Off Cam­pus

The Coast - - OFF CAMPUS -

I nter­na­tional

stu­dents in Hal­i­fax say they’re be­ing taken ad­van­tage of by one of the city’s largest prop­erty rental com­pa­nies, which seem­ingly as of­fi­cial pol­icy uses leases in breach of the Ten­ancy Act for non-Cana­dian ten­ants.

Jian­ing Xu says she was asked by Kil­lam Prop­er­ties to pay rent for her Cathe­dral Lane apart­ment in three-month in­cre­ments. The odd pay­ment agree­ment is ex­plic­itly il­le­gal un­der Nova Sco­tia’s Ten­ancy Act. Land­lords are not per­mit­ted to charge peo­ple more than one month’s rent at a time, no mat­ter what a signed lease agree­ment says.

Ac­cord­ing to Xu, Kil­lam said the rent ar­range­ment was due to her be­ing an un­known risk. “‘We don’t know you and you don’t know us,’” she says she was told.

Since leav­ing China to move to Hal­i­fax three years ago, the 21-year-old has been study­ing fi­nance and global man­age­ment at Saint Mary’s Univer­sity. But Xu was told by build­ing manager Charles Bruce that he was wor­ried she could go back to China any­time and skip out on rent.

The Coast learned of at least four other Chi­nese stu­dents in Hal­i­fax that had this same kind of three-month rent agree­ment drawn up with Kil­lam, two of whom live in the same build­ing as Xu. The SMU stu­dent says she’s per­son­ally spo­ken with oth­ers in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, each one with vary­ing rental agree­ments that all in­clude pay­ing more than one month’s rent up­front.

Dan Samp­son, Kil­lam’s director of prop­erty man­age­ment, didn’t be­lieve these kind of rental ar­range­ments were in breach of the Ten­ancy Act, or that they dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Kil­lam re­quires a credit check to be per­formed for a lease ap­pli­ca­tion, ex­plains Samp­son. Since in­ter­na­tional stu­dents don’t have so­cial in­sur­ance num­bers, the com­pany al­lows for a Cana­dian co-signer. If that isn’t pos­si­ble, Kil­lam asks for a chunk of rent up­front and a more se­cure pay­ment struc­ture.

“We can make agree­ments with ten­ants in or­der to se­cure ten­ancy that fall out­side the Act as long as both par­ties agree to it,” says Samp­son. “If there is a dis­pute then we will re­vert back to Ten­ancy.”

That’s false. Ask­ing for more than a month’s rent and draw­ing up a lease that isn’t al­lowed un­der the Ten­ancy Act is grounds for com­plaint, says Dean John­ston, director of res­i­den­tial te­nan­cies with Ser­vice Nova Sco­tia.

“The Act is very spe­cific in that a land­lord and a ten­ant are not per­mit­ted to con­tract out­side of the Act or in con­tra­ven­tion of the act,” he says.

John­ston, whose job is to me­di­ate dis­putes be­tween land­lords and ten­ants, says he’s “had com­plaints on the pro­gram be­fore on this.”

Con­fronted with this in­for­ma­tion, Samp­son re­neged on his pre­vi­ous state­ments and ac­knowl­edged the rental agree­ments are in breach of the Act. He says any ten­ant who brings a for­mal com­plaint about the pay­ment struc­ture to Ser­vice Nova Sco­tia will have it changed back to a one-month amount.

Dur­ing The Coast’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this story, build­ing manager Charles Bruce knocked on Xu’s door and told her the pay­ment struc­ture would be changed to the le­gal one-month of rent at a time. The news came as a sur­prise to the ten­ant.

“It was changed be­cause she in­di­cated to [Bruce] that she couldn’t do that. She couldn’t pay the rent in three-month in­cre­ments or she didn’t want to be­cause she thought it was un­fair. And then she went to the me­dia,” ex­plains Samp­son.


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