Sunday, 23 March 2014


Today's posting is a series of true stories straight out of the lives of JC and Mattie. It might have some humorous overtones but it's dead serious. I'd have to say that it's as much of a warning as it is a story. Read and enjoy...


For more than a century there has been talk of the Big Bad Landlord. Back when immigration was at its peak, families paid astronomic rent in order to live in a dilapidated apartment, and there was no guarantee that they'd be able to stay there as they could be thrown out on a moment's notice with no excuse other than the apartment had just been rented out to a family who can pay more rent. Families, already devastated by the trauma of moving to a strange new land were left to their own to fend for themselves. For this reason the various governments stepped in and implemented laws that helped to prevent such flagrant abuse. Since that time relationships between landlords and tenants has improved although not to a perfect state.

JC rented a bachelor's suite in Fort McMurray. Considering the location (read: Isolation?) JC wasn't surprised that rent up there was close to $200.00 a month more than a similar sized place in Edmonton so he just kept the place clean, paid his rent on time and everyone was happy.

Until the day that JC moved out.

When JC moved into the apartment he noticed that there was a chip in the kitchen sink. He didn't pay a lot of attention to it as it wasn't anything that required immediate attention. It didn't even detract much from the appearance of the place but then, JC was a guy, who wasn't all that concerned about how his kitchen looked as long as it was clean. But when he was putting his dishes away he noticed an inspection form made out by the super for the previous tenant. The chip in the sink was noted.

JC filed that paper away. He didn't know what for but he was a stickler for keeping track of official documents so that form went into the file cabinet along with everything else that pertained to the apartment. When he moved out the super came in and carried out the standard inspection to ensure that JC hadn't wrecked the place during his stay. She noted the chip in the sink and gave JC a copy of the form.

Back at his real home at the south end of the province, JC quickly got back into his old routine. He moved completely into his old place (which he never really moved out of in the first place--he camped at Fort McMurray) and quickly assumed his new role, which amounted pretty much to what he was doing all his life. One day he received a letter from his former landlord which contained his damage deposit refund. It also contained a copy of the inspection form as signed by his former super.

The landlord deducted the cost of the sink from his damage deposit leaving him with only a fraction of the original deposit. JC bristled when he read that but kept his cool. He went into the back room and retrieved the copy that the former tenant had left behind. A couple of phone calls to Fort McMurray and he was able to get in touch with the former tenant. She (the former tenant) happened to know who rented the apartment before she did and she got in touch with that girl, who told her that her damage deposit refund had also been docked for the chipped sink.

Well, JC made a copy of the form that had been left in the apartment, and the twice removed tenant, who also happened to be a stickler for keeping documents, faxed JC a copy of her inspection form. JC simply mailed copies of all three forms to the landlord in Edmonton, along with a letter stating that he wasn't responsible for chipping the sink.

He let the landlord decide about the two previous tenants...

Four days later, a courier showed up at JC's workplace. He personally presented JC with an envelope that contained a check for the balance of the damage deposit, along with a letter of sincere (?) apology.

JC entertained thoughts about getting in touch with the previous tenants to see if they each received their full refunds.

It sometimes pays to hang onto papers, even if they seem insignificant at the moment.


Sometime down the road, JC and Mattie met, fell in love and began to plan a life together. Things couldn't have been better except for their housing situations. They were both involved in professions that limited their abilities to simply pack up and relocate. Mattie lived in Arrowwood and was a branch manager for a charter bank as well as manager for two days a week at a branch in Vauxhall. JC lived in Taber which was only twenty miles from Vauxhall but a whole lot of miles from Arrowwood. Despite being a heavy duty mechanic, he had chosen to specialize in fuel systems, which eventually became a trade in itself, albeit in limited facilities. For him to move and take on a regular position in a dealership or regular service shop the disadvantages far outweighed the advantages. Mattie was just as stuck as management positions weren't all that plentiful. They discussed this at great length and it was decided that Mattie would spend her three days or so in Arrowwood and then come down to Vauxhall for her two days and then onto Taber where they would spend a weekend, with the next weekend spent at Arrowwood.

