Shelburne Worship Centre Cites Racism In Landlord Dispute

Typically, Commercial Landlord and Tenant disputes do not make front page news, however when the renter is a Reverend, a Church, and an eviction, change of the locks attempt is captured and posted to Facebook, the incident tends to catch the attention of social media and the news media.

Shelburne Worship Centre located at 736 Steeles Unit # 3, is a non-denominational Worship Centre comprised of approximately 50 members who were engaged in a study on the evening of June 6, 2018, when a representative from Napier Bailiff’s was accompanied by a Shelburne Police Officer, Constable Ryan Hubbert (strictly present to keep peace for both parties which is often procedure during these types of disputes) entered the Centre and proceeded to change the locks. The encounter, a shock and surprise to the congregation, was recorded and posted on Facebook. The Bailiff who was hired by Landlords, Ron And Gayle Early, had entered on the presumption of a court order and when it was later discovered by Shelburne Police Sergeant, Paul Neumann, that there was indeed no court order, but a Notice of Termination Of Lease document, the matter came to a peaceful conclusion for the evening except that the locks were changed and Reverend Sterling remained in his Church for the entire evening to avoid being locked out. On June 7th, the media was invited to hear Sterling’s account of why the situation occurred and the facts began to unfold.

The current location of the Shelburne Worship Centre is the same location where the Church of the Nazarene was located. In December 2016, when the Early’s accepted Sterling’s occupancy, knowing the location would be a church, Sterling was offered a verbal agreement, not a lease, and proceeded to hand over post dated checks for a period that would run for a three year stint. “Shortly after I began renting the unit I experienced a kind of hate. I basically tried to minimize interaction. We never had any confrontation, but he hated me without a cause. He would not say good morning or good evening. A person knows, you can feel it,” commented Sterling describing his relationship with the Landlord.

In April 2018, Sterling was presented with a  Notice of Termination in accordance to the Commercial Tenancies Act of Ontario effective May 31, 2018, but was never provided with a reason to vacate, nor was the document signed by his Landlord. Usually in a landlord- tenant dispute that results in a bailiff becoming involved, there has been a series of disputes, violence, tenant demolishing the rented premises or lack of rental payment or simply that the Landlord may have need of the location. Sterling has bank records to prove he has paid rent and noted that there is a difference in not receiving rent and refusing to cash a post dated rent check, then following up with a Notice of Termination of Tenancy. While commercial tenancy agreements are fundamentally different from residential, there are a few similarities. Usually but not always, a Landlord provides a reason for requiring the tenant to leave, but as Sterling has observed, racism isn’t a legal reason.

Unable to reach either Landlord, Ron and Gayle’s Early’s son, Paul Early runs the family business Early’s Machine Shop located on the same premises who blatantly, and assuredly commented that while he is not the landlord, the Landlord is his father, he knows for a fact that this Tenant dispute has absolutely nothing to do with race or religion adding over the years he has seen tenants come and go, this incident is a first.” As Paul Early stated, he is not the Landlord and cannot discuss reasons in public.

When contacting another tenant of that building, Dogs We Love, Real Food For Dogs, business owner Lucy Lehman commented,”We’ve never had any problems in our 19 years of renting with Ron. I can honestly say he’s one of the best Landlords we’ve ever dealt with. We’ve also not had any issues at all with the Church. ” Reciprocally, Reverend Sterling also feels his relationships and encounters with his rental neighbours has also been a pleasant experience.

Napier Bailiffs had no comment on any of the questions asked by The Shelburne Freelancer over the telephone.

Reverend Vincent Sterling of the Shelburne Worship Centre feels Shelburne has welcomed himself and his congregation into the community and wishes to express that any grievances with his landlord, absolutely does not reflect on the Shelburne community. Also the reverend commented that without a reason to evict, and without a court order his Landlord will now deal with his lawyers who recommended that Sterling have the locks changed yet again. The entire ordeal has been very stressful and dramatic, all things Sterling was hoping not to experience and even now wishes for an amicable outcome between himself and his landlord citing he is in the business of healing and forgiving, not creating conflict. Preferring no conflict is also a sentiment shared by Paul Early, Tenant and son of the Landlords.

Following the incident on the 6th, on the 7th, Shelburne Police Sergeant Mark Bennett explained with media present to Reverend Vincent Sterling that the role of Shelburne Police when accompanying a Bailiff is simply to ensure safety of the situation and is procedure in these situations.

Perhaps the lesson learned in this case is to have absolutely everything in writing! While lawyers will likely resolve this issue, the Shelburne Worship Centre will not dissolve. Fifty members strong, the Centre is here to stay, where ever “here” happens to be located in Shelburne and with continued community support, hopefully peace is on the horizon!

Alex Sher