Ottawa Couple Face Eviction Over Autistic Son’s Wall Shaking Noise

Add this to the “difficult situation” file and try coming to a conclusion on how you feel about this one after hearing the whole story. The Ottawa Citizen reported parents Keri Oastler and John From were recently served an N5 notice by their landlord over the noise their autistic son has been making. The couple literally just moved in to the unit on a year long lease that started on October 1st.

According to the article, the formal notice came after tenants below and beside the family complained the noise was “like a 50-pound box being dropped repeatedly.” The notice said the two neighbours were disturbed by “running, jumping and screaming” between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. — the only times that From says his son is at home and awake. As is common with N5 notices in the province of Ontario, the family has been afforded 7 days to rectify the problem.

From’s son, Logan — an 80-pound, blond, blue-eyed boy — occasionally has tantrums, though they are becoming less and less frequent, his parents say. He will sometimes “squeak” and loves to climb and jump, so much so that his parents say they’re considering acrobatics as a career path. After this whole exchange – From and Oastler no longer want to live in what they’ve described as a hostile environment and are currently considering registering a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I can understand where they’re coming from. They just moved in to this place. Kind of difficult to feel unwelcome amidst all this.

Residents of the townhouse community on Lisgar stret were set aback a bit on the initial story about this on the 11th.

Noise complaints have to be pretty severe in order for most people to complain. A lack of concrete division between units (as is the case here) can do nothing for the dampening of transferable sound, so I can definitely appreciate where the other residents are coming from. As a parent, I can also appreciate where Oastler and From are coming from. It sounds like their son’s condition is a challenge, and situations like these have a tendency to put you on the defensive – but what do you do? The other tenants have the right to the reasonable enjoyment of their units, and the “noise” they’re complaining about sounds like it’s occurring at pretty inopportune times. Imagine sitting down to dinner or trying to get your kids down for the night, and hearing the “constant and repeated dropping of a 50 lb. box”.

I think we can all imagine being on both sides of the aisle with this one. According to the Oye Times, who also did a piece on the dilemma, the property management company was not “properly informed” of Logan’s disability by From. From claims he did in fact explain that his son has autism and would be making a little more noise than usual.

As an example of the frequent impossibility that many landlords find themselves in – had the landlord denied the application for tenancy based on the explanation of Logan’s disability, From and Oastler could have applied to the Ontario Human Right’s Commission for discrimination on the basis of disability. Now, they’re doing it anyways. This kind of thing can happen. Landlords can get raked over the coals over stuff like this – even if they do the right thing and have good intentions. To add a level of complexity to the situation – the landlord is also bound by the will of the condominium board (they pushed on the notice serving with the owner/property manager) – proving that condo landlords have it a little harder.

In the end, it sounds like it just wasn’t a good match between unit and tenant. From and Oastler are better served to be living in a single family home or a more audibly insulated unit from their neighbours. What do you think? Share an opinion here. I’d love to hear the thoughts of other landlords and tenants.

Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Landlord?

The Globe and Mail published this great piece a few days ago entitled, “Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Landlord?”. It offers a sober look at the pros of being a landlord and the benefits of income property ownership. It’s a great counter piece to all of the discouraging things you might hear from people who’ve tried it and had it not work out. If you’re reading this, you know property ownership and property management are hard. This piece is refreshing because it paints an accurate picture of the situation with rental property ownership. In short – it’s a marathon, not a race.

Read the piece here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/mortgages/home-buying/do-you-have-what-it-takes-to-be-a-landlord/article11636234/

Why Tenant Screening Is Wickedly Important

Mistake #1 for landlords: renting on a hunch. It’s insane.

When we built Renting Well, we made it a quick priority to include access to background checking within the app. To make this happen we were fortunate to partner with BackCheck, Canada’s leading background checking service. One of the reasons we did this was because basic credit checks are just one piece of the pie. It’s good to have access to other background checking elements like employment verifications and a criminal background check. I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Iain Murray at BackCheck to discuss some interesting stats when it comes to landlords “checking” who they’re renting to:

  • 10% of Canadians have a criminal record. That’s over 3 million people. 
  • 28.5% of tenant applicants will have poor credit.
  • 12.1% of tenant applicants will lie about their employment.
  • Almost 25% of landlords would not recommend a former tenant to another landlord.
  • About 45% of BackCheck’s small landlord customers will request a criminal background check.