That settled, they went ahead with wedding plans.

Mattie told her boss what was going on. Upon hearing that, her boss said that there was going to be some major changes in Arrowwood, Okotoks and Milo. He also told her that changes were coming for Vauxhall too. That meant that Mattie's position in both branches was going to change as well. But he asked if she would be willing to transfer to Standoff, a branch on the Blood Indian Reservation just north of Cardston. Mattie had dealt with First Nations people before and she looked upon the offer as a challenge, which she accepted but not without serious consideration.

That drawback to that was Mattie would be leaving Arrowwood, a place she absolutely loved. She loved the people, she loved the location, and she loved her eighty year old home, which sat on two large treed lots.

Try that in the city...

On the same note, JC agreed to move out of Taber and relocate to Coaldale, which was a tad bit more central to both their workplaces.

Probably the hardest thing she would ever do was say good-bye to that fabulous old home. I might add that JC felt quite badly that Mattie would be giving up a place she loved so much. It still bothers him from time to time and there's no doubt that Mattie gets melancholy about it as well.

But the decision was made. Mattie first rented her place to her brother and his wife for a few months but she also listed the house for sale through a self-administered agency.

After that first winter, the brother and sister-in-law moved out leaving the house empty. One weekend, Mattie and JC loaded up tools and supplies and drove up to Arrowwood, the purpose of their mission to clean up the place and paint a couple of walls, something to give it more appeal. They were just getting at the tasks at hand when Mattie received a call regarding selling her house.

The potential buyers were (at the time) living in Gleichen, about twenty miles due north of Arrowwood. They weren't happy with the place they had there and happened upon the listing of Mattie's house. In a very short time the couple was down to check the place out.

They loved the place and they didn't even haggle over the price. They wanted the house and that was it. But they were waiting on some money to come through from a construction job and they couldn't afford a downpayment until July but they would gladly rent until then.

If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. This couple, a Barbie and Ken, if anyone ever saw one, would have been the unanimous choice for Prom King and Queen in their high school days I am sure. Both now in their thirties, Ken was six-foot two, athletic, with the handsome chiseled features that could have won him leading roles in major movies. Barbie was drop-dead gorgeous. Blond, with a figure that rivaled Pamela Anderson. Ken was a self-employed carpenter while Barbie worked at one of the recycle depots in the southern part of Calgary. Their occupations gave JC and Mattie the idea that Barbie and Ken were down-to-earth, hardworking people and people they could trust.

Mattie hastily made up some papers. Signatures were affixed and witnessed, and money for the first month's rent changed hands. The new owners would start moving in immediately.

And they did...

That was April. May came around and the money was deposited right into Mattie's account through the branch in Arrowwood. Barbie and Ken were welcomed into the community and Ken was even asked if he would like to join the volunteer fire department.

June came around and the money wasn't deposited on time. A phone call from Mattie and they acknowledged that business in Calgary had kept them away from home for a spell but the money would be deposited very soon.

It did, about two days later. Mattie phoned and asked them about their financing and was told that they had the papers at the lawyer's and they would be signing them soon. But could Mattie wait another month as the downpayment was taking longer than they thought?

Mattie reluctantly agreed but she (and JC) were beginning to worry.

August came and once again, no money. Mattie phoned several times before she managed to get hold of Barbie. She was assured that the rent would be deposited within the week and that the downpayment was on its way. The rent for August never showed up.

September came and no deposits, and no answer on the phone. Mattie had a manager's meeting in Calgary so she swung by the place to see what was going on. No one was home but, as a landlord, she was entitled to go in and check the place out. She did and she found a total pigsty--she couldn't believe that two good-looking people could live in the conditions that they were living in.

They had a Golden Retriever dog that left golden hair in piles everywhere. If that wasn't enough, the dog had experienced some indigestion, leaving the evidence on the floor in the living room. The double kitchen sink and expensive tap set, which Mattie had saved an entire year for, had a hole in the side of one basin and the faucet was broken; a pair of vicegrip pliers was attached to the mechanism.

