A West Kelowna single-mother on a disability and limited income says a former mayoral candidate she rented from has been refusing to return her damage deposit for more than two years.
Barb Ames rented a property from Mary Mandarino between September 2017 and January 2020. Mandarino ran unsuccessfully against current mayor Gord Milsom in 2018. Part of her platform included securing affordable housing for the city. Ames said it was shortly after she vacated a property owned by Mandarino, at 2771 Olalla Road, that her trouble began.
“In April (2020), I was still emailing her, texting her, and asking for the final utility amount so we could square up,” said Ames. “She was making excuses and telling me her accountant was working on it and she would get back to me.”
By June that year, Ames said she still had not received her final utility bill or her damage deposit. She then filed a complaint with the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) and a hearing was set for October 2020. According to RTB documents provided by Ames, a previous decision was presented in evidence:
“In a previous decision dated July 7, 2020, the tenant was granted a monetary order in the amount of $1,800 for double the security deposit of $850.00 plus the $100.00 filing fee.”
The October hearing was adjourned to February 2021, at which time and by request of the landlord, the matter was again adjourned to May 2021.
Before that hearing, RTB documents showed Mandarino had filed a counter dispute for $6,385.64 claiming damages to the property. But, Ames said the claim is bogus. She added she did a major cleanup of the property both inside and out before moving in. Ames claimed Mandarino did not do a move-in report and instead asked for a list of things that needed immediate attention and items that could wait. Ames maintained she took good care of the property during her tenancy.
“When I moved out it was spotless. I hired a housekeeper to do the clean and final walk-through,” she said.
Ames said Mandarino did reimburse her for several expenses related to the property. However, she is also angry and frustrated because she helped Mandarino with her mayoral campaign, including nominating her and helping with events and social media. To which she added she doesn’t understand why Mandarino won’t return her damage deposit.
“My name is on public record as being her nominator,” she said.
Ames stated she helped Mandarino with an assessment appeal on one of Mandarino’s other properties, and often drove her around to check on those properties. Ames acknowledged she was paid for gas, and at least minimum wage.
The hearing in May resulted in a settlement as laid out in the RTB documents. It stated the landlord would pay the tenant $1,036.06 in two payments by June 30, 2021. It also stated the tenant agreed to destroy the earlier $1,800 monetary order.
“She told the guy (RTB arbitrator) she would pay,” claimed Ames. “She agreed.”
The documents also stated the tenant needed to serve the landlord with the new monetary order, which Ames did. Further enforcement would need to be filed in provincial small claims court. Ames said that’s more stress, time, and money. She added people have said to her ‘why don’t you call it a day and write it off?’
“I’m a single mother on disability,” said Ames. “I can’t afford to just let this go.”
Capital News tried contacting Mandarino several times and finally reached her by phone on Feb. 11. She indicated she was driving. Mandarino was then asked if she could return the call and tell her side of the story.
“I’ll do my best,” she said.
Mandarino has not responded to a request for an interview in time for publication.