Police have little recourse in settling landlord-tenant disputes

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Police Beat with Const. Tom Wood

Landlord-tenant disputes are occurrences that the Amherst Police Department often respond to, but rarely have the power or authority to intervene.  In most cases, the police have little recourse in resolving the conflicts between landlords and tenants and their roles are usually relegated to keeping the peace. 

Over the years, Amherst has seen a change in the living arrangements for most families. No longer are families living in the large Victorian-style houses but are shifting towards to mobile homes or apartments. In fact, many of the large Victorian-style houses have been converted into multiple apartment units.

With this increase in apartments, there has been an explosion of landlords and tenants in the area, both of which need to ensure that they are aware of their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).  This act provides the rules and regulations that govern any rental agreement, and the first step is to see if a particular situation falls under the RTA. 

Apartment complexes and lease to own agreements, for example, often fall under this act, however nursing homes, hotels and university college residencies do not.

The dissolving of the rental agreement is probably the biggest reason why police end up getting called in landlord-tenant disputes. Emotions often run high on both sides and the parties involved often recount numerous allegations against the other in an effort to have police understand their view in the argument. 

Officers can only act within the law and cannot take steps to evict someone from a home.  Legally, a landlord can issue a 15-day notice to quit if a tenant is in arrears on their rent.  Other reasons a landlord might apply for a notice to quit include disruptive behaviour, damage to a unit or the tenant having an unauthorized sub-letter. 

When there are cases of loud music, drug activity or damage to property, police will investigate to see whether there is a criminal or provincial statute violation or not. Many times, police involvement at a tenants house can be used to bolsters a landlord’s claim that the rental agreement be terminated. 

Once a notice to quit has been served on a tenant, the tenant may rectify the issue by paying their rent (if the notice to quit is regarding unpaid rent) or leave in this 15-day period.

If the tenant chooses to leave, the rental arrears are still owed. The tenant could also apply to dispute the notice to quit. In some cases, police officers are subpoenaed to these tenancy hearings to provide details on police calls to the residence.

Tenants should also be aware that if they are victim of domestic violence and they are in a year to year or fixed-term lease, they may apply to have their tenancy terminated early. 

This process is started by contacting Victim Services at 1-888-470-0773.

Lastly, damage/security deposits can also be another source of tenant/landlord disagreements.  Security deposits have been mandated to be only up to one half of one month’s rent.  This deposit can be used by the landlord to cover any rent that has not been paid or for any damage that was done to the apartment or rental property.  The damage deposit was not designed to cover repairs from normal wear or tear.  If there is a disagreement, the landlord has to apply to the residential tenancies program to keep the deposit.

The Residential Tenancies Act can be found at http://nslegislature.ca/legc/statues/residential%20tenancies.pdf.  Access Nova Scotia also provides a guide for both tenants and landlords. 

By treating each other with respect and being knowledgeable about the Residential Tenancies Act, any issues between a landlord and tenant can be resolved in a peaceful manner.

 

Const. Tom Wood is the community policing officer for the Amherst Police Department. His crime prevention column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.

 

 

Organizations: Amherst Police Department, Victim Services, Amherst News

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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