Dirt Squirrel

Mess in back yard

Mess in the back yard

I guess we were naïve. We’d been having issues with our tenant – or, more specifically, the boyfriend who had moved in with her after 8 months of relatively problem-free tenancy. They were irked with us for having cancelled their fire permit due to our unwillingness to be responsible for paying fines for their insistence on having fires even during a total fire ban – and their response was to start piling up their garbage in the yard, rather than taking it to the curb. We didn’t want to pay those fines either – so when the township by-law officer gave up on dealing with them directly and sent us a letter notifying us that we would be responsible for the cost of having a crew clean it up, we served them with an N5: clean it up or risk eviction. She did make an attempt at cleaning, or rather re-organizing the mountains of trash, but he came home from his job and threw an almighty tantrum, not only undoing all of her attempt, but also ripping bags open and scattering dirty diapers from one end of the yard to the other.

So – my husband hired a helper and a truck and cleaned the yard, paying more than $200 in dump fees – and I completed the paperwork to evict. We didn’t serve it though, because when we went to speak to them about an outstanding portion of October’s rent and November’s rent, they gave notice. Insufficient notice – they said they would be out by the end of November, but since we were happy to see the back of them, I accepted it and agreed that we would apply their last month’s rent to November. Problem solved, right? Did I mention naïve?

On the 27th of November, my husband stopped by the house to let the tenants know that I had arranged a showing for the 29th.  The woman was home, but had someone there and refused to speak to him beyond telling him to get lost (in not nearly such polite language).  I went down later in the day to find out what was going on, and she told me that they had not yet found a place that they could afford, and therefore “might” not be moving. Although not at all pleased with this development, I did clearly state the requirements necessary to continue their tenancy: they needed to make a decision by the next day and let me know, and they would be responsible to both pay rent for December and replace their last month’s rent. Repeatedly, I told her, you MUST let me know by tomorrow if you want to stay – repeatedly she agreed. Right before I left, I again re-iterated that I needed to know by the following day, and that if I did not hear from her, I would assume that her tenancy would end on the 30th, and would proceed with the showing on the 29th. I also wrote a notice and left it with her – without retaining a copy.

Nothing from her on the 28th.

But when we showed up as per the notice on the 29th  with prospective tenant in tow she had company – a foul-mouthed friend who spouted off at length about their “right” to stay and to not to pay any rent before she proceeded to threaten to sic her rottweiler on us. Calling the police accomplished little – because I did not have a copy of the notice, the officer refused to facilitate entry. He instead had me write another notice for the following day, which also included demand for a key to the front door, since they had changed the lock.

The next day, I met the officer there. The prospective tenant did not attend – can’t imagine why! There didn’t seem to be much point to entering, but the officer did serve her with the forms I had completed – a second N5, and an N4 for non-payment of rent. She handed him a key – presumably for the front door, but in fact, a key that did not open any of the doors in the unit.

When she did not vacate the property, nor pay rent for December, I filed an L3 – Application to Terminate a Tenancy:  Applicant gave Notice or Agreed to Terminate the Tenancy.  I did not, on the advice of the LTB customer service person, file any additional issues at this time, as these were likely, he said, to prolong the process by requiring hearings.

This application was accepted and I received an eviction order within two days! For all the good it did us. When I spoke to the Sheriff’s Office it became clear that there would be no immediate resolution in spite of the order. The earliest they might possibly trouble themselves to come out and serve her with the notice of eviction was “sometime late January.”  I found this extremely problematic, and did a great deal of research online, only to discover that delays of weeks, or even months, are apparently quite common in Ontario. The Sheriff has a monopoly on evictions, and eviction orders only say “on or after” … they don’t set any sort of guidelines for what “after” might mean. Phone calls to my MPP’s office, the Ontario Ombudsman, and the Ministry of the Attorney General which oversees this “service” had no impact.

In any case, on the day which the eviction order could be turned into the Sheriff’s Office I (stupidly!!!!) I did exactly that, paying $401 for the Sheriff to not do his job. When I arrived at home, I discovered that the tenants had stopped by to serve us with a notice of a hearing and a stay of the eviction order.

The hearing date given on that set of papers was a Monday, but in Mississauga – an interesting choice, given that the Barrie office is significantly closer – but since I did not teach on Mondays, I was fine with that.

