Ottawa landlord dismayed at response of U.S. Embassy over diplomat’s refusal to pay back rent – warns of growing trend
Former police officer can't collect $8,625.00 in back rent from U.S. diplomat even after Landlord and Tenant Board tribunal rules she must pay up
OTTAWA, ON – JAN 24, 2018 – As the sixth round of talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are underway in Montreal this week amid a contentious atmosphere, a landlord in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa finds that he too is wrestling with an American Goliath, but over the refusal of a career diplomat to pay back rent.
Rolf Baumann, a former police officer and CEO of property development and management company The RGB Group Inc. has unsuccessfully requested payment in the amount of $8,625.00 from Betsy Zouroudis. According to LinkedIn, Zouroudis is currently an Executive Assistant, Political Section at the United States Embassy in Ottawa. Despite receiving a judgment against Zouroudis for the outstanding rent dating back to July of last year, Baumann remains stonewalled on his claim against the U.S. diplomat.
Baumann warned landlords in Ottawa, home to thousands of diplomats, that “U.S diplomats are high risk rental candidates. I’m astounded at the arrogance of the U.S. embassy and its staff towards its supposed closest friend and ally”. He also cites a recent report that over a 27-month period from 2014 to 2017, “Foreign diplomats in Canada are racking up more unpaid debts, breaking more traffic laws, and violating passport rules more frequently.”
According to the report, stiffing landlords is among those incidents recorded in internal reports from Global Affairs Canada about people employed in foreign missions who have diplomatic immunity from domestic laws under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
After several calls and emails requesting his money, an email sent to Baumann from Thomas R. Favret, Minister Counselor for Management Affairs, Embassy of the United States of America, left the Ottawa landlord to his own devices. Favret's email stated that “the Embassy nor its staff cannot be involved with this private lease.” Baumann has since instructed his law firm to attempt to garnishee the wages of Ms. Zouroudis via an upcoming in-court Debtor Examination.
Ms. Zouroudis’ legal firm was unequivocal on the diplomat’s refusal to pay back rent owed to Baumann, stating, “Ms. Zouroudis disputes the findings of the Landlord Tenant Tribunal (“LTB”) and the decision rendered. As outlined by prior correspondence, Ms. Zouroudis is an agent of a foreign state and as such enjoys immunity from civil matters throughout Canada.” The lawyer’s letter then gets tougher, further stating, “We demand that the notice of examination is withdrawn forthwith, failing which our instructions are to bring a motion to quash the notice of examination with dispatch seeking the costs of that motion of on a substantial indemnity basis.”
A profile article on Zouroudis from a job coaching site stated she was born in the U.S. and her family moved to Canada when she was five. She possessed dual Canadian and American citizenship and had just turned 30 when she turned to job coaching to advance her career. The profile said “Betsy eventually got her dream job. She’s working for the U.S. State Department with the Foreign Service representing the U.S. Government abroad.”
“I am utterly dismayed,” said Baumann. “I have been more than patient. The fact that I’ve had to engage lawyers and the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario while directly appealing to Zouroudis’s U.S. Government employers with no satisfaction makes me question American integrity. All I want to do now is warn other landlords of this pathetic situation.”
As an Ottawa landlord and respected green building developer, Baumann has for many years successfully rented his high-end apartments and condo units to embassy staff from around the world. But he has never faced a similar situation. He now refuses to rent to diplomats, especially from the U.S. “I’d still like to see this matter resolved according to the judgment against Ms. Zouroudis,” he said. “But perhaps it's a signal of worse to come from the U.S. Government towards its top trading partner and best friend in the world. The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa can and should make good on their diplomat’s debt to my company.”
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