Tenant says landlord would not address water woes

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on April 11, 2014
Raymond Trudel was without water at his St. John’s home from Monday to Thursday, and says his landlord wouldn’t address the problem.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

A man living in downtown St. John’s says he was without water from Monday afternoon until Thursday and could not get his landlord to respond.

Thursday, city plumbing and building inspectors visited Raymond Trudel’s apartment and determined that the water valve for the unit — which is located in a different unit — had been shut off.

The city turned it back on, as a city bylaw states all residential units must be provided with water.

A spokeswoman said Friday the city was attempting to contact both the local property manager and the owner of the property in Calgary.

Before the city got involved, Trudel said, he had been going to coffee shops to use the washroom, but had also melted snow in order to flush the toilet.

“I can’t get a wash. I can’t cook nothing,” Trudel said Wednesday during the water outage.

He noticed his toilet wasn’t functioning Monday afternoon and, after initial contact with his landlord, lost all his water.

According to Trudel, the water cut out after he had a dispute with his landlord over an allegation of unpaid rent. Trudel said he showed the landlord handwritten receipts last weekend.

He also said he has not received an eviction notice.

Attempts by The Telegram to contact the property management company he rents from have been unsuccessful.

The Telegram did receive a phone call this week from a man claiming to be an employee. That employee said the water issue was a plumbing problem, but he also alluded to the rent payment dispute, questioned the validity of the receipts and said the company had other tenants’ issues to address first.

Requests for official comment from the company have gone unanswered.

While The Telegram was checking out the situation Wednesday, Trudel received a phone call from the Residential Tenancies Division, which agreed to try to contact his landlord.

But he was initially advised during the call to submit a letter to his landlord advising that the apartment is unlivable, terminating the residency immediately.

“Where am I supposed to go live then? I have nowhere to go,” Trudel said he angrily told the caller.

Afterwards, he and his girlfriend said it took them six months to find the place.

“I am just ready to lose my mind. I don’t know what to do. I’m quick with my mouth. It’s not fair to someone who is trying to do something (to help). This is all I got. Now I am stuck with nothing and being told I got to move.”

St. John’s South Liberal MHA Tom Osborne has been advocating for an overhaul of the Residential Tenancies Act.

If the act were strengthened, he said, the agency could order a landlord to fix a problem, rather than force a tenant to move out over unresolved repairs.

“Landlords and tenants are bound by an antiquated act,” Osborne said, adding a new act would protect landlords as well.

“Minimum standards would alleviate many of the issues people are facing.”

A spokeswoman for Service NL said the review of the Residential Tenancies Act is ongoing and the analysis includes consultations that have already taken place as well as a review of best practices from other jurisdictions.

As for Trudel’s complaint, the spokeswoman said the Residential Tenancies Division cannot comment on specific cases.

Trudel contacted The Telegram Thursday night to say he intercepted maintenance staff from the rental company after his water was turned off again.

He said after he confronted them, the water was reinstated. The workers were at the apartment installing a smoke detector, Trudel said.

Trudel said he intends to file a formal complaint with the Residential Tenancies Division.

bsweet@thetelegram.com