Since we were having a hearing anyway, we decided to cover all of the issues and I paid another $170 to file an L1 re: nonpayment of rent, and an L3, notice to evict based on the second N5. I also included a note asking that, due to my teaching schedule, hearings not be scheduled on Thursdays or Fridays, and a copy of my timetable. When I received my notice of hearings, they were scheduled for not one, but two consecutive Thursdays – and when I called to complain about this, I was told that the tenant had requested that the initial hearing be moved and that this was also scheduled, now, on a Thursday, although not either those on which mine were scheduled.  Apparently, no one at the LTB thought anything of forcing me to miss work not once, but on three consecutive Thursdays. If I was stupid enough to rent to deadbeats, clearly I deserved to also lose my job – although how they think that landlords will be able to continue to pay all the bills for the deadbeats without employment is beyond me.

They would not even consider rescheduling anything until I obtained written permission from the tenants! This is a ridiculous requirement – the tenant certainly did not obtain my permission to move the initial hearing from a date on which I could attend without placing my job at risk to one which did exactly that – nor did she ever bother to notify me of the change. Presumably she thought I would like to drive to Mississauga to find out that the date had been changed.  To give the tenant the power to destroy the landlord’s employment hardly seems reasonable to me, but as it happened, I was able to send my eldest daughter to the house with a permission form, and the squatters did sign it.

Even so, it took a great many phone calls and tears before a manager at the LTB finally intervened and agreed to schedule all three of our hearings for the same day – and on a Tuesday. Still not ideal, as I teach at 11 am on Tuesdays, and they do not typically allow such minor details to influence the adjudicator’s schedule, but the manager did agree to write a letter requesting that if at all possible, our issues be dealt with as early as possible on that day.  Unfortunately, in order to “accommodate” me to this extent, the hearing was delayed by several weeks – and of course, the tenants paid no rent for January either.  Nor February.

Over the course of the time while we were waiting for the hearing, the tenants made numerous complaints to various agencies, resulting in our receiving almost daily phone calls, and even threats, from by-law officers, fire chiefs, and the police. They complained that the vacuum my husband used in the basement unit of the building disturbed them, which resulted in a police officer first of all, entering our unit without permission, and secondly, instructing my husband to leave to cease interfering with her “enjoyment.”   They objected to him stopping at the worksite on the highway where the partner worked and writing down the name of his employer from the side of the work trucks, and called the police for that as well. They provided a list of repairs they wanted completed in the unit. These ranged from the frivolous such as “our light fixtures don’t work” (light bulbs) and 2 elements and the oven don’t work (they removed the elements, and the oven timer needed turning to the off position) to the ridiculous (we want the wall that we ripped out in the bathroom and the deck that we trucked away from the back door replaced). When we did attend to attempt to make repairs we were verbally abused and/or denied entry, and the few repairs they did allow were promptly and publically undone.  We also heard regularly from people in our small town that they were crowing about how they were successfully “screwing” both us and OW.  And of course, they continued to toss their garbage – mountains of it – into not only the back yard, now, but also in the front, and in the parking areas.

Finally the day of the hearing arrived. And we were, in fact, one of the first cases to be dealt with. The tenants were not actually present when we were called to the front of the room – they arrived several minutes in, more than an hour past the time we were – supposedly – required to sign in.  It was abundantly clear that the rules about signing in and providing three copies of any evidence to be offered only applied to landlords.

The issues were dealt with relatively easily, and we – we thought – were successful on all three counts. The adjudicator told us that he found that our evidence was credible and the tenants’ was not, and that they had indeed given notice for the end of November, refused to vacate, and paid no rent since. He would, he said, order that the stay of the original eviction order be lifted, requiring them to vacate the unit by 31-Jan. As well, his order would direct that they pay the rent owing and for the damages we were able to prove at that point.

As we left the building, naively thinking that we had won, the tenants were heading back in – it was not until the written order arrived more than a week later that we discovered that we should, perhaps, have followed them. The written order was not as the adjudicator had stated. It seems likely that when they went back in, the tenant was able to speak to the Duty Council and – in spite of the principles stated on the LTB website which include that:

5. A Member will not communicate directly or indirectly with any party, witness or representative in respect of a proceeding outside of a hearing or pre-hearing conference, except in the presence of all parties and their representatives

she was somehow able to have it amended.

When it arrived, her partner had been deemed to be not a tenant and therefore removed from the order – and the adjudicator found that due to her circumstances it was “not unfair” to permit her additional time, so rather than 31-Jan, he gave her until 15-Feb. Which, given the Sheriff’s “process” meant that we would be on the hook for all of February and possibly well into March. How nice of him to be so charitable with our money!  And while the order would allow for us to be paid a pro-rated amount for the additional period, since she was on OW, the fact that he was removed from the order ensured that we would not be able to collect a single cent of the more than $5,000 owing to us at that point.

