A Ukrainian newcomer says she learned Calgary's rental rules the hard way after almost losing a $1,000 apartment deposit — and says she wants to help others avoid a similar situation.
Olena Korotun says she and her fiancé came to Canada from war-torn Ukraine in September — planning to stay with a host family for six weeks.
The couple was struggling to find a place to live when an apartment opened up in downtown Calgary.
"If we can get it, we just wanted to grab anything we could find," said Korotun.
The landlord asked for a $1,000 deposit, but nothing was signed, Korotun said. She understood it was a fee meant to hold the apartment but said she wasn't given any paperwork explaining the deposit.
"They told us that it is money which shows that we are interested in this unit, and after we make a contract, it will become a security deposit," she said.
She said days later she was given a form that said the fee was non-refundable, and she decided to continue with the application, which was approved.
She said she then learned that in addition to that fee, the company wanted several months of rent in advance, and the two decided they couldn't afford it. Their host family had also decided to let them stay in their home rent free until the spring.
Korotun wanted her deposit money back and said the rental company told her no. She then asked if the money could be held until the spring.
"And it's like everything that we ask, everything that we propose them. They just decline. Decline and that's all," she said.
"We came here with almost nothing. I just found a job and my fiancé hasn't found a job yet. And that money we received from the government, that is the only money we had."
Pat Pascal, who is hosting Korotun, said he feels the situation is unfair.
"The crux of this … was that they were basically forced to pay $1,000 to see the application form that told them that they couldn't get it back," he said.
Couple to receive refund
CBC News reached out to the Calgary-based real estate company that owns and manages the building.
A Strategic Group spokesperson said requesting a non-refundable deposit to secure an agreed upon place is industry standard. But in this case, the spokesperson said, the company believes the couple didn't fully understand the agreement and the nature of the deposit and it will refund the money.
Gerry Baxter, the executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association, said many landlords collect a deposit at the application process, but it's not something that he recommends.
He said it can lead to problems.
Baxter said he encourages anyone who feels like they've been wronged in the rental process to file a complaint with the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service and Service Alberta.