On Monday July 12 I woke up to the following notice in my email, that Canadian Tenant Inspection Services would be coming to inspect my apartment:
Here is the notice:
In the four years Livewell have owned/run this building we’ve had people in to do repairs twice despite multiple requests over the years. We’ve never had a fire drill, nobody has ever come to check on the smoke detectors and I can’t remember the last time they tested the fire alarm. Possibly never. Other tenants report the same thing – no response to requests for repairs for years, now suddenly they were doing “inspections”. It struck a nerve.
In fact, we only had a response to a repair request this same week when we reported water leaking from the apartment upstairs from us. After years of asking for repairs, a plumber showed up Tuesday morning and fixed the issue. They didn’t do anything about the black mould that is still forming in our bathroom, nor did they put locks on our mailbox, nor did they fix the locks to our apartment.
What we do know is that at the same time we asked for them to check on this water leak again another tenant in another building of theirs made posts to Reddit about the total lack of responsiveness from Livewell since they moved in. The post was quickly removed from the site, citing a rule about “personal attacks and witch hunts”.
We think the sudden responsiveness was due to this posting and their concerns over more negative media attention over it.
What were they inspecting for? They didn’t seem to care about the building or the condition of the units therein so why “inspect” now?
The answer, it seems, was right in the name of the company they hired – Canadian Tenant Inspection Services. Emphasis on ‘tenant’.
I googled their name and found their website. (ARCHIVE LINK)
Deter criminal behaviour?
Retired RCMP officers? Tendering evidence?
So you want to treat your tenants as prospective criminals?
The Crime Free Lease addendum is something we are going to explore in a bit more detail though because it is part of a disturbing trend documented by civil rights lawyer and writer Leora Smith in a powerfully reported piece in The Atlantic last year.
Essentially you have law enforcement teaming up with landlords in order to secure evictions of tenants once charged with crimes. Not convicted of crimes, just charged. In fact, the article includes examples of tenants charged with crimes who lost their homes only to have the charges dropped or be exonerated. It’s a tool used to great effect in terrorizing low income renters.
There is no statutory provision in the Residential Tenancies Act which would enable inspections for “criminal activity”.
Here is the Crime Free Lease addendum CTI suggests:
This kind of lease addendum would likely not be enforceable in Ontario as Ontario uses a Standard Lease Agreement.
Again, lease compliance inspections are not enabled by the Residential Tenancies Act.
So who is Canadian Tenant Inspection services?
Jim Garnett is listed online as their President. He boasts of being a retired RCMP drug enforcement agent and former Vancouver Transit Police investigator on his LinkedIn profile (ARCHIVE LINK). He is based out of Surrey BC.
Garnett has been conducting these kinds of inspections for years in the Surrey BC area under the trade name GV Inspections. You can find a web archive of their website here as the domain has changed hands and is being used by a different company today.
It’s interesting to note here that back in 2016 when this archive capture was taken, Garnett required landlords to include language in their lease agreements enabling quarterly inspections by former police. They seem aware that they need some kind of additional consent from tenants to do this work. Again, such provisions would likely not be enforceable under the Ontario Standard Lease.
Testimonials include work performed for the City of Surrey, indicating they had been contracting his services for “the last 5 years or so”.
GV Inspections was listed as a vendor in the Fall 2016 issue of The Key, a trade publication for BC Landlords. On page 28 you can see them listed under Inspections and then under the category of Narcotics Detection and Security.
On page 27 of the same issue you can find this vendor listing as well:
Where do we know the name Marv Steier from?
Marv is the original founder of Landlord Credit Bureau and was a corporate officer there until November of 2020, as we have reported on this blog.
How else are Marv Steier and Jim Garnett connected?
Well, they are both retired RCMP officers from Surrey BC.
Here is Jim Garnett writing on the blog for Marv’s website, Tenant Verification Services (ARCHIVE LINK):
Note the promotion for Landlord Credit Bureau on the right panel.
But wait, there’s more!
Here is CTI being promoted in the Marketplace section of the current Landlord Credit Bureau website. This is in the Landlords member section:
So just to be clear here – Livewell and the Landlord Credit Bureau have been harvesting data from tenants in this building. Those tenants resist, make a website and file complaints with regulatory agencies which result in 2 current federal investigations and 1 current Provincial investigation into their business conduct. They have also sued us for making this website and trying to inform our neighbours.
In response, the Landlord Credit Bureau and Livewell send in “inspectors” who are ex-RCMP associates of their founder to conduct “inspections” of our units. These inspectors admittedly aren’t building inspectors or otherwise qualified to evaluate the engineering safety, fire safety or even just general maintenance issues. They are ex-cops who specialize in “narcotics detection”, investigations and “neutralizing volatile situations”.
CTI Services website was registered in 2016 according to domain registration records. Their web host is Netfirms, once considered to be among the best web hosts for small business. After acquisition in 2011 by Endurance International Group, that reputation rapidly dropped off. They are now among the worst-reviewed web hosts.
It’s also notable that their servers are located in Burlington Massachusetts, making all data stored on their site or on their email servers subject to US laws of search and seizure and exposure to NSA intelligence gathering.
For the sake of it let’s also note that most of their domain info is redacted for privacy, a standard feature of modern domain registration. The Landlord Credit Bureau argues in their lawsuit against us that this basic privacy feature is an attempt to hide our identities.
With all of this information in hand shortly after receiving the email notice I knew we had an obligation to warn other tenants about the true nature of these “inspections” and try to ensure they had access to some kind of legal counsel. For the first time we went knocking on doors attempting to warn and organize people in our building.
