, and also learned their rights as tenants.”
“In the end, Alejandra and Yair Hernandez agreed to settle with Fifeco Property Management, owner of the Reserve at Brookhaven apartments, for $5,000. The landlord did not admit any guilt as part of the settlement agreement, which was reached on Feb. 28.” (Brookhaven couple settles with landlord in court case alleging retaliatory eviction).
Landlord harassment can be difficult to prove and can encompass many areas, such as;
- Failing to perform timely maintenance tasks
- Withholding previously allowed amenities, such as pool or gym privileges.
- Notices of improper or exaggerated conduct
- Notices of discriminatory conduct that singles out a specific tenant while disregarding violations from other tenants
- Refusing to accept or acknowledge rent payment
- Entering the property without just cause or proper notice
- Disrupting the tenant’s ability to quietly enjoy the rental unit (including frequent or unscheduled inspections)
- Deliberate destruction of tenant’s property
- Threats such as false reports to a credit bureau or refusing references to future landlords
- Physical intimidation and threats of physical violence.
In an extreme case of landlord retaliation, in 2022, an Ottawa police officer pleaded guilty to disciplinary charges against him after threatening to kill his former tenant and sell the man’s child during an off-duty dispute over late rent payments.
If a tenant has legitimate evidence of landlord harassment they can present to the courts, it will go poorly for the landlord.
In my experience, landlord retaliation is rare. Most landlords make every effort to provide safe, clean accommodations for tenants and take the high road when dealing with issues—those who don’t and retaliate against tenants for legitimate concerns foster the image of the greedy slumlord prevalent in the media.
My former landlord wasn’t the worst of the landlord retaliation stories by any means. Although we had options and means to live elsewhere, it still makes me angry he treated us disrespectfully for wanting toilets that flushed.
Have you had experience with a former landlord getting even? I’d love to hear about it [email protected]
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