Tenant damage costs housing authority big bucks

Violent, destructive incidents within social housing are more common now, Iqaluit housing manager says.



IQALUIT— Damage to Iqaluit social housing units by the tenants who live in them is costing the local housing authority more money than ever before.

As of Oct. 31, the authority had total assessments of $835,716.83 owing to it.

That’s up $205,339.19 from the amounts owed to the authority by tenants as of April 1.

Almost half of that increase is due to tenant damage. Housing authority officials say vandalism, wear and tear and sheer disrespect for property have cost them $90,193 over the last seven months — a significant chunk of the increase in the amounts owing. The rest of the increase is rent arrears.

Susan Spring, the manager of the Iqaluit Housing Authority says tenant damage has always been a problem for the authority, but it’s one that seems to be growing and becoming more violent.

“Two weeks ago my assistant took a call from a lady who was complaining that the tenants in the apartment next to her had broken through her wall,” she says.

Another tenant found blood and hair smeared all over the inside of his apartment building’s hallway.

“We’ve had gangs of 12-year-olds terrorizing places,” she says. Four social housing units have been closed since October of last year because they were so badly beaten up, she says.

The recent house fire that destroyed a five-unit residence cost the Nunavut Housing Corporation a million dollars. That was caused by a tenant’s cigarette, she says.

It’s a problem that has plagued the housing authority for at least as long as Spring has been working there she says. Over the last 10 years she has tried to educate tenants, tried to get them to take care of their units better and to go after people if somebody else is responsible, but she says ultimately, the solution lies with the tenants themselves.

“Strangely enough we don’t have this problem with the government tenants,” she says.

The housing authority now manages units used to house employees of the Nunavut territorial government, but damage costs aren’t nearly as high with those units, she says.

At the annual general meeting of the housing authority last week, a parade of senior citizens who are tenants complained about how they are being charged for damages they didn’t incur and rents they shouldn’t have to pay.

But Spring is adamant that people over the age of 60 living in social housing are not being assessed for rent. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t owe the housing authority money, she said.

“The problem is the leases are joint and several,” she said. Even though the Nunavut Housing Corporation has a policy of not assessing rent based on the income of tenants who are over the age of 60, elders can still be on the hook for rent owed by their younger house mates.

Just because they turn 60 doesn’t mean their name comes off the lease. In fact the names of anyone who can be assessed rent are on the lease, Spring said.

Rent is assessed on a household income basis, she said. If one of the people on the lease falls behind on the rent, the responsibility for paying the rent still falls to the others on the list, she said. And the same holds true for tenant damages.

“Maybe it isn’t granny herself, maybe it’s her 30-year-old son,” said Spring.

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