I did complain to the Vice Chair about the fact that apparently the adjudicator had amended the order in discussion with the tenants and in our absence – the response I received avoided addressing this and instead apologized for the difficulties I experienced with scheduling our hearing.  I also filed an appeal – which was, of course, scheduled for a Thursday – so much for the apology. When I requested that this be rescheduled or postponed until the end of the semester so as not to inconvenience the more than 80 students I teach on Thursdays, the request was denied. A second fax requesting that our issue then be heard during my break received no response at all, so I was again forced to inconvenience my students and risk my employment for this nonsense.  And the adjudicator who heard the appeal insisted that I should have addressed the issue of his tenancy at the initial hearing (although how I could be expected to know it was an issue when it was not discussed, or mentioned during the adjudicator’s ruling is beyond me) and refused to amend the order, although she did acknowledge that he did, in fact, reside in the unit, contrary to his testimony.  Because I had failed to get him to sign a rental agreement for the main unit, she stated that she would deem him an occupant rather than a tenant, in any case. Occupants get to live for free in Ontario, apparently… but then, so do tenants.

During the time following the hearing and until they moved on 15-Feb (without actually waiting for the Sheriff, who finally deigned to show up on the 26th) they continued to cause a great deal of damage to the property. They also seriously slandered my husband – the only issue that the police actually supported us with, ordering that they cease and desist or risk being charged.  And they also found a way to more than double the hydro bill, opening all the windows but maintaining the house at 85C or higher with electric heaters and fans plugged into every socket. And of course, when they left, they made sure to lock us out, since we still did not have a key to the front door (and they nailed the others shut).

The final tally for lost rent, providing them with all of the amenities they would have been entitled to had they actually been paying rent, damages and garbage removal, and fees related to the LTB and Sheriff are between 9 and 10 thousand dollars – which is more than our combined income for those 4 months! And we’re still dealing with their nonsense, as he has reportedly been seen entering the building on more than one occasion.  Being evicted is, apparently, not enough to charge him with trespassing; we must discover his new address and serve him with a trespass letter before the police will even consider charging him.

And to add insult to injury, until January, in spite of the fact that they paid no rent, and her partner was working full time, she continued to receive her full shelter allowance through OW. I did provide her worker, and then the fraud unit, with reams of documentation and she was eventually cut off – but all it took for her to be reinstated, apparently, was for him to provide a (clearly forged) rent receipt for a room he supposedly lived in in another city. I would love to know when or how he ever managed to get there, since both of his vehicles were constantly parked in front of the unit except when he was at work. We were required to support them for 4 months at our expense, to deal with constant abuse and harassment, to risk my employment and inconvenience hundreds of students (there are no substitute teachers at the college level) – and to support them through our taxes as well!

I work part-time; my husband has a seasonal business – clearly we cannot afford to be landlords in Ontario.

Walk into any hotel in Ontario and try to stay an extra day without paying – the police will not only remove you, but also lay charges. That is theft – but steal for months from a landlord – that is not. That is perfectly acceptable, and in fact, the agencies which are supposed to help all pile on and demand extra money to – eventually – deal with removing them. Is it any wonder that in my mind, LTB stands not for Landlord and Tenant Board, but rather for the Legalized Theft Board? A worthless piece of paper – an order that cannot be enforced is – contrary to every officer of the board, the police, and the Sheriff’s Office’s opinion – not reasonable compensation. Ah well – at least having lost more than 15% of our gross income for the year might reduce the amount of taxes we’ll have to pay to support this ridiculous system.

And at least we are no longer so naïve as to believe that part of landlording in Ontario should be providing safe, reasonably priced housing to people who need a break.

 

This article was previously published (in 5 parts) on the Ontario Landlords Association site… they like my stories & pictures… it’s just ME they don’t want around 🙂

3 Responses to Dirt Squirrel

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » SO frustrated!!!!

  2. Al says:

    Having my own tenants in arrears of 4mo rent and just waiting for our hearing date, I feel sick to my stomach reading your story! 🙁 Luckily nothing is severely damaged at this point; all we get is excuses about how he’s owed a ton of money and it just waiting to collect it so he can pay us… Definitely will be much more cautious when (if!) we decide to rent out again. As you say, at this rate we cannot afford to be landlords in Ontario either!

    • admin says:

      hope you’re doing all the right paperwork and documenting every contact… just in case you wind up needing it.

      SO much fun, innit?

      We’re just a few weeks away from closing date for our Peterborough house… will be SUCH a relief to have it completely and utterly GONE.

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