Retired couple spent thousands of dollars after tenants failed to pay rent during COVID-19


A couple from the interior of British Columbia said they were almost forced to sell their dream home for retirement after two tenants left them embarrassed for thousands of dollars.Today Clive Callaway, 76, and Cathryn Rankin, 70, say the province needs to do more to support low-income homeowners like them who depend on rent to make ends meet.

The couple reside on Gardom Lake near Salmon Arm in the Shuswap area of ​​the province with a large portion of their fixed income going to repairs and maintenance of the house.

To help cover costs, they started renting a two-tenant suite in January.

Rankin said the relationship got off to a good start, but rent payments stopped coming even though at least one of the tenants received government support during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“One of them got CERB support and was making more money a month than I did,” Callaway said. “For us, it was actually a survival issue. ”

Then the tenants disappeared, one in June and the second in August, with a combined total of $ 4,663 for five months of unpaid rent and utility bills.

Faced with the loss, Callaway considered selling the house to get by.

“As low-income seniors struggled and relied on rental income to supplement our poor retirement plans, it was scary,” he said.

Clive Callaway and Cathryn Rankin fear they will not be able to keep their home after two tenants escape over $ 4,600 in rent and utilities. (David French / CBC)

Instead, the couple received an order from the province’s residential rental branch stating that the former tenants were to pay the money owed. Unfortunately, Callaway has no idea where they are.

“I personally think the government almost legislated some form of theft against us,” Callaway said. “We were forced to pay the money, but we have no help getting it back. ”

Dave Hutniak of the nonprofit LandlordBC said many homeowners are people like Callaway and Rankin, renting out a room or apartment in the basement so they can afford to keep their homes.

And while there are legal options to recover the unpaid rent, he said it was a difficult and time-consuming option for people who may already be struggling to make ends meet.

“If you’re a small homeowner in financial trouble… that’s a little consolation,” he said.

Hutniak said the situation was exacerbated in some cases by a provincial decree in March prohibits most evictions so people don’t become homeless during COVID-19.

While he understands the policy was aimed at protecting tenants, Huntiak said it created uncertainty for many homeowners facing their own financial difficulties.

Callaway said he was also frustrated that business owners could apply for relief funds directly, unlike small home owners.

“I think over 50 percent of the problem is really caused by the government and theirs, I call it ‘No Deportation Order’,” he said. “It wasn’t thought out enough. ”

No one from the Residential Tenancies Branch or responsible ministries was able to speak on the matter due to the provincial election.

Hutniak said COVID-19 was an unprecedented situation and noted that most landlords and tenants were able to work together to deal with the crisis using tools provided by the province.

“It’s a small number of irresponsible tenants who ruin it for the owners, just as it is a small number of [irresponsible] owners, “he said.” The vast, vast, vast majority of rentals are working.

Callaway and Rankin hope that’s true. So far, they have found “two great new tenants” and are optimistic the relationship will allow them to continue living in the retirement home of their dreams.

“Our rental income is the only way we can afford to stay here and grow old in place, so we’ll try one last time,” Callaway said.


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