Selective Discrimination

Renting-property

After spending 20+ years working in the Real Estate Industry, we’ve seen enough to shock even the hardiest individuals. I’ve always found it extremely frustrating to see constant stigma and open hostility and discrimination if someone was a property owner/landlord. Discriminating against someone based on their “source of income” is a clear violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, the clear and open hostility, from government officials, police, Media, The Residential Tenancies Branch, and the general public would never be accepted if it was directed at any other minority group! If fact, we see examples of the media addressing issues of racial discrimination on a daily basis in either newspaper or TV.  Yet, for some unfathomable reason, society feels it’s acceptable to take a stand against the mean, nasty, greedy property owner. For one and one reason only – their “source of income”. This is a clear violation of Human Rights Act! Yet no media have EVER (that I have seen) raised the issue of how unjustified this discrimination is.

Last time I checked, statistics said that approximately 50% of all rental units in the city were owned by small “Mom and Pop” operators. These numbers may have changed, with all the new building in the last year or so. However, these are the people that work hard at a regular job, scrape together the savings for a down payment on an investment property, in the hopes that it will give them a better return on their savings than a bank interest rate that is often less than the rate of inflation! They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your family and your friends. They are generally good honest people who work hard just like you do. Yet, the outright hatred and open hostility they face is so overwhelming, that many become frustrated and sell off their property to eliminate the stress of the discrimination.

One recent seller told me that after a tenant literally shot up the suite with a gun; walls, ceiling, everything has to be replaced. No way to collect the damages from the tenant. It’s the owner’s responsibility to track the tenant down and attempt to impose a Queen’s Bench garnishment order on their bank account or place of employment in order to collect the damages. They can close their bank account or leave it inactive. They can quit and work somewhere else, if you can’t track them down, you don’t collect. 

On the flip side, our Provincial Government openly discriminates against the landlords solely because of their source of income. If a landlord owes a tenant money, the RTB can redirect the rent from that house to pay the judgement to the tenant, if the landlord doesn’t pay. If that isn’t enough, they can order rent re-directed from ANY other property you own to pay that settlement. So, they do the work of collecting for the benefit of the tenant, but the landlord is left taking time off work to continually chase down a tenant that keeps changing jobs, and banks. The only difference between the two groups is the source of income. 

The misguided and WRONG attitude by our illustrious Government and Media is that Landlords are all rich, savvy, with lawyers and employees and lots of time on their hands to have someone else look after chasing down tenants who refuse to pay their debts. The REALITY is they are hardworking people with full time regular jobs they cannot afford to take time off from because they are left with $20,000 repair bill! Where is the fairness? Where is the justice? If you, as the Government, are going to collect for one group of people (tenants), how can you LEGALLY discriminate against the other group (Landlords)?! If you can re-direct a landlord’s income to pay a tenant, why can you not redirect a tenants’ income to pay the Landlords what they are owed?! There is something seriously wrong with this system. 

Yes, there was a well-known Property Management Company that was recently disciplined by the Manitoba Securities Commission. The individuals responsible have been held accountable and are no longer in a position where they can cause further issues. However, the overall public and media attitude has become that much more hostile towards Landlords and Property Management Companies as a whole as a result. Why are we judging the group by the actions of one or two? Why do we allow people to get away with this type of generalized hatred? When it comes to discrimination based on race, color, sexual preference, etc…, open discrimination like this would be front page news and people would be protesting in front of the Legislature. Yet it seems discrimination by source of income, painting all Landlords with the brush of a few bad apples, is acceptable and commonplace and everyone turns a blind or critical eye. 

