Landlord sues 12 student properties, 11 go unrepresented

Landlord faces allegations of harassment, illegal entry and forgery of notices of entry 

A stack of evidence handed to Christopher Jones in mediation against Phil Lam. The documents include forged notices of entry, according to Jones.
Credit: 
Iain Sherriff-Scott

This year, landlord Phil Lam filed lawsuits against 12 different groups of students living in his properties in the University District. 

Of the 12 cases, only one group had legal representation.

Lam filed 11 of his applications on March 13 and one on March 15, resulting in hearings which were scheduled during exam season.

Since January, Lam has filed claims for nearly $30,000 in damages from tenants, according to documents obtained by The Journal in August.

“We only file applications as a last resort,” Lam wrote of the actions via email. 

In the case of a Barrie Street house, Freedom of Information Coordinator Susan Benger wrote the tribunal “found that the tenants did not cause the majority of the damage claimed by the landlord.”

Among the lawsuits, Queen’s student Christopher Jones and his six housemates faced damages claims. 

Jones—the only one who challenged Lam in mediation—had difficulty with his legal defence. 

In 2017, Jones filed applications against Lam for harassment, interference of reasonable enjoyment, failure to provide services and allowing his staff to consistently enter the unit without proper written notice.

Jones was a tenant of 15 Aberdeen Street from 2016-2017. He told The Journal the property was “poorly maintained.”

“Our food was being eaten by mice all the time. I’m pretty sure there was mold in the basement. It smelled so bad,” Jones said.

On Nov. 24, Jones came home from class to find his and four of his housemates’ bedroom doors had been completely replaced.

“[Lam] never told us that anyone would be coming, or to replace the doors,” Jones said. “He never said the doors were damaged. We never asked for them to be replaced, because they were all functional.”

In an email to The Journal, Lam stated he “always provides tenants with the opportunity to discuss the alleged rent or damage issues.”

“We invite the tenants to arrange a mutual time for a sit-down meeting and try to settle the issues as we believe communication is key in resolving all issues,” he continued. “Our practice is to notify tenants through email advising tenants of the damages so there are no surprises whatsoever.” 

Jones alleged that during the replacement of his bedroom door, a pair of Beats headphones disappeared from his room. When reached for a comment, Lam didn’t provide an explanation for the headphones. 

According to Jones, Lam told Jones and his housemates they’d have to pay for the replacement of the doors to sign the lease again—which Lam denies.

Jones refused and tried unsuccessfully to resolve the problem with Lam outside of regular tribunal proceedings, which resulted in mediation between both parties. 

The mediation—scheduled on a day Jones was set to write an exam—was adjourned until September of 2017. 

In tribunal proceedings, both the landlord and tenant are legally required to present each other with evidence supporting their case at least a week before the mediation date. 

Jones didn’t receive any evidence from Lam or his representative, Ian MacInnis, until he sat down in the mediation room. 

Jones provided Lam and MacInnis with his evidence against them one week before the mediation date. In his evidence, Jones listed each alleged date Lam or his staff illegally entered his unit.

Upon entering meditation, Jones said MacInnis handed him a stack of documents, claiming they were entry notices. 

“I flipped through them and they all looked exactly the same. My heart sunk, because I knew there was no way that I could prove he forged them,” Jones said.

Lam didn’t respond to the allegations of forgery. 

As the mediation proceeded, Jones said the mediator had to tell Lam and MacInnis to leave the room so Jones could defend himself. 

“Lam’s lawyer, Ian MacInnis, dominated the entire conversation and didn’t give me a chance to speak. I felt completely overwhelmed,” he said. 

Because Lam and MacInnis failed to provide Jones with evidence against him at least a week prior to mediation in September, Jones was granted another adjournment until March of 2018. 

In an email to The Journal, Lam wrote, “the applications were adjourned for the reason that the Board thought it would be appropriate to hear both Landlord and Tenant applications at the same time as it dealt with the same property.”

“In summary, anyone can make allegations,” he continued. “The allegations are not substantiated with proof. It is unnecessary to repeat a legal process that has already occurred through a newspaper.” 

In March, when mediation resumed, the mediator informed Jones that a hearing on his matter would last six hours. 

Jones decided it wasn’t worth his time anymore. Exhausted and frustrated, he paid Lam $691—a reduction of nearly half the original amount Lam sought.  

“It was just a very demoralizing experience,” Jones said. “If you’re financially struggling or on student loans, it’s a huge burden you have to bear.”

 

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