CANADA 'I'm back to square one': Halifax woman loses apartment...

‘I’m back to square one’: Halifax woman loses apartment after refusing to post illegal bail


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Kirsten Parnell stands in front of Wedgewood Court in Halifax, where she was denied a lease because she failed to post illegal bail. (David Laughlin/CBC)

When Kirsten Parnell set out to sign a lease on a studio apartment in Halifax two weeks ago, she thought her exhausting search for a place to live was over. She was wrong.

Before insuring the apartment, Parnell was asked to provide a guarantor and pay the first and last month’s rent on top of the damages deposit. This amounted to $2,750 and her savings account was nearly empty.

She was so desperate that she initially considered paying the money in the face of Nova Scotia’s housing crisis and the difficulty of finding an affordable studio apartment in Halifax.

But she did a little research and found that the rental company’s request was illegal.

“I actually waited until I got to a meeting to sign a lease so I could talk to them face-to-face about it,” Parnell said. “Then I was told to either illegally pay them money, or I was denied an apartment.”

She left without a lease and without an apartment.

According to Dalhousie Legal Aid, what happened to Parnell is not an isolated incident.

“Small Choice”

Mark Calligan, the service’s public legal worker, said the landlord is asking for illegal filing fees and the housing crisis is making things worse.

“Many of the companies that have been doing this have been doing this for a long time,” Calligan said. they may not have had before because they have so few options.”

Parnell was forced to move in with his family.

“It’s heartbreaking because I know I’m back to square one,” she said. “And there are thousands of people in Halifax looking for apartments right now, and they are in the same situation as me.”

Parnell said that before finding an apartment at Wedgwood Court, she filed for weeks for two or three apartments a day. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Parnell said finding housing is tiring outside of a full-time job.

“I spend hours a day browsing various search engines, Kijiji, the Facebook marketplace, even going to the pages of specific rental companies and making phone calls, emails, text messages, anything you can to get in touch with someone. who can have a free apartment,” she said.

No recourse

According to Tenancy Law“No landlord may demand, accept or receive from a tenant as security a sum of money … in excess of half the rent per month.”

Knowing this, Parnell approached the Rental Housing Board for help, but was told she had no choice.

’cause I didn’t pay [the landlord] no funds, I did not sign any documents on the establishment of relations between the tenant and the landlord, they told me that they would not do anything, ”she said.

Dalhousie Legal Aid told her the same thing.

“It’s very difficult to assert your rights as a tenant when you’re faced with these kinds of application fees,” Calligan said.

“If you actually pay and sign the lease… you might be able to file a lawsuit to try and get the money back. meaningful protection for you, because your landlord might just say, “Hey, I’m going to rent it out to someone else instead.” “

Mark Calligan of Dalhousie Legal Services said he is getting a lot of calls from tenants asking him to pay illegal filing fees. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Calligan said that for years there have been calls for some sort of rental enforcement unit.

“And that was not a priority in the past,” he said. “But, frankly, there is quite a lot of jurisprudence from many years ago that has repeatedly said that these … actions are illegal.”

The provincial department responsible for the Rental Housing Board is the Nova Scotia Department of Services and Home Services.

“Asking a tenant to pay rent for the first and last months is not allowed,” said Blaise Theriault, a spokesman for the department. “If a landlord asks a tenant to do something and he thinks it is wrong, he should seek independent legal advice and/or contact a legal aid society.”

Theriault said his department “is aware of the interest in law enforcement.”

“[We] are always looking for opportunities to strengthen the Residential Tenancy Act while balancing the needs of both tenants and landlords,” he said.

WM Fares Group office on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Halifax property management company WM Fares Group is the owner of Wedgewood Court, where Parnell has applied for a lease. Wadih Fares, the company’s president, told CBC News it’s not the company’s standard policy to ask for first and last month’s rent as a deposit, but it does use the practice under certain circumstances.

“If a potential tenant fails a credit check, our property managers will exercise judgment to satisfy the applicant and may waive the credit requirement and require additional guarantees,” Fares said. “This is to help the applicant obtain housing … in an environment of high rental demand.”

Parnell said she tried to call Fares twice, but no one answered her voice messages.

She said she wants more compliance with the Tenancy Act, but at the same time hopes her story will help other tenants.

“I want people to know that this shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “I hope…something will be done about this and people will be able to rent apartments fairly and get an equal chance.”


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