On his birthday this week, David Perry hauls out a box of newspapers he’s saved from his frustrating apartment hunt.
Perry, 54, was supposed to be out of his centre city apartment several days ago. He said he was given his eviction notice after complaining about issues with the apartment, including water leaking over a hot water tank and electrical wires.
Perry said the owner claimed the house was being sold, but no real estate sign ever went up.
“I’m going to stay determined, not only for myself, but looking at other people who are in the same predicament, afraid to go to council or they will get a notice to get out,” he said.
But Perry couldn’t find another place to live and said he is on a waiting list at Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.
His girlfriend, Wanda Davis, was helping him find an apartment and described calling one listing.
The prospective landlord asked where Perry worked.
“Of course that was the welfare question,” Davis said, adding she explained he has a disability and receives social assistance.
“He said, ‘I wouldn’t dare put anybody from social services in my apartment. My apartment is too good for ye people.’”
Davis also rents and finds it hard to make ends meet in the face of housing costs — $525 plus utilities for a small bachelor apartment.
The social assistance rent rate structure varies from $299-$522 a month. Allowances after that are based on various factors including number of dependants and special needs. Perry has no dependants and said once he pays his utilities, he sometimes has to go without food.
“This place really drained me dry,” said Perry, who has a club foot that often kept him home from school as a child. He said he has a Grade 3 education and worked at painting houses until several years ago when he suffered severe repetitive-strain issues.
St. John’s Centre NDP MHA Gerry Rogers’ office has been trying to help Perry, who said he moved to the St. John’s apartment in January because his rent was nearly doubled in Mount Pearl after the house was sold to new owners.
The St. John’s apartment costs $600 plus utilities, but the light bill in the winter was upwards of $400 a month, said Perry, adding he has not been reimbursed for repairs in the unit, including new taps and oven elements.
“Wanda and David are the epitome of the housing crisis we’ve found ourselves in, and everybody is so vulnerable if they have low income — assistance or minimum wage,” Rogers said.
While The Telegram and Rogers spoke with Perry at his home this week, two Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers showed up.
The landlord, believed to live in the U.S., has a local man managing his properties, but the manager seems to spend most of his time out of the country, Perry and Davis said, adding that the man’s cellphone is mostly turned off and its mailbox usually full.
Because Perry and other tenants, as well as officials, were phoning the manager’s elderly mother, the RNC officers said she is ill and doesn’t want calls anymore.
Const. Jennifer Clarke, filling in Friday as the RNC’s media spokeswoman, said such calls are for general assistance and the RNC tries to provide advice to mediate situations, including referring people to the provincial landlord-tenants office.
Clarke said the RNC receives calls from landlords and tenants every day.
Jennifer Mills, spokeswoman for the City of St. John’s, said in May the St. John’s Regional Fire Department had ordered repairs because of the water dripping over the wiring at Perry’s apartment, but the tenant was allowed back in when that was fixed.
She said there is an outstanding work order for the owner to do plumbing and outside maintenance work, but a permit has been obtained.
The city has received some complaints about garbage and noise around the two-apartment property, but it hasn’t been traced to a particular resident.
In Perry’s apartment, which has a overpowering sour smell, the water is still dripping over the water tank, where there also appears to be electrical wiring. Perry said he’s been unable to use his hot water. The tub is full of brown residue from draining the tank.
He said neighbourhood cats can get in through a gap in the foundation behind his tub and urinate there, and there’s electrical running under it.
Davis said since Perry moved in, there has been a mice and flea infestation and the toilet was backed up for two weeks.
On Friday, Perry was still looking for a place to live and was trying to avoid shelters because of a traumatic experience he had at a shelter in the past.
A call to the landlord was not returned by deadline.