More money, more problems: Northview Apartment REIT

But the growth of Northern Property was only beginning. In 2015, the company acquired the residential holdings of True North Apartment REIT for more than $535 million and became Northview Apartment REIT.

The acquisition saw Northview go from managing just under 11,000 residential units to more than 24,000, including dozens of buildings in Ontario, Quebec and Western Canada.

“This REIT, at the time, became the third-biggest … multi-family investment trust in Canada,” said the University of Waterloo’s Martine August.

In the years that followed, the North accounted for an ever-diminishing part of the company’s portfolio.

Apartments at Northview’s Fort Gary in Yellowknife. (John Last/CBC)

But in the same period, northerners became more vocal about worsening conditions at the company’s buildings.

In 2015, a mother of two living in Northview’s Fort Gary building in Yellowknife complained of a rampant beetle infestation. The public housing authority, which secured her the apartment, called it a “nuisance” and said it posed no harm.

The same year, at the company’s Hudson House in Yellowknife, where apartments were leased for $1,300 a month, residents went public about a cockroach infestation that had gone unresolved for three years.

When cleaning crews arrived, they left a tenant’s apartment unlocked, resulting in the theft of the family’s jewelry, television and religious books. The company billed the tenant $1,400 for pest control.

Two years later, another tenant went public about 80 complaint calls they made in a 10-month period about feces and vomit in the common areas of Yellowknife’s Norseman Manor — also owned by Northview. The company offered to relocate the tenant.

Northview said it would not comment on previously published media stories.

Decisions by an officer of the N.W.T.’s Rental Office from this time record repeated instances of the company overcharging fees, unlawfully withholding security deposits and leaving units to deteriorate from mould, water damage and infestations.

In some cases, the Rental Office issued decisions penalizing the company. At Hudson House, for example, one tenant was awarded just over $3,000 in rent reductions following the cockroach infestation, after painstakingly documenting Northview’s efforts to eradicate it.

But even where there were building-wide issues, the rental officer could only compensate individual tenants who filed complaints and had documentation to prove a lack of maintenance.

While one tenant at Yellowknife’s Lanky Court was compensated more than $4,000 after maintenance crews left mouldy, stinking holes in common areas when repairing a leaking water pipe, the Rental Office records no compensation for other tenants of the same building.

Meanwhile, the Rental Office was helping Northview recoup millions of dollars in unpaid rent. By 2018, its net income had surged past $150 million a year.

In a response to CBC News, a spokesperson for Northview said they would not comment on individual tenant stories or Rental Office decisions.

They did, however, note that the company has invested “more than $58 million” in its northern properties since 2015, “and continues to invest at per suite rates significantly higher than … rental peers in the south.”