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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - One month after he disputed a $100 increase to his rent, Mengzhou Gong believes he is facing a retaliatory eviction on the part of his landlord.
Gong, a 29-year-old former UPEI student who works at Device Doctors on St. Peters Road, said an ongoing dispute with his landlord has caused him significant stress. It began after he informed his landlord that the rent increase was higher than allowable increases on P.E.I. He has since been issued an eviction notice for March 1.
Prior to the beginning of December, Gong was paying $950 for a one-bedroom apartment, which he currently splits with his girlfriend. In November, he was initially informed by his landlord the rent would increasing to $1,050. After Gong looked up allowable rent increases online, he informed the landlord this increase was higher than what was allowable on P.E.I.
According to the IRAC website, the maximum allowable rent increase for 2019 is two per cent, although there are some exceptions.
The landlord then suggested an increase to $990, which would have amounted to a four per cent increase.
"At that point I sent him another message that said, well even for $990, it's still against the law. You can't do that,” Gong said.
“I mean, I have my rights."
Gong said he was willing to pay a two per cent increase in his rent. But, soon after this conversation, he said his relationship with his landlord began to sour.
He began receiving messages claiming his neighbours were complaining about the room one of his cars was taking up in the garage. He was also told that he had caused damage to the bathroom.
In the face of a 0.2 per cent rental vacancy rate, tenant disputes are on the rise in Charlottetown. As of October, IRAC had seen a marked increase in 2018 for appeals from tenants like Gong relating to issues such as evictions and damage deposits.
Landlord claims agreement broken
Sammi Zhang, who is one of Gong’s landlords, said damage to the floor of a walk-in shower in the apartment caused leakage damage to the roof of the apartment below his.
Reached via telephone while visiting China, she described the dispute over the rent in terms of a broken agreement. She said Gong had initially agreed to pay the $990 in rent in messages exchanged on the messaging service WeChat.
"That was the point we argued about. Previously we both agreed it was OK for another six months and we agreed $990. But he totally just took it back," Zhang said.
She also said that, as co-owner of the property, she had the right to renovate the apartment and to even retain Gong’s damage deposit. She said her property manager had also informed Gong that his vehicles – Gong has three - were blocking the driveway spots of his neighbours.
"We were very generous to this tenant, but finally they just came back and bite you," Zhang said.
"If you don't agree, then just move out. That's the deal."
Gong said he was surprised to hear that the spaces taken by his vehicles were an issue. He said he was only told this was one of the reasons for the eviction notice on Monday.
As for the damage to the shower, he said a small hole, about the size of a quarter, was the result of an accident. He said a bottle of shampoo may have caused it after he slipped in the shower. He was informed this required immediate attention in an email in early January.
He plans to dispute the eviction notice to IRAC, adding the tense exchange has worn him down.
“It gives me so much stress, I cannot even sleep,” Gong said.
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