Schembri pays up

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The Landlord and Tennant Board have finally reached a ruling for the two outstanding cases of former UW students Aaron Crose and Arjun Gnana. The two are former tenants of One Columbia, a Schembri Property Management apartment, and have been waiting nearly two years for this decision.</p>

After failing to meet construction deadlines, Schembri issued a notice to all tenants in early September 2014 notifying them that their rooms would not be ready in time for the scheduled move in date. While alternative hotel accommodations were offered, numerous tenants chose to file complaints against the company for failing to meet the terms of their tenancy agreement. Crose and Gnana were the last remaining cases of a 53-person suit against Schembri.

As of April 28, the board concluded that Schembri owed Crose upwards of $1,182.20 while owing Gnana a total of $1,416.37.

“Originally the position of the landlord was that they wouldn’t actually return any of the deposits whatsoever, and all of them at least received some money back, some compensation back,” said Joseph Richards of the Waterloo Region Community Legal Services and lawyer for both Crose and Gnana.

Schembri’s owing to Crose and Gnana reflected the sum of their initial deposit for rent plus $5.75 for an application-filing fee. In both cases, Schembri was given a deadline of May 9, 2016 to pay their owing by, or face an additional simple interest charge of 2 per cent annually on the outstanding balance starting the following day. Schembri complied with these terms.

While happy with the result, Richards had hoped for more.

“We asked for damages, based on the fact that we didn’t believe that the board should be setting off the compensation [with] the hotel costs,” he said. “Really these tenants never had a choice in whether they were actually going stay at the hotel, the hotel was not the same as their promised accommodations and was far away.”

According to Richards, in the board’s decision, the compensation should have accounted for the cost of additional damages and inconveniences caused by Schembri.

“There should have been damages for the tenants based on [the] gross inconvenience this whole situation caused them: disruption of their school schedule, the distress and anxiety that it definitely did cause and just the overall bad treatment by the landlord.”

The board denied these requests.

The turnout of the Schembri case is a reminder to students to be mindful before signing any tenancy agreements.

“Tenants have to be very careful before they enter into tenancy relationships — with signing any type of documents with the landlords.…This [case] has been going on since 2014, and some of them have signed these tenancy agreements in April or May of 2014, and now we’re a full two years later and now that’s when they are getting their deposits back,” Richards said. “It’s very important that you read all the terms of a tenancy agreement [and] you realize that, yes, there are remedies there to protect you as a tenant, but they can take a long time, and a lot of effort, and you might not get all that you’re asking for.”

Richards advises students to have their tenancy agreements read over by a community legal clinic: “We have a lot of students who call us or come in with their leases and ask if there’s anything that could be suspicious there or wrong with it. Those are the types of steps that students should be taking to hopefully avoid this type of situation.”

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