Some time before Mattie met JC, she had bought a wood-burning stove and paid to have it professionally installed. A granite hearth had been set up in the parlor, the stove installed and the pipe and chimney exited properly out the wall. Barbie and Ken had removed the stove and set it in the front porch. They removed the granite hearth and back wall and leaned the slabs against the outside garage wall.

A short visit with the neighbors, who mentioned that Barbie and Ken were getting more and more difficult to visit with and Mattie got busy. She left a note on the table telling the tenants to clean the place up immediately, and that they would be responsible for the sink and tap set. She also told them that the rent was way past due. She was giving them one more chance to get the purchase completed.

October, and no money. Three months gone by and no contact whatsoever. Mattie gave up phoning and leaving messages but she somehow found their E-mail address and began to send them messages. Interesting enough, they replied to the messages but carefully removed any parts of Mattie's messages that could be deemed a disadvantage to them. With no other choice, Mattie drove up one evening and stapled an eviction notice to the door.

They got the notice; the neighbor watched Ken rip it off the door that night.

Mattie petitioned the court to charge them for damages to the sink and the floor coverings; she asked for compensation to reinstall the wood-burning stove, and petitioned to get them thrown out of the house. For a system that is notorious for delays Mattie's court date came up quickly. Thinking (hoping) that things would go Mattie's way, she took a day off work and drove to Gleichen where court was being held.

There was another part to this story: another potential buyer had seen the listing and was very interested in buying the property. Unfortunately there was no way to show it while the occupants were still there.

The court docket was loaded. Mattie's case ended up being the last of the day. Mattie presented her case objectively and then sat down to let Barbie and Ken present theirs.

Well, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Barbie and Ken had been through situations like this before. They both entered the courtroom dressed to the nines and they knew the Landlord-Tenant Act intimately, even better than the judge. Ken quoted it verbatim, ending up with the classic: it's coming winter and we've got no place to go line.

By this time, the day was over for the court and the judge obviously wanted to go home. He told Mattie to hammer out an agreement with Ken and adjourned for the day.

Mattie and JC were stuck. They had (high-classed?) squatters residing in the house and it looked like they would have to put up with them for the winter. Come spring, if they were still there, they would have to take them to court again to get them thrown out. Dejected, they contemplated their next move.

But in the case of Mattie VS Barbie and Ken, sometimes fate steps in to lend a hand.

The house in Arrowwood was heated with oil. The main reason Mattie installed a wood-burning stove was to save on her heating bill; anyone who had to heat their home with heating oil knew that oil was the most expensive way by far.

Well, Ken moved the wood-burning stove out and was going ahead with plans to convert the parlor into something else, only he hadn't quite got around to anything other than moving the stove out. November came and it got very cold very fast. Late one night the furnace quit running; it had run out of stove oil and shut down. Ken tried everything he could to coax the last remaining drops of stove oil out of the tank but his efforts were to no avail. With no oil and no money to buy more he had to move the wood-burning stove back into the house and attempt to heat it that way.

He had also removed the granite hearth and backwall and had no way of restoring it back to where it belonged. Undaunted he set the wood stove into position and perched it on top of some wooden blocks. After connecting the chimney he had a fire going once again. Consequences be damned!

That must have worked for a couple of days, until they ran out of firewood. According to the neighbors they packed up and headed out in the middle of the night and hadn't been around for some time.

Mattie and JC drove up and looked over the damage. They quickly notified the fire inspector who promptly condemned the stove and put a sign on the door forbidding occupation until the problem was corrected. Locks changed, the house was secure (to a certain extent although access could still be made through the entryway on the east side of the house.

The aforementioned buyer was still in touch. Mattie showed him through the house and a deal was struck. Only problem now was what to do with Barbie and Ken's stuff? Again fate would lend a hand.

