A Prince Albert woman and her four children have been ordered to leave their rental home on health grounds in a messy tenant-landlord dispute that also involves family and a local property management company.
Jody Sawatzky received a hand-delivered letter from the Saskatchewan Health Authority on Monday saying she and her family had until Friday to get out of the property on 22nd Street East because it is “unsanitary and unfit for human occupation.” She’s been renting there for two months but said inspectors found mold. paNOW has obtained a copy of the letter Sawatsky received.
“After a while I got pneumonia and the kids were also getting sick and throwing up,” she told paNOW. “In the lease there were conditions that I should fix up the property and I’m paying $700 a month for the three-bedroom house. But I would never have taken it had I known about the mold.” She has already moved her children out.
Fighting back tears Sawatzky said she was desperate as she tried to find other accommodation.
“I’m stuck, I’m on the verge of being homeless and I’m trying to find a home,” she said “I’ve had to throw away food in the kitchen cupboards, some furniture and clothes [because of the mold.]"
She said she contacted the Office of the Rentalsman and will pursue action against the landlord but that could take time she doesn’t have.
Meanwhile the landlord, Josh Morrow, told paNOW the unsanitary conditions in the house were of the tenant’s doing.
“We can’t control how dirty a human being is inside that house. Some people want to live like pigs,” he said. “If you phone the health authority and get yourself condemned for being unclean that’s a pretty tough spot for any landlord.”
paNOW asked Morrow why the house would be rented if it had mold in the first place.
“We’re still looking into that but the majority of the issue from what I can tell is the tenant being unsanitary and letting the house get into a condition that it is irreparable.” Morrow said. He added he was unsure about whether the mold had caused the illness among Sawatzky’s family.
“There’s so much hearsay and mixed stories about this and until I get the facts I can’t comment,” he said.
Morrow said he would be demolishing the house because “it wasn’t worth the hassle” and would be building a new one there.
Tenant has family connection to landlord’s former property managers
According to Morrow there is an “added twist” to this story with Sawatzky’s brother Steven Ring finding the property for her and promising to help fix it up. Ring’s husband runs Zoerb Property Management which handled all of Morrow’s rentals from February but Morrow says he’s since let them go.
“Family members of the tenant are disgruntled because they were removed from their job … at the time they were aware of the condition of the property and I rely on their experience to provide safe and quality housing which they failed to do,” he said.
Ring responded to those allegations as "slander."
“We were aware that the property needed some work but not the amount the health inspector said …we had no idea how bad it was,” Ring said.
He added Zoerb Property Management has a good reputation in the city.
“There’s a reason why our tenants have been in their houses for two plus years… because we don’t rent out dumps,” Ring said.
In the meantime Sawatzky says she’s desperate to find another place to live and Morrow had not offered to help.
“I pleaded with him to help us out like maybe finding us a hotel but he just told me to go get a lawyer,” she said after telling him she was considering legal action.
Asked why he would not assist the tenant Morrow said “with a tenant who lives in a self-inflicted mess and the state the way that house has been left in I’d certainly never rent to her.”
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