Melanie Quigg

“Frustrating and confusing” are the words Melanie Quigg uses to describe the convoluted process to retrieve her damage deposit from the property manager of a home she rented in Bedford.

Quigg, a social worker, moved out last year, at the end of June, 2016. Sixteen months later, on October 25, 2017, she finally held in her hand a cheque refunding her $650 damage deposit.

The cheque actually came to $1,040.39. It included almost $400 to reimburse Quigg for the fees involved in the paperwork to take her landlord (Emily Edwards of California) to small claims court and to hire a sheriff to go to the bank where the property manager (David Kennedy of Top Flight Property Management) held her damage deposit.

“There seems to be no accountability whatsoever,” commented Quigg.  “The process absolutely needs to change. If a landlord or property manager wants to return your deposit, they can. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. It’s very easy to keep your money and it takes a lot of time and money on the tenant’s part to get it back. I thought once the Tenancies Board ordered the deposit be returned, that would be it. It wasn’t. I found out I still had to hire someone to enforce that order!”

That’s when most people give up.

In Quigg’s case, after moving out she spent four months leaving phone and email messages for the property manager. Kennedy never returned her messages. The problem begins with a grey area of the Residential Tenancies Act. Section 12.5 states if there is no damage or unpaid rent, deposits must be returned 10 days after the tenant vacates. But Section 13.1 gives landlords and tenants up to one year to claim disputed monies.

Service Nova Scotia contends the two sections are not contradictory because they apply to different situations.

“The one-year time frame applies if there is a dispute over unpaid rent or damage to the unit,” Lori Errington emailed on behalf of Service Nova Scotia last July.

Unfortunately, Melanie Quigg never realized the damage deposit was in dispute, having left the place spotless. When confronted by this reporter, property manager David Kennedy said he did not intend to refund Quigg’s deposit because it was in dispute. Kennedy claimed that Quigg owed a month’s rent for breaking the lease early. Quigg insisted she did not break the lease and an adjudicator with the Residential Tenancies Board sided with her when she took her fight for the damage deposit to that tribunal.

On June 9, 2017, nearly a full year from the day she moved out of the rented house, the Residential Tenancies Board ordered the landlord to return Quigg’s deposit. Neither the landlord nor the property manager appealed the order. The cheque, however, was still nowhere close to being in the mail. The property manager chose to delay the inevitable by pointing out a spelling mistake on the original order. The adjudicator re-issued it a couple weeks later.

In August 2017, Quigg sought out Megan Deveaux at Dalhousie Legal Aid to try and enforce the order from the Tenancies Board. Damage deposits are Deveaux’s second biggest complaint. The legal aid worker describes the enforcement process as “crazy and ridiculous” and begging for government action to reform.

Deveaux says the sheriff will fail to collect unless the tenant knows where the landlord or property manager lives or the location of the bank branch where the damage deposit is legally required to be held in trust. In Quigg’s case, Kennedy had specified the bank branch and she has a record showing the sheriff withdrew the damage deposit amount on Sept.8.

Why it took until October 25 for the sheriff’s office to issue her cheque remains lost in a bureaucratic fog. Cheques are supposed to be issued at least once a month. Maybe Quigg’s cheque missed the Sept cut-off date?  Who knows. By October 25, Quigg didn’t wait for the office to mail it but chose to collect it in person, having all but given up seeing her money again.

So far, efforts to interest the former and current ministers of Service Nova Scotia — Mark Furey and Geoff MacLellan, respectively — in making changes to the system appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite the fact one third of Nova Scotians rent their accommodation. Despite the fact New Brunswick has a more efficient process where damage deposits are paid directly to a third party — the Office of the Rentalsman. New Brunswick landlords have seven days to notify the Rentalsman if there is a dispute. If not, the Office sends out a cheque within three weeks.

Hello, Nova Scotia? Anybody home?

A smiling white woman with short silver hair wearing dark rimmed glasses and a bright blue blazer.

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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3 Comments

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  1. Good to get these stories out there — thank you! The ResTenAct definitely needs overhauling and improving and telling stories like this will hopefully provide the motivation to do so. At the very least it will out landlords and property managers who are known to cause issues and take advantage of the system.

    On that note, I had a similar experience with the same property manager discussed here. It didn’t take a year to get the money back, but I never did get everything that was entitled to me and by that point it wasn’t worth continuing the hassle for a couple hundred dollars, since I had moved to another country and couldn’t easily engage the tenancy board processes for recovering my money. My case was similar in that the 10 day period lapsed with no communication about the damage deposit, and I had to go to a representative of the landlord (who in that case was actually the Provincial Government) to even get a hold of the manager about the issue.

  2. “I thought once the Tenancies Board ordered the deposit be returned, that would be it.”

    Indeed – as well as an ethical exchange of contractual responsibility between tenant and landlord.

    Melanie Quigg’s experience touched a nerve as I read it late last night. I had a similar experience with a landlord in Nova Scotia in 2003. I checked whether I’d kept a copy of my letter which I still believe broke the landlord’s intransigence – I had – and I’ll reproduce it below.

    I’d rented an apartment in a building in Clayton Park, Halifax, which still stands and rents according to exterior signs I saw during my last visit to family.

    I was moving to Charlottetown in 2003. I’d observed proper notice and had an approved exit inspection.

    The amount of my due damage deposit, $254.54, will not seem large to readers, but it was to me, and like Ms. Quigg, I was tenacious. I’d held up my part of the deal, I expected the same in response.

    After fruitless communication with the then building superintendent, who disclaimed any responsibility beyond approving my exit inspection, I searched the Registry of Joint Stock Companies and learned the landlord’s wife was registered as company president with he as Secretary and Director.

    I still believe the inclusion of his wife motivated action.

    Handwritten on my paper copy are these words: “I received the cheque some weeks later, but no letter or apology.”

    I have no knowledge of present ownership or management of the building, so I’ll omit identifying information;otherwise, this is it in its entirety:

    […]
    Charlottetown, PE C1A 5V2
    June 11, 2003

    E.F., President
    J.W.F., Secretary and Director
    […]
    Halifax, NS B3L 2Z7

    Dear President and Secretary F:

    Re: Landlord-Tenant Board Decision in Favour of Donna M. Morris

    As you are aware, the Tenancy Board has ruled that your Company owes
    me a total sum of $254.54 as my refundable damage deposit from my
    tenure in […] at […] in Halifax. Your appeal period has also elapsed, and
    with the same contempt you’ve shown me, you have also treated this quasi-
    judicial Board by neither appearing for the hearing, nor complying with the
    ruling.

    I was an honourable and good tenant in your building…even considerate. I
    bought and replaced toilet mechanisms that broke without ever mentioning
    it; I repaired every picture-hanging nail hole in the walls; left the apartment
    immaculate; was never once late with rent, even surrendered my apartment
    key on March 8th., 2003, when I was entitled to occupancy of the apartment
    until March 31st., and in return, I am treated in this despicable way by your
    company.

    I wish to advise you that I have filed papers with Small Claims Court for the
    next step in this convoluted path to collection. Once this stage is ended, a
    Court Order will be issued and you will be required to pay the $254.54 plus
    the cost of service of the Court Order to you by a Sheriff, which I am told is
    approximately $75.00.

    I intend on following this through to the very end. It would be in your company’s
    best financial interest to pay me now. You may mail a cheque to the above
    address.

    Yours very truly,