When those accused or convicted of serious criminal offences are released on bail or are handed sentences in the community, judges have to consider the specific conditions suggested by Crown and defence.
But when a decision is made by those involved in the justice system to place an offender in a rental unit there is one important person left in the dark: the landlord.
Cole Amey is one of the worst prolific offenders in Chilliwack with a long history of criminal offences both property crime but also violence and flight from police.
On May 21, 2019, a judge agreed to his lawyer’s request to release Amey on bail under conditions that he reside with his mother in the house she rented in the downtown area. He was put under house arrest only allowed to leave with written permission from his bail supervisor.
The owner of the small single-family home who had a rental agreement with Amey’s mother, knew nothing of the fact that Amey was living there.
|Firearms, cash, drugs and paraphernalia seized from a house in the downtown Chilliwack area on July 5, 2019 by Chilliwack RCMP. (RCMP)|
In a short few months, things went sharply downhill culminating in a police raid on July 5, 2019. Police seized a loaded shotgun, a modified handgun, two cross bows, ammunition, and replica handgun air pistols. Also seized were a motorcycle, dirt bike, and two scooters linked to thefts reported to Chilliwack RCMP together with drugs believed to be fentanyl, paraphernalia associated to drug trafficking, and cash.
And then there was the meth lab.
“The two older ladies who we had a rental agreement with kept the place immaculate,” said a family member of the landlord, who asked not to be named. “When the home was raided by the RCMP in July, 2019 we were devastated by the condition of the home which resembled a hoarder house. Following the raid by the RCMP we were informed we were not allowed to enter the home due to possible meth production and a do not enter or occupy order was posted on the home.”
The incident cost the property owners tens of thousands of dollars to fix, but it also pointed to what they see as a gap in the criminal justice system.
“There is a violent offender living in our rental home with guns, and we have not been informed plus the fact that the probation officer does not do house visits due it being to dangerous?,” the family member of the elderly homeowner said.
“The Judicial System is putting landlords are at extreme risk without considering the consequences of imprisoning a prolific offender in a privately owned home.”
She has been on a campaign in recent weeks to get answers and maybe institute some change to the way court-ordered house arrest is undertaken by the courts. To date, she hasn’t gotten far, being shuffled from one government entity to another.
From politicians to the Rental Tenancy Branch to the Chilliwack Crown Counsel office to the Ministry of Public Safety to the federal Ministry of Justice, she’s unsatisfied with the response.
– Landlords left out –
The gap in the system that some people are discovering, is that supervision of offenders or those on bail in the community leaves landlords out of the conversation.
In one of the many letters the landlord received in response to issues with Amey, the provincial director of the Community Corrections Division of the Ministry of Public Safety told her where those being supervised lives is not in anyone’s mandate.
“[N]o authority exists for BC Corrections, or any law enforcement agency or public body, to tell an individual where they can or cannot reside,” Bill Small wrote in an Oct. 23, 2019 letter.
She said her family has been victimized by the justice system who mandate is to protect the public from harm.
“This mandate of sneaking violent offenders into rental homes without knowledge or consent of landlord needs to stop,” she said.
Another recent case involved North Vancouver landlord Jason Rivero who didn’t know he had a convicted killer living in his suite until the unit was trashed during a six-hour standoff with police in January.
In that case, the issue of the landlord finding out about his tenant even came up in court with Alexander Tanasescu’s lawyer asking the court not to order electronic monitoring because the landlord would have had to be interviewed. Crown agreed to not ask for the monitoring, and Rivero never knew about Tanasescu’s history.
The relative of the landlord in Chilliwack got in touch with LandlordBC, the professional association made up of 3,300 members in the province.
LandlordBC chief executive officer David Hutniak told The Progress that the Chilliwack situation explained to him points to “anomalies” in the legal system.
“In situations such as this, where to even the most casual observer it would seem obvious that public safety would best be served if the landlord was forewarned, that is not how the system is necessarily designed,” Hutniak said via email. “The situation [she] encountered is certainly one that concerns us not just in regard to the safety of rental housing providers (landlords), but also for the tens of thousands of individuals and families for whom we provide homes.’
After the police raid last July at the Chilliwack house, a no-occupancy order was posted on the door because of the meth lab discovered. While the family thanks the RCMP and city hall’s bylaw department who helped out with the situation after the raid, that seemed like adding insult to injury.
“I was informed by the city if anyone went back into the home the landlord would be fined. The prisoner makes the home uninhabitable and than the city condemns the home and than states they will fine us if we don’t keep the criminal element out.”
As for Amey, he remains in custody and is scheduled to go to a multi-day trial on his substantive charges starting June 16, 2020. He then faces a trial on June 26 facing two breach charges and one firearms charge in connection with the raid last July.
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