Inuit Road resident Florence Raddi points to the gap between her back door and the frame of the residence that provided little protection from the cold during the past winter. Raddi said she is tired of living in substandard conditions.
"It saddens me everyday that I have to wake up in here," she said of her Inuit Road townhouse, one of 24 units owned by Talal Khatib. "When I asked him to change the carpet, (Khatib) just laughed."
It's no laughing matter for Raddi, who pointed out the gap between the back door and door frame and confessed she had to turn the oven on in the winter to keep warm. She said she was wrongfully evicted from her former Inuvik Housing Authority residence and moved to Inuit Road in 2001.
Education, Culture and Employment subsidizes her rent to the tune of $1,500 a month through its income support program, but Raddi wonders why the government would pay for such a place.
"I don't think they are seeing what they are paying for," she said.
ECE Deputy Minister Mark Cleveland says the department's income support policy does not include inspecting the units occupied by their clients.
"Income support is essentially a program that tops up people's needs," he said. "We're targeted on helping our clients in that way, whether they reside in public housing or in privately owned units."
Health and bylaw issues
Inuvik's Chief Environmental Health Officer Chris Beveridge says as long as there is potable water, proper sewage disposal and heat, there is nothing stopping landlords from renting out questionable units or tenants from occupying them.
"There are some that look pretty god-awful but they satisfy the big three," said Beveridge. "I encourage tenants to deal directly with their landlords."
Although fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are mandatory in rental units, officials from the fire department and protective services for the town say tenants have to invite officers to do an inspection and investigate a potential violation.
"The only thing bylaw can do is concerning the mess around a property," said bylaw officer Randy Shermack.
"In the past, the town has gone (to one of Khatib's properties) to clean up a mess. I'm not at liberty to say what it cost but it was a pile of money."
That amount was later added to Khatib's municipal tax bill.
"Housing (Authority) got Raddi out of its unit and mine was the last resort," said Khatib, who alleges that a person acting on Raddi's behalf "begged me to give her a place."
As for the state of disrepair at Raddi's unit, Khatib blames the tenant.
"Before anybody moves into a unit, it's renovated top to bottom," he said. "When she moved in, I asked her to check the place and tell me what was wrong. She said nothing."
Speaking to his record of maintaining the properties, Khatib estimates that every year he spends $6,000 on repairs to each of his 24 units because of destruction from previous tenants.
Currently, repairs and renovations are underway at several of the units.
To make matters worse, Khatib contends that he has to chase down rent from deadbeat tenants through the Rental Officer in Yellowknife and is forced to pay for damages caused by the same tenants who use that damage as an excuse for withholding rent.
"It's a bad system and it takes months to deal with," said Khatib. "I'm getting out of (renting to people on income support) because you can't collect from them. I'm not trying to put them down, but this kind of client I don't need."
Carpenter Victor Ciboci, who has done repair and renovation jobs for Khatib since 1997, can attest to the damage done Khatib's properties.
As he works on replacing a doorframe at one of Khatib's properties on Kugmallit Road, he points to new drywall, paint, carpets and windows that were put in after the previous tenants trashed the place.
"There's at least $5,000 worth of repairs here," he said.
Ciboci then pointed out another unit at the Inuit Road building, where graffiti from former tenants covers the walls.
"You see what (Khatib) has to deal with," he said.