Council Hears Appeal By Mobile Park Owner

Photo By Roxanne Ashe - Virtual Interiors Photography

Photo By Roxanne Ashe - Virtual Interiors Photography

Is it a case of a tenant using a glitch in bylaws to stick it to her landlord? Or is it actually a case of a tenant standing up for her rights to have an issue addressed the best she could? And what is the City doing involved in this at all? Were three big questions dealt by Executive Committee dealt with on Monday evening.

Executive Committee dealt with an appeal by a trailer park owner - the property owner - regarding an order by Bylaw Enforcement to effect repairs which also included repairs to a mobile home whose owner was also the complainant to the City.

It also had a jurisdictional angle as the mobile home owner - who owns the home - is also a tenant and rents the property the mobile home sits on and is covered under the Office of Residential Tenancies (Rentalsman).

The issue dealt with an on-going dispute between the Lakeview Trailer Court and a tenant Jamie Keenan and who should be responsible for affecting repairs to the property and the mobile home which had both sides saying the other was responsible for.

Representing the property owners, Lakeview Trailer Court, lawyer Foster J. Weisgerber, claimed the mobile park owners were not responsible for the required repairs ordered by Bylaw Enforcement under Bylaw No. 5484 The Property Maintenance and Nuisance Bylaw because they were not responsible and they did not own the mobile home where repairs were necessary, the complaint Jamie Keenan did.

Speaking to Executive Committee Weisgerber said he and his client respected and appreciated the City of Moose Jaw having the right and obligation to enforce bylaws, but by enforcing the order the mobile home owners were being held financially responsible for something which was not their responsibility.

“It is their house and they should be responsible…the actual physical property which requires work is the tenant’s,” Weisgerber stated, adding because the order can only be enforced against the property owner - through the City doing the work and adding it to the mobile park owner’s taxes - “the result can be unfair in these circumstances.”

“They are ordered to perform work on a piece of property they don’t own.” he said.

“Ms Keenan is trying to use the bylaw and powers to enforce for her benefit,” Weisgerber said, going on to claim the complainant “may have an issue with the trailer park owner” but Bylaw Enforcement and orders was the wrong forum for the entire issue.

Weisgerber claimed the mobile home owner was trying to “use a municipal bylaw as a sword against my client.”

Under the order the property owner has been ordered to conduct outside repairs as well as repairs within the mobile home itself.

“If this order to comply is upheld either the trailer owner gets the benefit of work done on the trailer…it is the park owner who is going to be subject to all registrations,” Weisgerber told Executive.

He requested Council allow the entire issue to go to the Rentalsman where for $50 the trailer owner could file a complaint and then witnesses could be called to determine who is at fault and who is ultimately responsible for the repairs.

“Nobody knows what the cause of this,” Weisgerber claimed.

Director of Planning Michelle Sanson admitted to Executive Committee “(we are) aware it is complicated in terms of ownership” but under the Cities Act the City is allowed to issue the order and enforce it to the owner of the land.

“It’s a matter between the (mobile park) owner and the trailer owner according to their lease agreement,” Sanson said, but when asked by Councillor Chris Warren about responsibility after the water main break the entire issue was “hard to put blame on.”

Speaking about the entire issue Assistant City Solicitor Katelyn Soltys said although the complaint came from the mobile home owner the City is obligated to inspect the property and it did not meet the municipal responsibilities and the order can only be enforced upon the property owner, in this case the mobile park owner.

“The onus is on the landlord…unfortunately (it is) very complicated,” Soltys said.

Councillor Scott McMann asked if there was any provision to wait on enforcing the order and “hoping some way this gets resolved between the owner of the trailer and the owner of the park.”

Asked by Councillor Warren if property owner would want an extension to complete the order if Executive Committee - after meeting in-camera to adjudicate the appeal as a quasi-judicial entity - Weisgerber said his client would need one but there was still inequity even with an extension.

“The realistic answer is how does this work?….the onus is on the owner of the trailer,” Weisgerber said that if the park owners ended up doing the work “how do they recover it in a realistic way from this individual?”

