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Rent strike? Halifax public housing residents decry maintenance issues

Click to play video 'Rent strike? Halifax public housing residents decry maintenance issues' Rent strike? Halifax public housing residents decry maintenance issues
Rats, mould and water leaks are just a few of the problems affecting some residents of low income housing in our region. Now, tenants in the Spryfield area are fed up and taking matters into their own hands. As Global's Natasha Pace reports, residents are hoping by withholding rent, they will finally see maintenance repairs complete – Jul 6, 2016

Several residents living in public housing units in Halifax are considering a rent strike.

For months, tenants in the Greystone area of Spryfield have been complaining about everything from rats and mould to water leaks inside their homes.

READ MORE: Dead mice in vents last straw for Halifax mother of two

Despite being vocal about the issues plaguing them, residents say nothing has been done.

“Homes are still really bad. Housing, they start to do the repairs and than they slack off and a month passes and you’re calling them again looking for an update,” resident Jodi Brown said.

Brown, who lives in public housing, is spearheading the rent strike idea. She says she’s dealing with a number of problems in her own home.

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“I moved in the end of January and the first week I smelled cat urine and I thought it was dead mice,” she told Global News.

A mother of two living in public housing says she’s finding dead mice in her vents. Jodi Brown

“They cut the wall out and they did see there was cat urine, there was spray, so they cut all the walls out and that was fixed, but we still had this smell. It ended up being the mice in the attic that were dying and decaying and in the walls.”

‘We don’t want to pay our rent’

Brown has been working with other residents in the community to try and raise awareness about the conditions people are living in.

“We have one tenant, her ceiling in her kitchen is completely out and you can see up into her bathtub,” Brown said. “We have another individual, four years she’s been living with mould.”

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READ MORE: Public housing getting $1.6 million to curb bedbug, rodent problems

Fed up with ongoing issues that are not being repaired, several residents are considering holding onto their rent until something changes.

“We don’t want to pay our rent,” said Brown. “We want to put our money into a trust and when the maintenance is completed, then Housing can receive their rent.”

WATCH: Residents of public housing in the Halifax area are considering a rent strike to try to force the housing authority to fix problems in their homes.

Click to play video 'Halifax public housing residents fed up with maintenance delays' Halifax public housing residents fed up with maintenance delays
Halifax public housing residents fed up with maintenance delays – Jul 6, 2016

Brown says the idea is to try to force the Nova Scotia Housing Authority to take care of the existing maintenance issues.

“Nothing is working, so the only thing I can think of is if they’re not getting their money, they have to do the repairs — what else can they do?” she said.

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Is a rent strike legal?

Legally speaking, it is legal to stop paying your rent, according to Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay.

“It’s a legal avenue as long as it’s done properly,” MacKay said.

MacKay says in order to withhold rent from a landlord — the Nova Scotia Housing Authority in this case — the group of tenants would have to follow the provisions set out in the Tenancy Act.

He has never heard of a group of residents deciding to withhold rent at the same time.

“I have heard of it on an individual basis, I haven’t heard of it on a collective basis and again, it has to be done in a certain way, you can’t simply stop paying rent.”

There is no timeline yet on when the residents might stop paying their rent. The group has recently set up a Facebook page set up to show the community the issues they are facing in their homes.

The Department of Community Services confirmed Wednesday afternoon that they learned about the possibility of a rent strike as part of Global News’ investigation.

Janet Burns-Gerrans, general manager of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority says they are aware of the issues brought forward by tenants and are working to complete maintenance.

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Burns-Gerrans says the housing authority has never seen this type of coordinated strike action before.

“Certainly, as a landlord that works within the residential tenancy act, it’s not an advisable course of action,” she said.

“There is a process under the residential tenancy act for tenants who have concerns about maintenance for them to be able to work through with their landlord and we would encourage any of our tenants to come to us directly”

WATCH: The Department of Community Services confirmed Wednesday afternoon that they learned about the possibility of a rent strike as part of Global News’ investigation.

Click to play video 'Janet Burns-Gerrans, general manager of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority says they are aware of the issues brought forward by tenants' Janet Burns-Gerrans, general manager of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority says they are aware of the issues brought forward by tenants
Janet Burns-Gerrans, general manager of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority says they are aware of the issues brought forward by tenants – Jul 6, 2016