Several former tenants of a Kingston, Ont., apartment rental company are complaining they were charged “illegal” fees when they moved out.
The fees include $250 for carpet cleaning, as well as a number of other “punitive” charges, such as $90 to install light bulbs and $50 for failing to change stove-top drip pans, according to former tenants of Braebury Properties. They have refused to pay these charges and they say have since received threatening and intimidating phone calls from a debt collection agency.
Braebury, meanwhile, says it is willing to discuss what it describes as “damage or repair charges” with former tenants, and has told CKWS News that a campaign against the company is “bullying and/or extortion.”
The former tenants have teamed up with the Limestone Solidarity Network to launch a “Beware Braebury Campaign” to demand the rental company cease charging what they are calling “illegal and unethical move out fees.” The tenants and the network held a demonstration and news conference outside Braebury’s head office at 366 King St. East on Monday to discuss the campaign.
“Braebury bought the building partway through my tenancy,” said Adam Saifer, a former tenant, in an interview. “But when I moved out, they sent me a bill for $250 to professionally clean the carpets. They said it was their universal policy (to charge the carpet fee). When I pushed them on it, they said that, in fact, my unit only cost $140, so I could pay that instead.”
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Saifer lived in an apartment unit at 255 Bagot St. in downtown Kingston. He moved out in the summer of 2017. In his lease at the time, there was no mention of a carpet cleaning fee. That lease was signed with Limestone Property Management when he moved in. Braebury Properties bought the building a year and a half later. Saifer says he was never approached to sign an updated lease.
Another former tenant, Yao Wang, who also lived at the Bagot Street address, said in addition to a $250 carpet fee, he received a bill for “almost $100 for not disposing of the microwave in the unit, which wasn’t mine to begin with.”
Saifer said he sought legal advice and checked in with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to ask about the move-out fees. “They told me it was illegal.”
CKWS News spoke to the LTB to get clarification; nowhere does the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act deal specifically with “move out” fees. A customer service agent said, “the Act is silent on this issue.”
In an attempt to avoid Braebury’s charges, David Wallgren, a former tenant at 627 Tanner Dr., also a Braebury property, borrowed a neighbour’s carpet steam cleaner to clean the rugs before moving out. But he was still charged the $250 carpet cleaning fee because Braebury claimed the work had to be completed by a professional company. Wallgren received an additional $750 itemized bill from Braebury, which also included a $90 charge for leaving six new light bulbs on the kitchen counter which he did not install himself.
“I’ve been renting for over 20 years,” Wallgren said. “Never have I experienced anything like this.”
CKWS News reached out to Braebury Properties for an on-camera interview, disclosing the allegations made by former tenants. The rental property firm is based in Kingston, but also has properties in the United States.
Spokesperson Tyler Kay, a leasing consultant for the company, said in an email, “Tenants have numerous legal options available to them if they don’t agree with a Landlord on costs to repair damage caused by the Tenant. And our Team has never had an issue in sitting down with a Tenant to review damage or repair costs to come to a fair result.”
Kay continued saying, “What our team will not do is condone bullying and/or extortion by the group calling themselves the Limestone Solidarity Network.”
The Beware Braebury Campaign began three weeks ago with the delivery of a demand letter to the company’s head office in Kingston, in support of tenants’ right to move out unencumbered by what they describe as unfair universal fees.
The Limestone Solidarity Network is a Kingston-based group committed to promoting justice for workers and tenants.
They say they will continue to pressure on the rental company to discontinue the move-out fees.