A 73-year-old man and his 52-year-old disabled, Indigenous friend who is more like family have been evicted from a suite they rented in the Fairfield/Gonzales area.
Leon Kulchyski and Maelene LaRose were ejected from their home and had previously been unhoused. Now, a fundraiser has been started to try to save them from living on the streets.
Unable to find any affordable places to live in Victoria, a family friend and previous landlord, Candice Csaky who resides nearby in Fairfield, managed to find something for them and assisted with the arrangements to get the paperwork in order and move them off the streets.
“Neither of them knew how to look for a place to live,” Csaky told Victoria Buzz. “They don’t know how to use Facebook Marketplace, neither of them are really on Facebook.”
“I tried to set Leon up with email a few times but he never knew how to check it,” she continued.
Too good to be true
The suite Csaky found for them and helped them move into in April was located in the 100-block of Robertson Street and cost around $2,000 per month for the on-bedroom unit the pair shared.
Both Larose and Kulchyski were on fixed incomes, one a pension and the other had disability funding and arrangements were made for the payments to be automatically made to the man who claimed to be property manager of the house, Trevor Ritchie.
“The guy, it seemed like a totally legitimate ad, he said that the people living there before had trashed the place and he had hired a cleaner to come in and clean the suite so it wasn’t quite ready to look at but in a few days it would be,” Csaky explained.
The story Csaky had been told seemed to be true because she drove by the house and saw cleaners on-site.
“[Ritchie] said he lived in Kamloops but he was part-owner of the house and he’s business partners with the owner who is a dentist in Victoria,” she said.
They were told the house is set to be demolished by Ritchie, but they would have some time to stay there should they accept and sign the rental agreement he had drawn up.
Csaky says that Ritchie told her, Kulchyski and LaRose that the last month would be free, they’d have a full four-months notice and he would communicate all of this well in advance while the pair was living in the home.
Because Kulchyski and LaRose struggled to communicate electronically, most of the communication between Ritchie and the tenants went through Csaky. She says has hundreds of text messages from communicating with him.
“Nothing he ever said seemed like this wasn’t true,” Csaky said.
Ritchie and another man who they were told was the property manager showed up to do the walkthrough and handed over the keys.
After five months of what seemed like a normal living situation and paying their rent on time to Ritchie, things took a turn for the worse.
“Fast forward to [Tuesday, August 29th], the police show up at the door with the homeowner, this Austin Andrews the dentist, saying, ‘I don’t know who these people are,’” Csaky told Victoria Buzz.
She says he claimed that they weren’t renting from him and that they were squatting in his house with no valid rental agreement.
At that point in time, Kulchyski and LaRose had paid over $10,000 in rent and damage deposit to Ritchie, thinking the money was making its way to the landlord who was hands-off on his household and tenants lives.
Kulchyski and LaRose were given a two-week eviction notice by police and Andrews while trying to talk to Csaky on the phone for guidance.
“Maelene phoned me, she’s just terrified, like what is going on,” explained Csaky. “Poor Leon, he just couldn’t handle it, he doesn’t want to end up in a shelter again.”
“The landlord seemed to not care and the police, I heard them talking to them, were being pretty harsh, like treating them like squatters.”
Csaky says that the VicPD officer at the scene treated them as if this whole situation was their fault and didn’t recognize that these two had been victimized by a third party.
Victoria Buzz reached out to VicPD to confirm whether an investigation had been opened into the fraud that allegedly happened in this nuanced situation.
“Unfortunately, we can’t provide any info at this time,” said Cst. Terri Healy, VicPD Community Engagement Division.
“Generally, we cannot confirm an investigation into someone until a charge is sworn.”
Cst. Healy added that typically police do not enforce evictions but sometimes assist in other ways by attending to keep the peace if there are safety concerns.
Victoria Buzz also reached out to Andrews to get his perspective on the eviction.
He claimed that he knew nothing about the entirety of the situation, including denying that he had ever known an individual named Trevor Ritchie.
“I don’t even know who that is,” Andrews said. “I don’t know a Trevor Ritchie — the guy I bought the house from was Trevor Moat.”
Despite this, Csaky told Victoria Buzz that someone named Trevor Ritchie had previously lived in the house in question in the very same suite occupied by Kulchyski and LaRose.
Andrews says there is no other property manager aside from himself. He has his other tenants in the same house e-transfer him rent and he typically only comes by if there is a problem.
He says that he had a crew come in and “get things ready for demolition” when that crew found the suite to be occupied when it shouldn’t have been and they informed Andrews of LaRose and Kulchyski’s presence.
“They were basically like, there’s an unsafe situation going on here. It looks like there’s squatters in the other side of the units,” Andrews explained.
“That’s when I called the cops and then went and met them after work down there and they’ve been dealing with it since.
What happens now?
As of this publication, Kulchyski and LaRose have yet to find a place to move into and they don’t have much longer to figure out a solution.
They have only until September 12th to vacate the premises.
Csaky is once again helping the duo find a place to live and has even launched a GoFundMe to help them recoup the costs of moving and all the money they had lost to the alleged fraud.
“I have set up this go fund me in hopes of raising enough money to help them pay a damage deposit and first month’s rent if they are able to find new accommodations,” Csaky wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“If they are unable to, they will likely need more funds to pay for a hotel if they can find one at a reasonable rate as well as a storage locker for all of their furniture. Unfortunately, their expenses could go up significantly if we don’t find them a place to rent.”
Currently, no arrests have been made, no charges have been sworn and Csaky says that police have been unable to locate Ritchie
Victoria Buzz also tried to track down Ritchie to no avail.
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