A summary conviction and fine under the Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Act has not been used since 1990, as far back as provincial Justice records go.
Summary conviction is included in article 23 of the lawand applies to any landlord or tenant who “violates or fails to comply with any order, direction or other requirement of the Director or Small Claims Court or contravenes any provision of this Act”.
It also applies to any landlord who retaliates against a tenant who attempts to assert their rights under the law.
He says anyone who does this is guilty of an offense punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine of up to $1,000. The next section says that no prosecution can be brought under section 23 without the consent of the Attorney General.
The language is clear, but what is unclear in practice is how a landlord or tenant can pursue that summary conviction and fine.
Patricia Celan came across sections 23 and 24 of the law as she tried to evict tenants who had never paid rent and given her fraudulent checks.
“I wanted to make sure I was following the act accordingly and I found out by chance,” she said. “I think most people don’t know that.”
Celan and her tenants had a hearing with a rent officer in July, and she received an order from the manager directing her tenants to pay her the missing rent and vacate the unit.
But the tenants wouldn’t comply, so she tried to ask Halifax Regional Police for help.
“When I called the police, they said they weren’t doing anything related to residential rentals,” she said. “And so I called the Residential Tenancies Commission and asked them how to enforce that. And they said they weren’t enforcing that, it would be something that would be dealt with either by the police or by the courts . So I called the courts and asked how it was enforced and they didn’t know.”
Ministry says police could enforce fine
The Department of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services is responsible for the Residential Tenancies Program and is responsible for its legislation. The department declined CBC’s interview request about the summary conviction and fine, but said that since there was no enforcement division within the program, the police could enforce it.
“For a person to be liable to a fine under section 23 of the Residential Tenancies Act, they must first be charged with an offense against the law and then found guilty by the courts,” said Blaise Thériault, spokesperson for the ministry. “Currently, the Residential Tenancies Program does not have enforcement officers to investigate and lay charges, however, police may investigate and lay charges.”
Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services Minister Colton Leblanc said in late August that his department was still considering a compliance and enforcement division, but the process is taking time.
The Justice Department told CBC News that the summary convictions would follow a court process and the court would determine the fine. When asked how many times that fine had been used, a spokesperson checked as far as he could.
“We were able to review records going back to 1990. The court has no record of any convictions under section 23 or section 24 of the act,” ministry spokesman Peter McLaughlin said.
No investigation opened
CBC asked the Nova Scotia RCMP how many requests from the public it has received over the past five years to pursue this type of summary conviction, and how many times the RCMP has initiated an investigation under sections 23 and 24 of the Residential Tenancies Act.
Spokesman Chris Marshall said the RCMP has the authority to lay charges under the Residential Tenancies Act if two conditions are met.
“A complaint from the Director of Residential Tenancies, or a designated person, or a person named in a Small Claims Court order, shall be received by the RCMP, alleging that a violation or failure to comply with a small claims court order has occurred, and the attorney general must approve the filing of the charge,” Marshall said.
But he added that no investigation had been opened in the past five years.
“The RCMP routinely responds to complaints related to landlord and tenant disputes each year in Nova Scotia, but we are not aware of any RCMP investigations related to violations of Section 23 or 24 of the Property Act. rental for residential use.“, he said.
When CBC posed the same questions to Halifax Regional Police, a spokesperson did not share any information. Wendy Mansfield has ordered CBC to file a freedom of information request.
All Mansfield would say is, “We appreciate that these matters are typically dealt with through the Residential Tenancies Act process, however, should we receive a call of this nature, we will We will review on a case-by-case basis and take appropriate action.”
“A loophole in the system”
In the end, Celan did not have to use the summary offense option. His tenants failed to appear in a Small Claims Court appeal they initiated, and the appeal was dismissed. This confirmed the manager’s order she had previously received, and she said the tenants left her apartment the first week of September.
But she believes her experience shows there is “a loophole in the system” that allows some tenants or landlords to continue breaking the rules.
“If you go to the police and ask for execution, they point to the Residential Tenancies Commission,” she said. “And if you point to the Residential Tenancies Commission and ask them to enforce that, they don’t know how to enforce it and they suggest going to the police or going to court and nobody knows.
“And that’s exactly the loophole that lets people get away with it again and again.”