Landlord lobbyist claimed Hamilton man was driven to shoot his tenants by lack of functional tribunal
Published May 29, 2023 at 7:12 pm
A lobbyist with a landlord advocacy group has apologized after claiming a non-functioning Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) led a Hamilton man to shoot down his tenants following a dispute about the state of the home.
The lobbyist, Varun Sriskanda, is a former landlord himself and a board member of the Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario. He often speaks on behalf of SOLO, recently appearing on TVO’s The Agenda to advocate for faster eviction processes in a panel discussion.
He lamented on the show that it can take several months just to get an LTB hearing. Per his LinkedIn, Sriskanda has served in this advocacy role since January 2022.
On May 27, a 57-year-old landlord in Hamilton’s Stoney Creek neighbourhood killed two of his tenants after a dispute about the state of the home. CBC Hamilton reports that the victims were an engaged couple. The man, 28, was an electrician, and the woman, 27, was an education assistant. They lived in the basement of 322 Jones Rd., and the landlord lived upstairs in the same home
The landlord pulled a legally owned gun on the couple during a dispute, and gunned them down when they tried to run away. After an hours-long standoff with responding Hamilton Police officers, the landlord was killed in a shootout. Police later confirmed the landlord was heavily armed with numerous rifles and pistols, all obtained legally.
Police later confirmed the dispute was not about missed rent but about repairs needed in the home.
Shortly after the shooting, Sriskanda publicly blamed the LTB for the shooting, writing on Twitter, “Landlords taking matters into their own hands is not something I encourage, but this is what happens when we don’t have a functioning tribunal.”
Sriskanda later deleted the Tweet and publicly apologized, saying, “The tweet was insensitive, careless and failed to account for the gravity of the situation. I sincerely apologize for my poorly chosen words.” He also distanced his words from SOLO and wrote, “My tweets will always be my own and in no way, shape or form is a reflection or the position of any other person or organization.”
I previously released a tweet in regards to a tragic situation in Hamilton, Ontario which saw 3 lives lost. The tweet was insensitive, careless and failed to account for the gravity of the situation. I sincerely apologize for my poorly chosen words.
— Varun Sriskanda (@VarunSriskanda) May 29, 2023
However, a quick look at SOLO’s Facebook page reveals Sriskanda’s view is shared by other members. Commentors feared how the violence would make landlords look, with one saying, “and so it begins. This tragic incident seems quite suspicious (i.e we may not be getting the whole story), but it is the very worst PR for landlords and registered PAL owners. This is enormously bad.” (A possession and acquisition licence (PAL) is a firearms license.)
Another commenter also blamed the Landlord Tenant Act. “The whole landlord tenant act is horrendous and needs to be replaced with a fair and equitable system,” wrote another.
However, SOLO itself later came out and said, “Nothing justifies murder. Our heart and sorrow to the family of the murdered people in Hamilton.”
According to Press Progress reports, SOLO vice-chair Rose Marie told them, “We don’t condone that type of action. We don’t know the person who owned the property.” She, however, refused to elaborate if Sriskanda would step down from his role, complained the media only reached out for comment after the shooting and refused further comment as it would be used to “vilify us.”
- With files from Steve Pecar