Repeat rent-dodger dubbed ‘professional squatter’ prompts call for reform

Repeat rent-dodger dubbed ‘professional squatter’ prompts call for reform

HALIFAX — A Halifax coffee shop owner who says he tried for more than four months to evict a tenant he called a ”professional squatter” is calling for reforms to Nova Scotia’s tenancy laws.

Jason Selby says he retook possession late Tuesday of the home Nadav Even-Har and his family had occupied, the day after a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ordered the tenants to leave.

Court records and interviews indicate Even-Har has previously followed a pattern of not paying rent, appealing court orders to depart and delaying evictions for months.

“I just can’t believe that our legal system allows him to do this to people over and over again,” Selby said in a telephone interview.

The owner of Selby’s Bunker said without the nearly $10,000 Even-Har owed him, he was forced to sleep at his business or at friends’ homes in order to make mortgage payments on the home he was renting out.

Patricia Arab, the minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia, said the Even-Har case has led her department to look to other jurisdictions for guidance on how to avoid similar incidents.

“Even if it’s just this one individual … it’s opened up an issue that’s an important one to address so we don’t get to a point where people are using this loophole in the Residential Tenancies Act to avoid rent,” she said.

The winding story of legal delays in Selby’s case began months ago.

Selby, 31, said when he first met Even-Har, he was driving an expensive car and presented advance rent cheques. Those turned out to be from closed accounts, and from June 1 onwards, no rent was paid, Selby said.

Instead, Selby found himself following the provincial eviction process. He gave the family a 45-day grace period, then applied to Service Nova Scotia for eviction. Two weeks later, he filed for a hearing before a residential tenancy officer. When Even-Har didn’t appear, he was ordered to pay more than $5,000 in rent and to leave by Sept. 1.

However, the family didn’t depart, and Even-Har appealed to small claims court. When Selby showed up for the hearing, Even-Har again wasn’t present, and the landlord said he was granted a court order to evict him.

Selby moved the family’s belongings out of the house, but police allowed the tenant to move back in. Even-Har turned to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, which allowed him to re-enter the home again until an October court hearing. It was that hearing that led to the final eviction this week.

Last month, community members sympathetic to Selby protested outside the rented residence following media reports about his ordeal.

Meanwhile, other landlords have recounted similar experiences involving the tenant. Lori Sampson, a former landlord who rented her home to Even-Har’s family, said in an interview the experience badly damaged her finances.

“A sheriff’s office removes him, and then he can appeal in a higher court and they let him back in …. I don’t understand it,” she said.

Even-Har didn’t respond to an email from The Canadian Press but has told the CBC he regrets his actions and has suggested he could eventually repay former landlords who had him evicted.

Caryma Sa’d, a lawyer who represents both tenants and landlords in Ontario, said this and other cases erode the trust that underlies the owner-renter relationship.

“People feel that burn and are more reluctant to find tenants …. Also, when a small landlord has been burned, it can be difficult to recover the losses,” she said in an interview from her office in Toronto.

Sa’d said solutions to the problem are difficult because it’s important not to eliminate legal rights solely because a tenant is a repeat offender. Creating a “blacklist” of tenants who skip rent could end up defining people by past behaviours they may have changed, she said.

The lawyer said one solution could be to start publishing names in residential tenancy decisions, helping alert landlords — and renters — to repeat offenders. The names in those decisions are currently not accessible in Nova Scotia or Ontario.

Meanwhile, for Selby, the process of rebuilding his finances is just beginning. “I’ve arrived at the point where the house is finally vacant after over four months,” he said. “I have to start over.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2019.

Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

professional squatter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eva Pennock got an unlikely visit from a horse at a Three Hills Health Care Centre. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Pennock)
Unlikely visitor brings cheer to residents at Three Hills Health Care Centre

An unlikely visitor spread some cheer and good tidings this week at… Continue reading

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Zero tax increase approved by Red Deer city council for 2021 and 2022

City council passed operating budgets for the next two years on Thursday

Red Deer city council approved a $39.6 million police budget for 2021, up for inflationary reasons from $37.9 million in 2020. (Black Press file photo).
Red Deer city council retains police funding, while also launching a crisis team

De-funding police is not a conversation in this municipality

Alberta reported an additional 1,854 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories)
Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

The Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer has new owners. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer has new ownership group

‘They’re making an investment in this iconic hotel for the future,’ says general manager Gil Vallee

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

A masked worker walks behind a hiring sign on his way into the Dover Cliffs long term care home in Port Dover, Ont., Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Statistics Canada will say this morning how Canada's job market fared last month as COVID-19 case counts rose along with a new round of public health restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian economy added 62,000 jobs in November, Statistics Canada says

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the economy added 62,000 jobs in November… Continue reading

Bank towers are shown from Bay Street in Toronto's financial district, on Wednesday, June 16, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrien Veczan
North American stocks up in early trading, loonie tops 78 cents US

TORONTO — Gains in the mining and metals sector helped lift Canada’s… Continue reading

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori delivers a speech after an opening plenary session of the three-party meeting on Tokyo 2020 Games additional costs due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo, Friday, Dec 4, 2020. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics delay costs may reach $2.8 billion

TOKYO — The cost of the postponement for the Tokyo Olympics could… Continue reading

President-elect Joe Biden departs a news conference after introducing his nominees and appointees to economic policy posts at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Among first acts, Biden to call for 100 days of mask-wearing

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to… Continue reading

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2013, file photo of A.P. Moller-Maersk’s oil rig in the North Sea named Halfdan. Denmark has decided to end to all oil and gas offshore activities in the North Sea by 2050 and has cancelled its latest licensing round, saying the country is “now putting an end to the fossil era.” The Danish Parliament voted late Thursday to end the offshore gas and oil extraction that started in 1972 and has made it the largest producer in the European Union. (Claus Bonnerup/Polfoto via AP,file)
Denmark to end oil, gas extraction in North Sea

COPENHAGEN — Denmark has decided to end all oil and gas activities… Continue reading

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s merchandise trade deficit was $3.8 billion in October as both exports and imports climbed higher. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Statistics Canada says merchandise trade deficit held stead in October at $3.8B

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the country’s merchandise trade deficit held steady… Continue reading

An employee works in a warehouse with dry ice outside at the Pfizer Manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. British officials on Wednesday authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, greenlighting the world’s first shot against the virus that’s backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
UK defends vaccine decision amid criticism it moved too fast

LONDON — U.K. regulators went on the offensive Friday to beat back… Continue reading

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere shoots during the team's practice at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Jan. 1, 2020. Lafrenière will not be going for another gold medal this winter. Hockey Canada said in a statement Thursday that the NHL's New York Rangers will not loan the top pick in 2020 to Canada's team for the upcoming world junior hockey championship in Edmonton.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Rangers will not loan Lafrenière to Canada for world junior hockey championship

RED DEER, Alta. — Alexis Lafrenière will not be going for another… Continue reading

Most Read