The owner of a mobile home that was the scene this week of a shooting and firebombing said her life has been “an absolute, complete, total nightmare” since a drug-dealing squatter took up residence in her rental in December.
Bernie Field has owned a trailer at L&E Mobile Park on Ord Road in Brocklehurst for the past eight years. She said she bought it as an investment, hoping to earn rental income each month.
Field told KTW she was preparing to list the unit for sale late last year when a friend said her son needed somewhere to stay for a few weeks.
“He needed a place to crash for two weeks while waiting for a job, and that was Dec. 15,” Field said.
In January, she said, the man offered to pay her a month’s rent, but it never materialized.
“I went there on Feb. 1 to evict him and he threatened me with bodily harm if I ever came back,” she said.
“There is nothing I can do to collect rent.”
Field said she has hired a lawyer and is going through the Residential Tenancy Branch, but noted the process is lengthy.
She has two hearings scheduled, with the second slated to take place in June.
“In the meantime, I have to continue to pay his bills — insurance, pad rent, garbage collection — for whoever is in there,” she said, adding she is being evicted from her residence as a result.
“I cannot afford to do this for two places. It’s written into the act that the tenant is able to enjoy my property whether I like it or not.”
Emergency crews were called to Field’s rental early Wednesday morning after neighbours reported hearing a series of loud noises.
“It shook my house,” Glenda Escott told KTW.
“Then I heard a boom again and I looked out the window and there were flames right up to the door. As soon as I saw that, I called 911.”
Police arrived and found a small fire and several shell casings. Witnesses told investigators they saw a car fleeing the area.
Two bullet holes appeared visible in the trailer’s front window and the window of a vehicle parked outside the home was smashed in. No one was home at the time of the attack and the fire was quickly extinguished.
Wednesday’s attack on the home follows a similar fire-bombing earlier this year, Escott said, evidence of which is still visible in scorched paneling on the front of the trailer.
Escott said the escalating incidents are worrisome.
“As soon as he came in, it turned into a drug house,” she said.
“Young people, crazy guys, street chicks coming in at all hours of the morning, there’s cameras going up. Bad activity coming and going. Not loud parties, but lots of bad activity.”
The activity is especially concerning for Field, who said she has been told by her insurance company that drug dealing would void her coverage in the event of a fire that spread and caused significant damage.
“I am being abused to the ninth degree,” she said.
“I have to pay the pad rent to keep him there. I have to pay the garbage removal, insurance. And my insurance has told me if something happens, it won’t be covered because it’s ‘illegal activity.’
“So, if he torches the place, I’m not covered by insurance. Then I get a phone call saying, ‘Hey, your place has been firebombed — it’s on fire.’ What?”
Kamloops lawyer Alicia Glaicar, who is not representing Field, but does work on residential tenancy issues, conceded the process can be a frustrating one for landlords.
“It can take longer than the landlord likes, especially if there’s criminal activity happening,” she said.
“I never advise my clients to change the locks or turn off the heat and water because that’s against the Residential Tenancy Act.
“So, it can be difficult. And a lot of the time the RCMP doesn’t want to get involved in civil disputes.”
Glaicar said it can take two months for a landlord like Field to get a hearing in front of an arbitrator.
“The Residential Tenancy Act serves a good purpose, but unfortunately, in some situations it can be quite detrimental to the landlord,” she said.
“The remedies are there, but they can take longer than the landlord might like.”
Field said she can do nothing but wait until June, when she hopes to be able to get that remedy and have the squatter booted from her trailer.
“To think that I have to pay because of this mistake,” she said.
“This is my best friend’s son. I was doing this as a favour to her. This has been an absolute, complete, total nightmare.”
The police investigation into Wednesday’s incident is ongoing.