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EXCLUSIVE: Out-of-town landlords causing headaches in the Sault

Companies from southern Ontario have been snatching up multiple properties in Sault Ste. Marie, but some tenants say renting from them is far from ideal
Peyton Schroeder's cat observes a puddle on the floor of their west-end home caused by a leaking roof that wasn't addressed by property management before she moved in.

It’s been four weeks since Peyton Schroeder moved out of Toronto and into a single detached house in the west end of Sault Ste. Marie in order to start a new job.   

Now, she wishes she had never signed a lease in the first place.  

“I mean, everything was great. I saw the photos of my house. I couldn’t get a chance to come up and look at it, but I saw all the photos and everything — everything looked fine, and then I moved in,” said Schroeder. “There’s this huge crack in my ceiling and multiple appliances weren’t working.”

Schroeder says nearly everything about the property was “unacceptable” upon arrival. In addition to a cracked, leaking ceiling, the dishwasher and a burner on her stove didn’t work and multiple outlet covers were missing. There wasn’t a carbon monoxide detector or smoke detector in sight.

RWC Management, a property management company based in southern Ontario that is currently managing the property, ended up sending workers to repair the roof last week — but only after she threatened to hold them accountable for damages if the roof leaked again. 

“This is scratching the surface, and I’m paying almost $2,000 a month plus utilities,” said Schroeder. “It’s unbelievable.”

Schroeder’s leased house is actually one of 51 properties in the Sault owned by DSPLN Inc., a company headquartered in Burlington, Ont. Land registry records obtained by SooToday show that a company director, Aruba Butt, signed for the $185,000 purchase last year. 

But DSPLN Inc. isn’t the only company Butt is linked to in Sault Ste. Marie.  

She is also listed as a director of Zack Files Real Estate Inc., which has purchased seven properties in the city, including 134 Gore Street — a property which, as SooToday previously reported, has been overrun with squatters and without running water due to people entering the building and stripping it of copper piping. Records indicate that all seven properties were purchased by Zack Files Real Estate late last year for $2.65 million.

Another company that lists Butt as a director — Happy Gilmore Inc. — has purchased 30 properties in the Sault, mostly in the west end and downtown core. According to publicly available incorporation documents, Ryan Molony, president of RWC Management, is listed as the company’s other director. 

Happy Gilmore Inc. made headlines last month after city by-law officers targeted one of the company’s vacant properties on Wellington St. E. At the time, city councillor Luke Dufour called the owners “white-collar squatters” who buy up homes in the Sault with no intention of properly maintaining them.

All told, SooToday has so far been able to identify 88 local properties purchased by Butt’s out-of-town companies: Zack Files Real Estate, DSPLN Inc. and Happy Gilmore Inc. 

Zack Files Real Estate, RWC Management, SID Developments and SID Reno’s — all of them based in the Greater Toronto Area and southern Ontario — are connected as part of the ‘SID family,’ according to SID Reno’s website. 

Robert ‘Robby’ Clark is listed as the founder and chief executive officer of SID Developments. He is also listed as founder of RWC Management on his Instagram profile, which boasts more than 400,000 followers.

Widely regarded as an influencer through his Instagram videos on self-help and business advice, Clark was also known for his childhood acting career, appearing in a number of television series (including The Zack Files), made-for-TV movies and a small role in the 1999 film Superstar starring Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell.

In a sponsored article that appeared in USA Today last year, Clark claimed SID's property portfolio consists of more than $150 million in holdings across Ontario. 

Clark also uses the same article to claim that he is “currently buying more residential houses than anyone in Canada” and has a goal of acquiring more than $1 billion in real estate by the end of 2022. 

“Yes, we're in this to make money,” reads a quote from Clark in the sponsored article. “But by specifically buying and renovating properties in areas of Ontario that are neglected when it comes to capital investment, we are adding value to the area and helping alleviate the ongoing residential rental crisis. We are also removing a lot of the poor performing slumlords that exist by finding these depressed properties and bringing them back to life.”

Meanwhile, the companies from southern Ontario linked to Clark haven’t exactly been model corporate citizens here in Sault Ste. Marie, where Schroeder moved into a home that’s been in a constant state of disrepair. 

“It’s been a struggle,” she said.

SooToday requested comment from both Butt and Clark via email Monday. They have yet to respond.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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