A P.E.I. landlord who altered a lease document while fighting to be allowed to charge a higher rent has been sentenced to 30 days of house arrest.
Linda Ford, 67, pleaded guilty in October to the offence of uttering a forged document.
She will also be on probation for 12 months and must pay a $100 victim surcharge.
Ford owns a duplex in Cornwall and was renting out one-half of it for $1,300 a month.
When the former tenant left, the new tenant was asked to pay a damage deposit of $1,200 plus a rent of $2,000 a month, starting in December 2020.
The maximum allowable rent increase for 2020 compared to 2019 was 1.3 per cent. For 2021 compared to 2020, it was 1.0 per cent.
When the new tenant found out what the former rent was through the crowd-sourced rental registry My Old Apartment, she challenged it to the Office of the Director of Residential Rental Property.
That office ruled against Ford, but she appealed to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.
"Upon a review of the testimony of the parties and the evidence presented, including documents filed after the hearing, the Commission finds ... that Ms. Ford has conducted herself unacceptably and therefore the Commission disregards all of her evidence," the commission said in its decision.
Ford had given the commission her copy of the old lease, which she had changed to include a reference to the rent being "$1,300/$2,000" a month.
As much as we are concerned about the recent event, we believe it is an isolated incident. - Residential Rental Association of P.E.I.
That notation was not included on the former tenant's copy of the lease, which was also given to the commission.
A spokesperson for the commission confirmed its role in the criminal case in a brief statement to CBC on Tuesday.
"While the Commissioners do not comment on their decisions, this was an uncommon occurrence and the Commissioners had sufficient concern to forward the matter on to the authorities who conducted the investigation," the emailed statement said.
Landlords' association condemns offence
In a statement issued Wednesday, the executive director of the Residential Rental Association of P.E.I. said the group "strongly condemns" the landlord's actions in this case.
"While [the association] believes the current regulations prohibiting its members from charging fair market value when properties become vacant go too far, they represent the law as it currently stands," Cecil Villard wrote in the statement.
"As such, they must be followed, and the association urges all landlords to do so."
The statement continued: "At the same time, [the association] asks those who are quick to paint all landlords with the same brush to put things into perspective. There are over 17,500 renters on Prince Edward Island. As much as we are concerned about the recent event, we believe it is an isolated incident."
Darcie Lanthier is a tenant advocate who helped set up the rental registry.
It relies on past tenants disclosing what they paid for their units so that new tenants can check to see if the property owner boosted the rent above the allowable amount.
"This probably goes on quite a lot and I'm just really glad that this particular landlord was caught," Lanthier said.
"The previous tenant had paid $1,300 on this apartment just last year… so that means right now the apartment [rent] could only be one per cent more than that… and instead it was rented for $2,000."
As part of the commission process, the tenant received about $1,200 from Ford, consisting of most of her security deposit, $118.49 in incorrectly charged rent, and interest.