U.S. Embassy Worker Claims Diplomatic Immunity Over Back Rent

By Bill Galluccio

January 26, 2018

A Canadian landlord is trying to recover two months worth of back rent from an executive assistant who works for the United States embassy. According to the CBC, Canada's Landlord and Tenant Board ruled that Besty Zouroudis owed $8,625 for unpaid rent and legal fees, but her lawyers claim she "is an agent of a foreign state and as such enjoys immunity from civil matters throughout Canada."

The issues started when the tenants living below Zouroudis filed multiple noise complaints against her. The situation became unworkable and the building's landlord Rolf Baumann intervened in the dispute. The three parties mutually decided that Zouroudis would move out in April 2017. She was still living in the apartment at the end of April and eventually agreed to leave at the end of August. 

Zouroudis ended up moving out in June, but never returned the keys and refused to pay the rent she owed. Baumann brought the issue to Canada's Landlord and Tenant Board. The board held a hearing, which Zouroudis did not attend despite being subpoenaed, and ruled that she owed $8,625 for back rent and legal fees incurred by Baumann.  

After the Landlord and Tenant Board's ruling, her lawyer sent a letter threatening to counter-sue Baumann, and claimed diplomatic immunity from "civil matters throughout Canada." 

The case now heads to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Baumann said he is not fighting for the money, but instead fighting on principle. 

My livelihood is dependent on renting to responsible tenants that pay rent. In this case I'm out of pocket not just for rent, but the cost and time of going to the [Landlord and Tenant] tribunal and having to retain a law firm to represent my interests.

Along with legal fees, Baumann also spent money to upgrade the apartment to meet U.S. security standards, which included bomb-proofing the windows. 

Baumann claims he has had issues collecting rent from diplomats in the past, but this is the first time he has had a dispute with an American, and it was the first time somebody has claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid paying what they owe. 

If he loses the case, he says he will no longer rent to diplomats.

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