Weisgerber went on to repeat for $50 the mobile home owner could take it to the Rentalsman where evidence could be heard and the safety issues around the trailer arose because of the open excavation to fix the water line which is now back filled properly.

“Rotten boards that have nothing to do with my client…rotten boards simply speak to the condition the trailer is in.”

He again repeated the claims the City was, by enforcing the order, “imposing rough justice on the trailer park owner…and use of a bylaw as a sword” against the trailer park owner.

Asked by Councillor Crystal Froese if the safety concerns had been rectified the response from building official Lisa Eritz were there was an additional safety order which went beyond filling in the excavation but involved the inability to use the front door.

“The safety concern (is it) does not have an exit that would be through the front door,” Eritz said.

Mayor Fraser Tolmie said the civil action was something the City had nothing to do with but the City did have an “obligation to uphold the bylaw” and the City was not becoming part of the civil action.

Asked by Councillor Brian Swanson why the entire issue was not going through the “proper channel” the Rentalsman Weisgerber agreed.

Regarding the non-opening front door Weisgerber claimed “the door (has) not opened for a very long time.”

He further claimed the only complaint brought to the City was from the tenant saying the complaint was “improperly brought by the tenant to do things she cannot do.”

Weisgerber continued to request “holding it in obeyance to allow the little spat to work itself out.”

He would later state going to the Office of Residential Tenancies was “more equitable than a registration” against the trailer park owner’s title and then asking “is it a defect in the bylaw by one narrow exception filling in the cracks maybe.”

After what seemed like the end of the discussion, mobile home owner, Keenan gave a passionate and emotional response to what was being said about her, her home and the complaint.

“This is not about digging into deep pockets,” Keenan told Executive Committee going on to state it was her asking for repairs to be completed for what she claimed was the mobile park owner’s actions surrounding the water leak and eventual break of the water line.

Keenan said she had lived on the same lot for the past 20 years and knew the ground around her home. That she had noticed problems and reported them to the mobile park owner but claimed her concerns were not addressed.

Keenan claimed she first saw the issue arising in 2014 and “took it to management many, many times.”

In her complaint to Bylaw Enforcement Keenan is quoted in a report as stating she noticed the water line leaking for two years prior to its breaking in 2017. The break required excavation and the resultant ground settling caused damage to her home.

It needs to be noted the water and sewer lines in the trailer park are privately owned and the responsibility of the property owner and the City only delivers water services up to the mobile home park’s property line.

“The water main break was three feet from the skirting of my home…on the other side of the trailer you don’t see these issues,” she said about the rotten boards on her mobile home.

She went on to state they were “clear issues I brought several times to the forefront but was told to leave boys stuff to the boys.”

“I don’t want to sue anybody I am not looking for any money,” Keenan stated going on she just wanted her home fixed which was paid for but she was still paying off a personal loan she took out in 2010 to conduct major renovations. And up until the water line problems she claimed there was “nothing wrong in my home.”

She claimed the water line break had done damage to her mobile home through saturated soil - and water damage - and the mobile home ownership doing nothing to affect repairs and it was ultimately not her fault.

“They are responsible for issues below the ground,” Keenan stated.

“I am not here to recover money, I did not go to the Rentalsman I thought this was appropriate…it is very disheartening when you are accused of digging into deep pockets,” Keenan said in response to Weisgerber’s characterizations of her actions to Executive Committee.

She went on to explain the saturated condition of the soil around her mobile home and how it meant she did not have to water even during dry conditions. She continued to claim she brought up concerns about being unable to grow a garden because of wet soil conditions and was told by the mobile home park owners it was because of shade from nearby trees even though she had grown one there previously.

She also claimed a nearby neighbour had recently moved out of the mobile home park because of the water issues and saturation of the underlying soil causing shifting soil.

“I have been (living) there for 20 years and never faced this,” she claimed.

Since she brought new evidence to Executive Committee Weisgerber was allowed to respond where he restated the claim she was “seeking to have her trailer restored and didn’t go through Residential Tenancies.”

He further requested if Executive Committee voted to enforce the order that it be held in obeyance and allow the issue to proceed through the Rentalsman.

The issue went in-camera and the decision and any accompanying reasoning behind it is yet to be released.

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