'She played us like a piano': Landlord fights for months to evict tenant with long criminal history

Posted
November 13, 2017

Landlord Jim Johnson had to fight for months to evict a career criminal from his rental property after she repeatedly failed to pay rent.

When it was all said and done, Johnson was out $12,000 in rent — and swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars more, he says — after leasing his half duplex in Bedford, N.S., to Elizabeth Anne Critchley in December 2016.

Johnson, who has been a landlord for 40 years, says he felt he did his due diligence when he accepted Critchley as a tenant — checking her references and getting everything in writing.

But he didn't do a criminal record check. What he didn't know is Critchley — who Go Public found also goes by Betty Drake, Betty Burns and Elizabeth Anne Drake — has a criminal record that dates back more than 25 years and includes more than 120 convictions, many of them for fraud in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario. "She played us like a piano," Johnson says.

Critchley made up stories, playing on his sympathy, about why she couldn't make rent and needed loans from the senior and his wife, he says.

By the time he went to the Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies office in May, he was in a financial mess.

"To say we're financially destroyed is an understatement," he says.

Johnson says the problems were only compounded by delays in the process to evict Critchley.

He says the system moved so slowly, it allowed her to live in his duplex for three more months without paying a cent.

"The tenancy board, in my opinion, takes care of the tenants and the landlords are on their own."

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