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Sask. landlord's good deed for friend turns into 'horrendous' nightmare, trashed home

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-05-15 Janani Whitfield

Tara Fehr says she wanted to give a friend a hand in a time of need.

Fehr heard last December about a fire that burned down a friend's home. She agreed to rent her two-storey farmhouse near Melfort, Sask., to the woman and her family for a while, as Fehr was moving to Alberta.

"I was so anxious to help a friend and because I know how hard it can be to get back on your feet after something like that," she said.

a cluttered kitchen: Tara Fehr says she came back to the two-storey Melfort, Sask., farmhouse she was renting to a friend to find it completely trashed. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Tara Fehr says she came back to the two-storey Melfort, Sask., farmhouse she was renting to a friend to find it completely trashed. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)

Instead, Fehr experienced a landlord's worst nightmare. She came back to Melfort to find her home trashed, rotting food, filth, items stolen and her truck stripped to the bone.

"It was unrecognizable. I thought, 'Who lives like this?' " she said, describing her shock and disbelief. "You couldn't put into words what you were seeing and what you smelled. I've never seen anything like it. It was just horrendous."

Fehr said she'd known the mother of the family for a while, with them having children close in age. 

"It brought me comfort to know that [the home] was being lived in and it was helping someone else out and it was being well looked after, I thought," she said.

a car engine: Everything of value was taken from the house, while the truck was also stripped, according to Tara Fehr. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Everything of value was taken from the house, while the truck was also stripped, according to Tara Fehr. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)

Fehr said she didn't take pictures of the property beforehand, or call landlord references, as she trusted the couple would take care of the home and pay the bills to cover rent and utilities.

Fehr said she didn't receive any money for the next three months, but was constantly assured that her friend was getting money from a student loan and would eventually pay.

"There were a few red flags here and there, but nothing really major," she said.

a man wearing a hat: Fehr (pictured) says she wanted to repay kindness that had been done to her, by helping out a friend in need, and her family. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Fehr (pictured) says she wanted to repay kindness that had been done to her, by helping out a friend in need, and her family. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)

It was a neighbour who notified her that a truck Fehr had left on the property had been stripped and that the front yard was in shambles, with pieces of a couch strewn everywhere.

Fehr quickly organized a trip to go back to Melfort. She arrived at her home on May 9 to see the damage that had been done.  

Beyond the mess, there were thousands of dollars worth of theft, she said. Every part of the truck had been taken, while dressers, a rototiller, bear traps and a kitchen table had been removed.

"Just anything and everything of value is gone."

a pile of luggage sitting on top of a suitcase: Piles of clothes belonging to the couple and their two children were left in the home. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Piles of clothes belonging to the couple and their two children were left in the home. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)

Fehr said there were signs in the house of heavy drug use, including a strong acidic smell and cleaning supplies like Windex out, with a charred porcelain spoon and a blowtorch sitting on a table.

The father of one of the renters confirmed Fehr's account and said meth addiction was an issue in the couple's lives. He said items had been stolen from Fehr's property to buy drugs.

He said his daughter wants to go to detox and get back custody of her children, who have since been taken into care.

A neighbour alerted the landlord to the mess that was outside of her house. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation A neighbour alerted the landlord to the mess that was outside of her house. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)

Fehr said she's lodged a complaint with police, but has been told it's a civil matter because the renters had her permission to stay in the home. 

Melfort RCMP said they couldn't comment on ongoing matters, but said that they can take statements and investigate if a landlord makes a report of theft.

However, people have been telling her they have some of her stolen goods and she has asked them to report it to police. Others have offered to pitch in and help clean the home, while others are fundraising to help her pay for the costs of clean-up.

a cluttered desk: Fehr said she couldn't believe the conditions it appeared the family of four was living in. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Fehr said she couldn't believe the conditions it appeared the family of four was living in. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)

While Fehr's been burned by her experience of renting out her home, she said she doesn't want to lose trust in people.

"I don't want to say, 'Don't help somebody else when they need it,' because there's so many good people out there that would not have done this," she said.

"I would probably do the same thing again, just hopefully differently, hopefully a little bit smarter."

a dirty old room: Fehr said there was evidence of heavy drug use by the couple. (Tara Fehr/Facebook) © Provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Fehr said there was evidence of heavy drug use by the couple. (Tara Fehr/Facebook)
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