For the record, we used to own a number of rental properties and a property management company. I’ve seen and experienced this discrimination first hand and it is extremely stressful and so full of hate – just because we owned/managed rental property. We rarely collected from tenants when the RTB issued a judgement. When we finally sold our last property we were left with approximately $50,000 – $60,000 in unpaid judgements and considerably more for those that never made it to a hearing as they disappeared before you could ever serve them paperwork. Just before I retired I had an experience that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I was filing paperwork at the RTB offices downtown. There was a middle aged ethnic couple there with a RTB officer and they were crying. They couldn’t get a tenant out of their house and the RTB wouldn’t explain the correct procedure to them. “It’s all online – it’s all on the paperwork”. They obviously did not speak English well and no one would help them. I spoke to them and found out the tenant had been there for more than 6 months without paying rent. Utilities were being unpaid and they could no longer pay for the mortgage on the rental house and their own house. They were being ordered by the RTB to pay the utilities on the rental property. They had tried 3 times to evict the tenant, but they didn’t serve the paperwork in the right order, or the right form, etc. They had filed and had a number of hearings but because their paperwork was “not in order” the tenant was allowed to stay rent free, and they were told they had to refile and start again and wait for a new hearing. They were behind on their home mortgage and were at risk of losing both homes if they couldn’t get this sorted out. They both worked full time and couldn’t continue to take time off work, they needed the income. They were recent immigrants and had put all their savings into the 2 homes. I spent some time with them and the worker, showed them what they had to do and in what order. They were very grateful and I can only hope things turned out well for them. I couldn’t understand why our Government can offer language interpretations services to tenants in multiple languages but will not make any effort for the Landlord. That day I returned to my car and cried. It was so unfair and there was nothing I could do to change it. The hatred and stigma and unfairness of it all was more than what I was prepared to continue living with. That day I decided I wanted out of the business and began selling off every last property. I’ve never been happier!

We saw everything. A client was thinking of purchasing a property and requested we go have a look at it. We walked in with the realtor to find water pooling through the kitchen, living room and to the front door. There were 2 young boys, maybe 6 – 8 years old. They were sitting on the sofa playing video games and the electrical cord and video box was on the floor and was centimeters from water pooling around it. I had rubber soled shoes and ran to the electrical outlet and unplugged everything seconds before the water surrounded the electronics. The kitchen faucet was left running, dishes and empty alcohol bottles were overflowing. The children hadn’t eaten, mom was passed out on a mattress with a baby maybe 6 months old crying beside her. The milk in the baby’s bottle was curdled and chunky. We called social services and police. Another image I will always remember. We’ve seen piles of human feces in homes where the water was turned off for non-payment. It’s hard to get rid of that image!

We’ve seen suites where there have been murders; suicides and attempted murders and attempted suicides. People just angry and frustrated with life and think it’s Ok to take out their frustrations on other people’s property. The amount of damage we have seen over the years is well into the millions of dollars. This never reaches the news. The odd time someone hears about it they think “rich property owner can afford it”. Really?! Then why do we hear about it when someone goes on a vandalism streak and smashes car windows in a neighborhood?! Why doesn’t the same attitude apply? You’re a “rich car owner” after all… The number of people who contact me selling their rental properties, always with the same horror stories and frustration is insane. This is such a black eye on Manitoba. It’s time someone took notice and began working for change!

Years ago, after evicting a tenant for not paying the rent, he called our home and threatened my 6 year old daughter in the most foul language, and told her he was coming to kill us all. I grabbed the phone away and blocked his number instantly and called police. There was nothing they could do because “it was a Landlord/Tenant issue” call the RTB. The RTB doesn’t deal with issues like that – they told me to call the police! Unbelievable! He threatened my 6 year old child! No one gave a damn cause I was a Landlord! Didn’t matter, but someone can be sitting taking pictures in a park and everyone hears about it for fear they “might” be a child molester. My daughter was terrified and traumatized and I couldn’t do a thing except change our telephone number and set the alarm! Why? Because we were “landlords”! Just so very sadly wrong in every aspect. Just wrong!

The reality is that right is right and wrong is wrong. It is not right to destroy another person’s property, regardless of the circumstances. It is not alright to utter threats or assault others. It is not okay to discriminate against anyone, based on ANY of the categories under the Human Rights Act. It’s not okay to fight for someone’s rights while you openly stomp on another’s. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally based on who they are and what they have or have not done. Putting people into “groups” and judging them based on their belonging to this “group” is inappropriate and unfair and unjust. I’ve always been fair and dealt with people as individuals. I just wish our Provincial Government and our Media could do the same and stop championing some groups while slaying others. Discrimination happens in many ways – it is never right or acceptable! People are not all of the same character, regardless of the “group” we “belong” to.