Okanagan landlords unite to fight tenant and warn others
From cat urine and feces left on the carpet to lies about why rent wasn’t being paid, two Okanagan landlords have banded together to help prevent others from allegedly being duped.
“There’s still a little bit of shock about what happened,” landlord David McKinley said.
McKinley said he has lost upwards of $15,000 after dealing with a renter he said caused damage, stole furniture and didn’t pay rent while staying at his West Kelowna condo from April 1 to June 11.
“The amount of money that I’m out, the fact that insurance won’t cover it: it’s a disaster. It’s a mess,” McKinley told Global News.
The Kelowna man said he was luckier than most landlords, as his condo is governed by the Westbank First Nation tenancy branch, not the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch.
McKinley was able to get an order to remove the tenant in a month, whereas most B.C. landlords have to wait more than three months to get an arbitration hearing and order for unpaid rent.
After sharing his story on social media, he quickly connected the dots with rental manager Sherry Kowalchuk.
“He knows how to play the system,” Kowalchuk said of the tenant they both have legal issues with.
Kowalchuk has text messages from the tenant that include excuses why rent wasn’t paid on July 1, including telling her his son had died and he was burying him.
She said that when she called the funeral home he was at, they had no record of any funerals that day.
After promising to fly home from Vancouver to pay her rent, Kowalchuk found him 20 minutes later outside the Sunset Drive building in Kelowna.
“I told him there were warrants out for his arrest and he ran,” Kowalchuk said.
Sean Starkes, who is the tenant in question, said he turned himself in on the warrant that was issued in April after he failed to appear in court on a charge of driving while prohibited. It is a charge for which he has been found guilty numerous times, according to B.C.’s court record.
Starkes, who also goes by the name Sean Andruchow (his estranged wife’s last name) denies all allegations made against him.
“I have paperwork showing, first off, once I took Sherry to arbitration, she illegally locked me and my son out,” Starkes texted Global News.
Kowalchuk said she changed the locks out of fear for the safety of the property in the fully-furnished unit she was managing.
“David also claims I destroyed his condo which is a bald-faced lie. I have even the receipts from the carpets being cleaned when left,” Starkes said.
McKinley provided several photos taken of cat feces and cat urine on the condo carpet.
He said Starkes moved in with a cat, without notice or paying a pet deposit. Pets were not allowed in the unit, he added.
“The damage from the cat was huge,” McKinley said.
Rebecca Zimmerman has also come forward saying she claimed bankruptcy after Starkes destroyed her rental home in Lumby back in 2009.
“He moved chickens and goats into the home,” Zimmerman said.
After a decade of trying to track down Starkes to recover her losses, Global News put her in touch with the Kelowna man.
Both Zimmerman and Starkes shared text messages between the two to make an attempt to get the debt paid back, although Zimmerman admits she is skeptical after everything he has put her through.
After the story ran on Global News on Friday, property manager Jacklyn Goerzen came forward as well.
“I feel so horrible about it,” Goerzen said.
She said Starkes rented from her between Oct. 2018 and April of this year.
“It was just a nightmare,” Goerzen said.
She accuses Starkes of not only failing to pay rent and causing damage to the home but also questions his involvement in missing mail, furniture and tools.
“He cost us more than $10,000,” she said, wishing she had come forward before more people suffered losses.
When asked if he was innocent of recent allegations involving rent and theft, Starkes said, “until the outcome in court, no one is.”
Starkes is scheduled to be in Kelowna Provincial Court on Monday on a charge of driving while prohibited.
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