One evening Mattie received an interesting phone call. The caller was from Gleichen and had heard about the trouble Mattie was having with Barbie and Ken. She (the caller) told Mattie that the town of Gleichen had given Ken an advance on some remodeling to the community center. Trouble was the check was cashed but the work wasn't done and they needed to have it done or the money returned so the town could hire another contractor. Mattie told her that the delinquent couple's stuff was still in the house. Suddenly excited, the lady asked how difficult access to the house was. The answer was simple: either the east end or take the large window out of the north wall and you're there.

Maybe Mattie should've been a little more cautious about this but she had the understanding that the lady would simply enter the house and take inventory of what was in there so she could use it in a collection case. But the lady got a crew together and they took everything, even the garbage. I might add that there wasn't much other than a big screen TV that was worth anything, and that was the first thing they carted away.

Barbie and Ken showed up one day about six weeks later and discovered that their stuff was gone. They tried to phone Mattie who suddenly became very hard to get. They finally phoned the police and reported that their stuff had been stolen. To make a long story shorter, the lady admitted to taking all the stuff out and was holding it for repayment of monies that had been given with nothing in return. She also implicated Mattie in that Mattie had given permission to get all the stuff.

A trip to the lawyer and another trip to the police and everything was straightened out. Barbie and Ken got their furniture back and Mattie was able to sell her house... Almost a year after the whole fiasco began.

Moral of the story: 1/ If it seems too good to be true; it is. 2/ Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see. 3/ The devil wears many disguises.


This is more of a footnote but it's interesting that when Mattie complained about her situation to others, she was told some tales that were just about as bad. In one of them, the landlord, after pursuing every avenue imaginable, simply backed his truck up to the front door and started moving his own furniture and belongings inside. When the family asked what was going on, the landlord simply told them that he was moving in; it was his house and he had the right to live there. He moved the tenants' stuff over to one side of the living room and put his stuff on the other. He simply moved in and set up shop with a family he couldn't get to leave.

It wasn't long before they left.

But there are cases where the tenant not only knows the Landlord-Tenant Act but is cunning and crafty as well. A couple had rented a house on a farmstead outside of Lethbridge. They had a handicapped child and one of the parents worked while the other one stayed at home to look after the child. It wasn't long before the rent was overdue to the point where they were being evicted.

It was winter, they had no money and no place to go; their child was sick and draining all their resources; the landlord had to present the eviction notice personally to the tenant whose name was on the contract in order to throw him out...

Believe it or not, that last statement was the one thing that allowed the delinquent family to remain there for five years, without paying a cent. They even filed suit against the landlord when he took down the satellite dish because the tenant's wife worked from home and needed internet access (thus the satellite dish) to do her job.

The landlord investigated hiring a professional torch to burn the place down but refrained at the last minute; a smart move to say the least. The last I heard, the landlord hired a contractor and began extensive renovations on the house. He couldn't throw the tenants out because that would mean he would have to provide alternate accommodations until the work was completed. He just told them that there would be a lot of construction going on and they (the tenants) would have to work around the crew. From what I heard the handicapped boy got so upset that they had to get out and move him up to Calgary where he could get some more help. The delinquents took a lot of their stuff with them but the rest of it was put out in the garage which will soon be standing by itself as the house has been sold and will be moved off the place as soon as renos are done.

Not exactly legal but then, how legal were the tenants? Yeah, I know, two wrongs don't make a right, but sometimes there isn't any choice.


  1. Unbelievable! Downright scary what people can get away with! Neither a renter nor a landlord be, obviously!

    1. You find out how prejudiced the courts can be against the landlord when you try to throw delinquent renters out. This post was originally sent to the Calgary Sun, which liked it but never printed it for some reason or other. Best thing is not to have to get in that kind of situation. I've got a couple of good friends who store trailers and RVs on their acreages. That seems to work out well although one friend is having problems with a guy who left a couple of old cars on his place and disappeared. He wants to take possession of the cars but the courts are taking forever.

  2. You know I've been reading your posts for a couple months now, I had no idea until just now figured out that you are Diane's husband. That so great that you're both writers!

    1. You're close, Rena! Diane's brother. The one I had to look up to . . . and fight with . . .