Slum landlords pocketing social assistance money for rent

Some renters who rely on social assistance say they are living in terrible conditions because their landlords won't fix issues with their units.

Some renters in the province are stuck living in desperate conditions, while their landlords collect rent money their tenants receive from social assistance programs, taking taxpayer money to the bank.

Millions of tax dollars go into programs like social assistance, but landlords in Newfoundland and Labrador don't always maintain the properties they rent out to people who rely on those programs.

CBC News spoke to one renter who said his landlord brushes aside his complaints about the unit he lives in.

The renter, whom CBC News is not naming because he fears he will lose his apartment if he is publicly identified, said he has to put a quilt on the floor near his window when it rains because the water comes right through, creating puddles in his apartment.

He went to social services to ask them to stop sending his rent money directly to his landlord until the problems were fixed, but when he explained the situation to the worker they advised him to move out.

The renter said he hasn't been able to find another unit that he can afford with the social assistance he receives.

George Murphy, NDP MHA for St. John's East, said he was shocked to see the conditions of some units.

"Absolutely horrendous — that's a subhuman standard. Nobody should be living like that," Murphy said.

"That's unacceptable. If that's a registered apartment in this city, in this province, nobody should be living like that."

Liberal MHA Tom Osborne said the landlords managing these properties need to be monitored more closely to ensure there is some higher standard of living in place.

"They're taking in taxpayer dollars and providing third world living conditions for their tenants, and it's simply unfair," Osborne said.

"If they're taking in taxpayer dollars to provide accommodations for their tenants, there should be some oversight — especially by government — as to what people are living in."

Osborne said that government needs to revise the landlord tenant's act to include minimal standards to ensure renters that are dependent on social assistance are not left to live in these conditions.

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