DATE: June 20. 2014
A Maple Ridge man is warning homeowners to take care over property management firms, after his house was left in a state of horrific disrepair by a tenant already known to have a criminal history.
Mostafa Said was awarded $25,000, the maximum possible, in small claims court this month, for damage done to his home by Sherri Fontaine, a tenant chosen by Homelife Classic Realty Ltd. on his behalf while his family was abroad.
The property management firm, which shortly afterwards changed its name to Meadow Ridge Classic Realty, was found to be "grossly negligent" by Judge T.S. Woods, who said the firm failed to do even the most basic checks on Fontaine.
Read the full court judgement describing the damage in detail
On mobile? Click here for a photogallery of the damage to Said's home
Said and his family left their home in December 2005 to embark on a year-long dream vacation to Egypt, but says he returned to a nightmare out of a horror movie.
"[There were] dog feces in the fridge...stains everywhere...doors with big holes... the plumbing was in disrepair," Said told the CBC.
"A simple check would have give the property manager like a hint."
CBC story reveals criminal record
Said says he hired the property management company specifically because of fears about bad tenants, but according to Woods, Meadow Ridge failed to even Google search Fontaine.
Had they done such a search, the judge said, they would have discovered a CBC story revealing Fontaine's criminal record and drug history when her three-year-old son was mauled to death by dogs in a previous residence.
As reported by the CBC in 2004, Fontaine's three children were taken away by B.C. authorities after their sibling was killed. She also had a history of drug possession and trafficking, had served jail time and was barred from owning firearms.
Siblings taken from B.C. home where dogs mauled boy
Fontaine declared very little on her tenancy application form and left many of the boxes blank, providing no information on her employers, banking information and credit card details. She did declare owning a pit bull terrier, however.
Despite this, Fontaine, two other adults, three children under 10 years old and others, described in court documents as her "entourage," moved into the home in February 2006.
Meadow Ridge Classic Realty was found to be 'grossly negligent' in small claims court for failing to properly vet Sherri Fontaine and ordered to pay Mostafa Said $25,000. (Mostafa Said)
According to court documents, Fontaine's first rent cheque for $1,495 bounced, she reported a rat infestation and offered little co-operation when informed in advance of sporadic visits from the property management company.
Fontaine carried out renovations to the house without permission, replacing floors, carpets and the toilet, painting walls and bricks, clearing the backyard of plants, partially replacing the backyard deck and installing fencing.
"When she was finished, the family home was barely habitable," said Woods in his decision.
In addition, during her tenancy, according to Woods' decision, Fontaine appears to have sublet individual rooms to transient subtenants, adding private locks to bedroom doors to provide individual units.
The state of disrepair even forced the District of Maple Ridge to