There are several long term residents in this building, some of them here for 30 plus years. We knew they would be targets for eviction.
Through this process we also learned that they had sent notices to other neighbours that the building was up for sale and being shown to potential buyers. We did not receive any communication about this.
For the next few days we worked to get in touch with tenants and worked with the amazing staff at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. They were very concerned about the situation and offered to provide over the phone legal support to any resident who felt they needed it so we distributed their number amongst our neighbours.
Not satisfied, we sought out legal observers to attend and witness what might happen on inspection day. We received responses from Hamilton Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann who could not attend herself due to a family occasion but sent representatives from the Hamilton chapter of the Acorn tenants union.
Member of Parliament for the riding Matthew Green also responded and helped arrange for additional supporters from other tenant groups to join us that day, including the Hamilton Encampment Support Network. Hamilton Tenant Unity made a welcome appearance too and we are very grateful to them.
Finally, we were able to get CBC Hamilton reporter Bobby Hristova to attend and see these inspections first hand.
In a bit of a last-ditch move to try to and make sure everyone in the building knew what was happening we posted these signs on our balcony:
The morning of the inspections we were not sure who or what to expect. Could these possibly end up being innocuous inspections? Was it possible the connections to Landlord Credit Bureau were incidental and they weren’t targeting us?
First we were heartened when we saw supporters show up in the park across the street. What incredible people, showing up to support total strangers facing this bizarre situation. I still get emotional thinking about it.
Bobby Hristova showed up as promised and that was extremely encouraging as well.
Then CTI showed up. We weren’t sure who would actually attend. Jim Garnett had signed the Notice of Entry but it would be very strange for our landlords to have flown someone in all the way from Surrey BC for this task.
Imagine our surprise then when Jim Garnett himself arrived on the scene with our property manager and another “inspector”. They saw the assembled supporters and immediately called the Hamilton Police.
You can see the police leaving as neighbours approach Garnett and the property manager.
Here is Jim Garnett himself – President of Canadian Tenant Inspection Services, former federal drug enforcement agent and associate of Marv Steier – live and in the flesh in Hamilton all the way from Surrey BC. It was pretty shocking and was the first confirmation that my worst fears about the purposes of these “inspections” were likely true.
He was joined by Livewell property manager Jardena Goldshtein.
Speaking with my wife Joey and another resident and in front of supporters Jardena stated there would be drones flying over the building.
A third inspector was on the scene as well.
This man was with them. He refused to identify himself. When asked if he was a licensed Private Investigator he was forced to acknowledge that he was. When asked to show me his PI license he refused to do so.
Even more disturbing were reports from supporters and neighbours that they had seen this man flying drones around the building earlier.
According the Private Security and Investigative Services Act Private investigators are required to show their licence. Why did this man refuse? What legitimate purpose was he there for that he was unwilling to risk his professional licence for?
Clearly these were not going to be ordinary inspections.
Here is CBC reporter Bobby Hristova interviewing Garnett:
There are stories from this day that aren’t ours to tell but we can summarize a bit here. Like the story of the 30 year plus tenant renting well below market rent who was the only black resident in the building and how Garnett used the stick pictured here try and force his door open after he had already said no to the inspectors entering.
Or the story of a neighbour who said she was uncomfortable having a strange man in her unit because she had recently been assaulted. Garnett responded by mocking her before offering to get a female inspector here in “20 minutes”. The tenant also refused to let Jim or any of his inspectors into their home.
Here is the female inspector, also unidentified:
Jim was gregarious enough to head over the park with our supporters and was interviewed on camera by a supporter from the Hamilton Encampment Support Network.
Here is video of Jim Garnett at our door. He acts as if he doesn’t know who I am at first but right as I close the door on him he uses my first name. We denied him entry on the advice of our legal counsel and Garnett immediately asks who our lawyer is, again something Jims buddies at the Landlord Credit Bureau would certainly love to know since we are tied up in litigation right now.
If you look at his tablet you can see file folders. What is in those file folders? Information about residents here?
Property managers called the police again to complain we were harassing them. Which ended up resulting in easily the nicest police interaction I’ve ever had in Hamilton, which was a pleasant surprise. They asked if everything was okay, we explained the situation and they left after saying they had no problem with our protest in the park or our signs.
It wasn’t long after that Jim and his merry band of inspectors packed up and headed out for the day. All in all it was an emotional and exhausting day for everyone but we were so grateful for our supporters from Hamilton Tenant Unity, ACORN Hamilton and of course the Hamilton Encampment Support Network. Also special thanks to the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic for their interest in what is happening here and the generous legal support they offered residents. If you can find a way to support these organizations please do.
It’s beyond clear to us that our landlord is attempting to use this service to intimidate, harass and evict residents here at our building. They also own 21 other properties in the city. How many got inspections last Thursday?
I think it’s important to point out one final thing before closing out this post. Let’s assume the inspections were innocuous routine checks and all of our worry is just paranoia. I’d have to wonder then why they will fly in CTI and their “tenant” inspectors to target us as renters while at the same time failing to perform key life safety inspections in compliance with the fire code?
This is the fire extinguisher right outside my door. No inspection since February of 2018. Livewell took over the property in 2017.
If Livewell was so worried about the safety of their property, wouldn’t they be doing the mandatory fire inspections before sending in ex-RCMP cops and unidentified private investigators to police tenant behaviour?