Conducting criminal background checks is more important than landlords might realize — an individual with a criminal history, who continues living a life of lawful offense, can have a great impact on a building and even an entire community. While a check is not exclusionary, it has the potential of reducing the number of thieves and violent ex-criminals who wish to neighbour among other tenants.

With that said, a criminal check can uncover any one of a number of offenses — not just violent crimes. People get charged with minor offenses like fraud and theft — things which most landlords would want to know before making a decision to rent to a tenant or not. There is no such thing as too much information for a landlord. Any kind of criminal background is something you should be aware of. Landlords have the right to refuse to a tenant because of their criminal history and ultimately the responsibility lies with you when it comes to introducing new tenants into your property. Check out this great info sheet published by Crime Prevention Ottawa in September 2009 that discusses how landlords can avoid and overcome the challenges of crime and disorder (such as drug dealing) on their property.

How Landlords Can Prevent Bursting Water Pipes in Cold Weather

Today in Ottawa it’s -38°C. It’s ridiculous. As a matter of fact, large portions of the United States and Canada are getting reamed with a cold weather snap. -20 celsius weather is being reported in places like Minnesota, Illinois, New York City, Toronto, and Montreal. It’s prime weather for water pipes to freeze and burst which can create a damage nightmare for small landlords and a more-than-minor inconvenience for tenants. This generally sucks. Landlords must check if their property needs a heat pump repair. It’s a sneaking problem for many of us to deal with (especially those of us who aren’t renting all inclusive units and whose tenants are covering their own utilities) and it’s made even more painful when self-managing landlords have to deal with it during weather that makes Antarctica look like a beach vacation. You may also stock up on supplies like valves, 316 Stainless Lag Bolts and screws, and wrenches that you can use when repairs are needed for your plumbing system.

First… why do pipes freeze?

  • Poorly protected pipes which haven’t been sufficiently insulated
  • Exposure to icy draughts, usually as a result of cracks or gaps at the point where the pipe enters your home
  • Pipes located inside cupboards — warm air from inside your home may not reach these pipes if your cupboard doors are closed most of the time
  • Generally insufficient heat in units.

Secondly, what makes pipes burst?

  • Water freezes and expands inside household pipes
  • Continual freezing and expansion of water inside the pipe causes pressure to build up between the ice blockage and the closed faucet
  • As a result of repeated pressure on this section of pipe, the pipe eventually bursts

If you suspect that you have a damaged or burst pipe, Tommie’s licensed plumbers are just a call away.

How can I prevent frozen and bursting water pipes?

  1. Let a thin stream of cold water run from a faucet. The stream should be a continuous flow, about the thickness of a pencil. This water can be caught in a bucket or pail to be recycled for another purpose later, if desired.
  2. Be sure pipes in unheated areas of a unit or crawlspace are insulated. Many hardware and home improvement stores carry foam insulation for this purpose.
  3. Leave interior cupboard doors under sinks open, especially if the water pipes are adjacent to an exterior wall. This will allow heat from the room access to the pipes.
  4. Plug drafty cracks and repair broken windows that could allow cold air to get inside where pipes are located.
  5. Shut off and drain pipes leading to outside faucets.
  6. Educate your tenants on the necessity to be mindful of cold weather snaps.

Have you ever dealt with freezing or bursting pipes? Share your stories with us.

 

Professional Tenants Create Pain For Landlords

Professional tenants aren’t a myth. The exist for real, and they’re creating major pains for small landlords all over Canada. Came across this interesting piece at CBC news today concerning small landlords getting burned in British Columbia. A few first time landlord missteps being counted on, and an intimate knowledge of the loopholes with the B.C. LTB’s process allows for free living arrangements for a long stretch on end for pros who know how to work the system.

The Federation of Rental Housing Owners of Ontario went on record stating that professional tenants can work up to 6 months of living for free on a landlord’s dime by simply exercising their right to appeals. “We’re probably dealing with anywhere between one and two per cent of the tenant population that is doing this [scam],” said the federation’s Vince Brescia. “The activity of the ‘pros’ is creeping up … it’s a growing phenomenon.”

Property management is about due diligence. Landlords should always ask for a certified check for first and last month’s rent – something clearable prior to the tenant moving in or handing over the keys. They should also be diligent about not only credit checks and other tenant screening, but with references from previous landlords. What do you think? Do you think provincial legislations in Canada are in need of tweaking?