10/21/2014 03:35 EDT | Updated 12/21/2014 05:59 EST

Halifax landlord urges caution after renters cause $12K in damage

A Nova Scotia woman is speaking out after she says her tenants caused $12,000 in damage to a Halifax house that she and her husband had put up as a rental property.

Susan Paczek, who referred to herself as a "newbie landlord," said she and her husband rented to a young couple and their friend, who had good references.

"The reference gave a glowing review of our prospective tenants and told me they had hired on one of them as an assistant in the past," Paczek wrote in a blog entry posted on Friday.

Paczek said the tenants, who moved in March 2012, did not turn out as advertised. While there were no issues at first, one of the tenants moved out and was replaced by a series of subletters.

Her property eventually became a "flop house."

A pile of garbage outside the house grew and after some complaints from neighbours, Paczek set out to evict those living in her house. The process took months.

When she regained control of her property in January 2014, Paczek said she was appalled by what she found.

Paczek documented the damage on her blog accompanied by dozens of pictures.

The pictures show a house full of garbage that has been torn apart by rats and dogs. One of the photos shows the damage caused to Paczek's front picture window. She said her tenant had "encouraged their sibling to throw an axe through it."

Rat and dog feces was scattered throughout the house. There were tiles smashed near the wood stove and the pipes were burst in several places in the house — Paczek suspects the tenants did not turn the heat on during the winter.

"The beautiful new hardwood floors, lovingly installed by the former owners, were caked with cigarette butts and ashes. This was in part because the entire main floor flooded when the tenants reneged on their legal requirement to keep the house heated during winter," Paczek wrote on her blog.

"The result was the oil hot water baseboard heating system froze, burst and split the pipes in several places flooding the house. The floors are now warped and the finish is ruined, but we don't have the money to replace them."

108 garbage bags

Paczek said 108 bags worth of garbage — including 32 "great big contractor bags" — were removed from inside the home.

After evicting the tenants for failing to pay rent and trashing the house, she and her husband met with them through the Residential Tenancies Program.

A judge awarded Paczek and her husband $10,300 based on receipts they provided to fix the damage — but the couple never got the money because the tenants ended up declaring bankruptcy.

"While the tenants did show up to the hearing, they showed us no remorse or responsibility for any of the over $12,000 in damage they caused us, even after the judgment was awarded," Paczek wrote.

"There was no attempt to work out any sort of payment plan."

Paczek said she doesn't want other inexperienced landlords to make the same mistakes.

"My guess is that the shame and embarrassment of finding your property, in this case our former home, in such a condition is what keeps landlords from sharing situations like this publicly," she wrote.

"I'll admit, when it happened back in January of this year, our priority was to clean up the mess and get the house re-rented. This took until April because of the damage. But I've decided to post these photos as a cautionary tale for newbie landlords such as we were."

She said she has learned a thing or two, the hard way.

"We enjoy being landlords and providing nice homes for people with the lowest rents we can afford to offer, but from now on when in doubt, we request that a parent cosigns the lease," she said.