Students speak out on housing issues

Would you continue living in a student rental home that had been the site of an armed robbery? 

How about three? 

That's the situation Matt*, a student at Niagara College says he is stuck in.

Matt* says he was sitting in his First  Ave. room on February 18th when he heard a commotion downstairs.

The commotion allegedly moved upstairs and shortly after, three armed masked men ran past his bedroom door.

Matt* says they told him to stay in his room and continued searching for a safe while assaulting his roommate who received minor injuries.

Matt* is sure he knows the reason for the break in.

"It was because my one roommate sold drugs. Simple as that. You can't really choose who you live with sometimes in the college environment and you take a room not really knowing what you're getting into."

Matt* says he has brought his roommate's illicit activities up to his landlord in the past with no response.

Niagara Regional Police have confirmed the Feb. 18th attack and believe that it was not a random incident.

This is allegedly the third home invasion at this home since he moved in, although the other two went unreported.

Matt* was ready to leave after the first invasion that he says took place in September 2016.

"I tried to get out of my lease then but my landlord refused to let me leave so I ended up staying nervously."

He also says that his experience isn't a unique one.

"This isn't the first home invasion. My other friend got home invaded (sic) on First Ave. down the street where my one friend was actually stabbed in the leg and they all got butted (sic) in the head with rifles and I know they shot a couch with the rifle. Most of them ended up dropping out of the program and leaving. I've been debating after this third time because I've had to buy two laptops, I don't own a laptop anymore because I can't afford to buy another laptop."

Matt* says the situation has caused tension with his landlord.

"I'm moving out as soon as I can. My landlord like I said would not let me leave, he's not been very helpful at all."

CKTB News has reached out to Chris Bestward, owner of Block Properties Niagara for comment but received no response.

According to Matt*, his landlord's lack of sympathy following the break in is just the latest in a series of problems that began when he moved in.

"If you try and contact him about an issue in the house it takes a long time for him to get back to you on it. We had an issue with the toilets in our house and it took him about 4 months to get an actual working toilet. So we had six people in our house and one working washroom."

"Over the summer I was staying there and he was supposed to renovate both the bathrooms and at one point for about half of the summer I had no bathroom because he was renovating it. The guys he had renovating would show up for about 20 minutes, say they needed equipment, and not come back for about three more days."

Matt* says the landlord also required post-dated cheques before allowing him to move in.

The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 17 states that:

"108. Neither a landlord nor a tenancy agreement shall require a tenant or prospective tenant to,

(a) provide post-dated cheques or other negotiable instruments for payment of rent; or

(b) permit automatic debiting of the tenant's or prospective tenant's account at a financial institution, automatic charging of a credit card or any other form of automatic payment for the payment of rent.  2006, c. 17, s. 108; 2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 11 (3, 4)."

Matt* says he's had great landlords in the past, but his experience this year has not been good.

"I feel that they really take advantage of students. I think that they should be more concerned about the students' safety, I mean they're paying to be here. They're paying to be here for school and also they're paying to live here and they shouldn't be taking advantage of them for a paycheque, they should be helping them out. But I understand that it's a college community and the company I was living with, they own 200+ houses. I know for him to be worried about one or two houses that are selling dope or selling whatever and getting into these issues, I know for him it's not a blip on his radar."

Issues between student tenants and housing companies aren't limited to Niagara College or Block Properties Niagara either.

Laura*, a graduate of Brock University, lived with a different student housing company and had such a poor experience that she needed to leave earlier than planned.

"My room flooded twice and they didn't do anything to fix it, didn't replace anything that was ruined and when I moved out because of the damage/stress they didn't refund me rent."

"I also had one [an independent landlord] walk in on me coming out of the shower before unannounced."

After his experience, Matt* has a piece of advice for prospective students.

"If you're a student coming here or wanting to come to Niagara, do you research on the landlords. That's really the best thing to do. If you know anyone that has come to the Niagara College area and has lived off campus, ask them who their landlord was and ask them their experience. There's good companies out there and there's companies that are just in it for the money."

*Names have been changed by request.