Should the university take responsibility for its students?
A group of Dalhousie students has left a local landlord with an uninhabitable apartment and thousands in unpaid rent. Local landlord Derek MacDonald says at least part of the blame lies on Dalhousie Off Campus Housing.
MacDonald says neighbours told him that his tenants made excessive noise, smashed beer bottles all over the street, urinated on the house and fought up and down the sidewalk.
“I’ve always tried to make the tenants comfortable, but I’ve learned this year that the easiest way to be a landlord is to just follow the Tenancies Act,” says MacDonald.
Over the course of the year-long lease, MacDonald discovered holes in the walls, broken windows and seven broken doors. None of the students repaired the damages.
“I called Dalhousie a number of times trying to figure out their position on this type of behaviour from its students, but nobody seemed to know to whom I should talk,” he says.
“I feel like Dalhousie either doesn’t want to admit to a problem, or doesn’t care. In addition, I am sceptical that Dalhousie is going to reprimand its students, in any way, for this behaviour.”
Robert Moffat of Dalhousie Off Campus Housing says that their stance on the issue was that they are not responsible for their students’ actions off-campus.
They do offer advice and resources to their students about finding suitable accommodations, but they do not get involved in disputes between tenants and landlords.
But MacDonald says students should know more about leases and tenancy rules, and third-year Dal student Meg Thomas agrees.
“Students need to be better educated about how leases work, because some of my friends think they can be thrown out on the street if they throw a big party and their landlord finds out,” she says.
Thomas says that although her own landlord is “reasonable,” she knows he has had problems with other tenants.
“They tried to call Health and Safety on him because there were a couple mice in the building,” she says.
“But mice are just part of life if you live in north Halifax. And [the tenants] messed up some of the house, so he didn’t let them re-sign the lease.”
Thomas says in her experience, issues with landlords and neighbours are inevitable in Halifax. “There really isn’t a ‘student ghetto,’ so no matter where you live, there’s going to be complaints,” she says.
After most of MacDonald’s tenants moved out four months before the end of the lease, MacDonald entered a series of negotiations with the boys and their banks, dealing with bounced cheques and refusals to pay on grounds that the repairs made the apartment uninhabitable.
“I admit that I do not maintain the property at the level of my home,” MacDonald says. “But they do satisfy building and health codes.”
MacDonald must now file an application with the director of the Tenancy Board for unpaid rent.
He will also have to submit a claim for the damage to the house. He estimates the costs to be greater than the $2,875 he is owed in rent.
MacDonald has heard similar stories from fellow landlords, with disheartening endings. “It seems landlords just accept the loss and move on,” MacDonald says.
See a slideshow of the damage here.