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Renter feels like she's been targeted by her landlord
When Wanda Gaudet was issued notice that her landlord planned to increase her rent by 2.3 per cent -or from $1,027 to $1,050 - last November, she sought to challenge it before the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC).
Gaudet said her landlord, Timberlea Developments Inc., had also asked her to take on the cost of paying the cost of utilities as well. This alone would have cost the 73-year old retiree an additional $253 a month.
Then, on February 5, Gaudet received an eviction notice. Her landlord, Timberlea Developments Inc., was seeking to renovate her unit, adding a new room where her patio currently sits.
Gaudet was successful in having both the rent increase and eviction notice quashed. IRAC ruled in her favour on March 9 on both issues and found the eviction order, which was undertaken partly to increase the rent in Gaudet’s unit, did not meet the “good faith obligation” for terminating a rental agreement.
But Gaudet said the process has caused her duress and the IRAC rulings have not eased her mind.
“I'm not sleeping OK. I'm up here three or four o'clock in the morning,” Gaudet said. “It's just like I don't want to be here.”
On March 12, three days after the IRAC decision, Gaudet received another notice from Timberlea Developments. The notice indicated her rent would rise by 10.89 per cent as of May 1st.
This was also struck down by IRAC.
Gaudet says she feels like she has been targeted by her landlord.
"They picked me because I wouldn't pay the heat and lights," Gaudet said.
Christina Gaudet, Wanda’s daughter, helped her with the appeal process with IRAC. The process has caused her mother duress.
"Every day she sits there and thinks 'are they going to give me something else today?'" Christina told The Guardian.
The tenancy dispute has a political dimension as well; Timberlea Developments Inc. lists Linda Gallant and Christopher Gallant as secretary and president. Linda is the wife of Liberal interim leader Sonny Gallant while Christopher is his son.
Sonny Gallant has no ownership stake in Timberlea Developments Inc. But his party has increasingly sought to champion issues about seniors housing in P.E.I. during Question Period in the P.E.I. legislature. Members of Gallant’s party have also raised questions about P.E.I.’s ongoing housing crisis.
Gaudet says she has not reached out to Gallant, her elected MLA in Miscouche.
"Why would I reach out to him? He knows what's going on,” she said.
The Guardian reached out to Gallant for comment. A representative from the Liberal caucus said Gallant would not be commenting on the matter, noting Gallant has no ownership stake in Timberlea Developments Inc.
“He has no involvement in this business whatsoever," Christopher Gallant told the Guardian in a phone interview.
Gaudet is one of six tenants in units owned by Timberlea Developments Inc.
The company faced unexpected costs due to several other properties constructed by Timberlea Developments. The properties have increased in value in recent years as P.E.I. has seen home prices rise significantly in recent years. Linda said this caused financial issues for the company.
“We ended up with an HST bill. And we've been paying that - we paid it. But we had to borrow money to pay it," Linda told The Guardian.
Linda Gallant said the result was that the rental properties owned by Timberlea were operating at a loss. A decision was made to look into selling the properties.
Linda said she spoke to several of Wanda’s neighbours. Some expressed concern that their homes could be sold and that they could be forced to move. Two tenants suggested they would be willing to pay more in rent in order to avoid the sale of the property, Linda said.
"They suggested to us that they would prefer to pay more money and pay their own electricity rather than us sell these places,” Linda said.
Linda said all other tenants agreed to take on the cost of utility bills, as well as the increase in rent. Wanda Gaudet was the exception.
But Christina Gaudet said the offer was made under duress. She said Linda told Wanda that the choice would be between eventual eviction or higher rent.
"She said we're going to have to raise the rent and for you guys to pay your own heat and lights. And if you don't agree to the new lease then the buildings will go for sale and you'll probably be evicted,” Christina said.
Both Christopher Gallant and Linda Gallant admitted they erred in their applications to IRAC. They have repaid Wanda the additional rent she paid over the allowable 1 per cent increase for February and March.
“We thought we were allowed to do that. We were wrong but it wasn't not in good faith," Linda said.
The two are not sure if they will still be selling the property.
A representative from the Department of Social Development and Housing said the provincial government does not currently have financial support programs in place for landlords or home owners who rent properties for income purposes.
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