Problem Residential Tenancies & Remedies A Conversation Between Lisa Hamielec / Citysearch & Brad Longeway / Serv-It

Problem Residential Tenancies & Remedies A Conversation Between Lisa Hamielec / Citysearch & Brad Lo...

Lisa@Citysearch - What services does Serv-it provide?

Brad@Servi-It - At Serv-it, we provide what we call Tenant Default Services for Landlords. This primarily includes making applications to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) to obtain Orders for Landlords and as necessary, enforcing those Orders with a Civil Enforcement Bailiff to obtain vacant possession of the property. We also provide services including garnishment of employment income and inspection of rental premises to gather evidence of breaches of the lease and/or the Residential Tenancies Act. We also provide education in various formats to many of our clients and lots of advice whenever they need.

Lisa@Citysearch - Do you work for landlords or tenants?

Brad@Servi-It - We only work for Landlords.

Lisa@Citysearch - What is the RTDRS?

Brad@Servi-It - The Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) is a service set up by the Alberta Government to give both Landlords and Tenants a more cost effective, user friendly and less formal means of resolving any dispute pertaining to the Residential Tenancies Act of
Alberta (RTA) rather than going through the Court of Queen’s Bench. The RTDRS only handle matters pertaining to the RTA. Decisions are made by a Hearing Officer and are put in the form of an Order. These Orders carry the same force as an Order granted at the Court of Queen’s Bench and in fact are filed at Queen’s Bench after being granted. This allows the Landlord to access the same enforcement avenues under the Alberta Rules of Court that an Order granted at Queen’s Bench would have including Bailiff enforcement and wage garnishment.

Lisa@Citysearch - Do you often settle with the claimant before the hearing?

Brad@Servi-It To be honest, we do not find the matters settle very often in a conventional sense. There are two types of claims; damage claims where we are seeking loses after the tenant has moved out and the more standard claims that may arise during the tenancy often pertaining to unpaid rent.

Damage claims are far less common and I do not believe I have ever had one settle before the hearing. Most tenants at that point decide to take a chance and see what the Hearing Officer decides.

The main type of hearing we file for, pertains to an active tenancy where the tenant either owes money and/or there are other breaches such as disturbance or damages. Then there are two types of Orders that can be granted as outlined below.

A termination order is an Order that the tenancy is terminated and the tenant is ordered out either in a number of days from service or on a specific day. Often times our client will have us withdraw the claim as long as the tenant moves out prior to the hearing. We can use this a tool to motivate the tenant by offering to withdraw it so long as they move if that is the wish or our client. Some tenants will settle in that fashion and move out.

The other type of Order is a Conditional Order. This is an Order that allows the tenancy to continue so long as the tenant complies with the conditions of the Order. Usually this in ordered payment plan. If the wish of the Landlord is to continue the tenancy but with the leverage of a conditional order, we will actively seek one rather than termination. As much as possible we will try to work the terms of that Order out with the tenant in advance of the hearing. It is not uncommon to come to an agreement like this with a tenant in advance of the hearing but we still continue with the hearing to have that agreement put in an enforceable Order. We find that most tenants are responsive to this process and appreciative of not being kicked out and that the Landlord and tenant are able to rebuild the relationship, in the event it has deteriorated.

Lisa@Citysearch - With COVDI-19, how are the hearings being held and is this effective?

Brad@Servi-It - Historically all hearings relating to a rental premise within 65 kilometers of the Edmonton city center and Calgary city center were held in person at the respective city. All other matters within the province were held via phone. In recent years, the RTDRS has vastly expanded their online capabilities for filing claims and had started to hold more hearings over the phone even in the major centers. As a result of Covid-19, all hearings are held via phone which allows these hearings to continue despite that most hearings being shut down at Court of Queen’s Bench. I find the changes the RTDRS have made between expanding to online filing and an ability to manage all of your hearings through their online portal combined with the phone hearings to be very effective in most areas. It allows a Landlord, or their Agent, to have minimal time loss in having to attend at a hearing offsite and an increase in mobility by being able to complete the hearing wherever they choose. In my opinion, one drawback is that some tenants perhaps do not take the hearing as serious as they would being in person and perhaps do not respect the authority of the Hearing Officer as much as if they were physically present together in a hearing room. Another drawback relates to the complexity of some damage claims where it may be easier for all parties to be in the same room.

Lisa@Citysearch - What is the major claim recurrence?

  1. Landlord requesting unpaid rent or other obligations

  2. Tenant requesting a rental abatement

  3. Dispute whether a matter is damage versus wear and tear

  4. Tenant does not want to pay the condominium assessed infraction fines for things like

    not moving their car during a parking lot cleaning or no booking an elevator for a physical move if the tenant’s household goods

Brad@Servi-It - The most common matter we deal with is rental arrears and disturbance claims. They form about 95% of our files.

We have seen a significant increase in claims by a tenant for rental abatement or for matters related to the return of their security deposit. I believe this is mainly because the RTDRS, while increasingly accessible to Landlords, is equally accessible to tenants and has made it much easier for tenants and Landlords to pursue a claim. While the numbers are still low for how many claims, we are seeing against

our clients I have probably seen more in the last year than in the ten years prior combined. Most have some basis for the claim but are often exaggerated or the tenants’ sense of what they are entitled to is not consistent with what we know they would likely be entitled to. This often includes disputes over what is considered wear and tear, and the cost of damage repairs.

We also do not see many claims related to condominium fines but like damage claims, we are seeing an increase these past few years. These can be very frustrating as the condominium corporation will fine a landlord without the burden of proof provided to us that would satisfy the Hearing Officer that that breach occurred that they would need to hold the tenant responsible for the fine. Basically, we have to prove the breach occurred in order for the tenant to be held responsible but the condominium corporations do not have the same burden of proof before they fine a Landlord. Unfortunately, and in my view, far too many times the landlord is responsible with the bill as the risk of ownership lies with the property owner. 

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