Affordable Housing in Ontario

One of the issues I have been following – pretty much since Harris – is that of homelessness in Ontario. I believed then… and have been proven quite right since, that many of the ~common (non)sense~  strategies his government brought in would be devasting for marginalized communities.

Harris & co. have been gone for quite some time now… but little of the ground that was lost under their ~guidance~ has been re-gained… and now we have Harper & co. ensuring that the ~common (non)sense~ becomes Canada-wide, also. People are stupid. Far, far too many people.

Anyway … back to the issue of a lack of affordable housing in Ontario. My twitterfeed is full of links to articles and research about homelessness in Ontario. Why do young people become homelessA visual narrative inquiry into the experiences of youth who are homeless and seek mental health care. City blocks view into homeless shelters. Sharing knowledge: not the way we plan. These are just a few of the links that have appeared in the last few minutes of my twitterfeed.

What I don’t see much of – ever – is anything relating to our experiences as landlords, and how these contribute to issues of homelessness in Ontario. In fact, most times when I have tweeted anything of my experiences recently, there is an assumption that I must be a tenant, not a landlord. Because yeah… we landlords are the bad guys, don’t you know.

I’ve been on both sides of the landlord and tenant experience. And do you know what? In Ontario – they both suck. Back when I was a single mom – working, even – housing was a major worry on more than one occasion. Finding someone that would rent to me was difficult….and once they did, they seemed to think that we should be so grateful to have housing that we were unreasonable to also expect that the cluster flies and mice that had beaten us to it would be dealt with, or, in another, that we also kinda sorta thought we should have running water and be able to flush the toilet regularly. It wasn’t fun, and we put up with some pretty bad conditions at times.

Now, I’m at the other end of things… but not for long. Perhaps because of my own history, I have, as a landlord, made the mistake of trying to give people a break. I have rented to young people – they screwed me…. never paid a cent in rent, buried the apartment in filth, and one even went so far as to take a dump on the back step of the house; that was ~fun~.

I have rented to young men on OW. Big mistake. More filth, fighting, and drugs… yeah, no thanks.

And I have rented to single moms. Right now, in fact, we have single moms living in each of our houses. One is going fine… the neighbours complain about them regularly, and there are, I know, issues re: garbage and other assorted nonsense that I expect will fall to us to clean up eventually … but at least the rent is being paid (knocking on wood).  We’ve had to cough up $$ for furnace repairs, and a new water heater … but on the whole, things are okay there… for now.

Good thing… because do you know what happens when things break down in Ontario? Landlords get screwed. BIG TIME.

In our other house – the one that is right here in the same town I live in – we also rented to a single mom with a sob story. At first, it was okay… the rent was always, always late and accompanied by sob stories – but eventually she’d get it paid. But then she met this guy, and he moved in, and it all went to hell in a handbasket.

They objected to being told that they could not have fires during fire banns. They objected to being told that they could not change the locks on the house without providing us with a key. And they objected to being told that they could not use the backyard as their own personal garbage dump. When it got so bad that the township was threatening us with fines, we provided them with the official notice that is required by the Landlord and Tenant Act… at which point, they threw a hissy fit and announced they were moving out at the end of November.

Insufficient notice, but we were happy to accept it. Only they didn’t go. They used their last month’s rent, supposedly, for November. Which means that the last rent they paid was in October – and even that was only a partial payment, since he withheld $200 for parts for repairs he said he was going to make (not an approach we agree to, especially with this DB, since he never follows through, but which we didn’t argue because they had given notice and we were happy to see the back of them).

But like I said – partial payment in October, last month’s rent in November… and not a cent since.

Well, not a cent FROM them.

We, on the other hand, are required to continue to provide them with heat, hydro, water, and ~enjoyment~ of OUR property while they pay nothing. We also have had to pay $170 to the Landlord and Tenant Board – twice. And $401 to the Sheriff’s Office to do nothing.

We have been threatened, sworn at, slandered, and reported to every possible agency – even some in towns that are outside of our area.  We’ve had a bylaw officer call and leave us a message threatening to bring in a heating and cooling technician to “fix the tenant’s heat” at our expense – even though there was not a damn thing wrong with the squatter’s heat. We’ve had the fire chief threaten us with fines because every time we replace the smoke detectors (with video, even) they demolish them again.

I’ve had to take time off work that I couldn’t afford – and will need to do so again.

The police have not supported us at all – in fact, on one occasion, they went so far as to kick my husband out of his own basement in that house because his presence there was interfering with the squatter’s enjoyment.

It is now February, and guess what? They’re still living in our house totally rent free, and we are still expected to provide them with enjoyment and all of the amenities to which they would be entitled if they actually paid rent.

The Landlord and Tenant Board found that my evidence was credible and hers was not – BUT even so, they removed the idiot  boyfriend from the order because he has only lived there since May 2012 – didn’t move in when she originally moved in in Dec 2011. Of course, he did have an intent to rent at that time so there IS a paper trail – but no matter… she says he doesn’t really live there, so that’s that…   even though she was found to be totally not credible, he’s off the order, and we are left with no possibility of recovering a blessed cent of the more than $5,000 we are owed.

And even though – at the hearing itself – the adjudicator told her she would have to be out by 31-Jan … somehow by the time the written order got to us, he had decided that due to her situation, it would not be unfair to allow her extra time. So, now she can be evicted on or after the 16th of February.

Except that, in Ontario, the Sheriff’s office has a monopoly on evictions – and they don’t care to actually stir themselves to do them. They wouldn’t do it in December when we had a valid order – and all indications are that they aren’t planning to do this one in any reasonable amount of time, either. Haven’t heard from them to schedule it yet, and having spoken to the oh-so-charming woman at their reception desk, I am most certainly not holding my breath.

So – we have no hope of recovering any of the money we’re out – AND they get to stay until whenever… but hey, we’ll have an order.

It is all so much bullshit. All of the agencies we have been dealing with are funded by Ontario taxpayers: OW, the OPP, the Sheriff’s Office, the bylaw officers, the Landlord and Tenant Board…. all of them…. and yet we have to cough up more money at every turn and they do NOTHING.

If you check into a hotel, and then refuse to leave or to pay, THAT is considered theft… but do the same in someone else’s house, that’s not theft, and it’s not a problem… because at the end of the process the landlord gets “an order”.  A totally useless piece of paper – I can’t take it to OW and demand payment, after all. They’ve already given her the shelter allowance she was entitled to for November and December and January …. I don’t know about February … but in any case, that money is gone and we’ll be left with $5,000 in debt, a demolished filthy house, and a piece of paper not worth the stamp they spent to mail it.

WHY would I ever do this again?

And let’s go back to the topic of homelessness… how is it that so many people are homeless? Don’t they know that all they need to do is to move in someplace and then refuse to leave?

They can live for free for months at a time… when the Sheriff finally gets ’round to evicting them, go crash someplace else and refuse to pay rent or to leave. Hell, they can do what DB does and move in with someone else, not be on the original rental agreement, and then they don’t even have to wind up with an order against them.

If the system is not going to assist landlords at all, they should quit pretending that they will… stop taking our money – both the fees and the taxes… and be done with it.

There is no support for landlords in Ontario …so why bother?

The whole system is broken and nobody cares – except, of course, for people like me … people who tried to help, to give people a break… but who learned the hard way that there is no point to ever doing it again.

So … soon there will be 3 less affordable units for rent in Ontario… no biggie…. until there are so many of us throwing in the towel that people who really do need a break will never find one. Well done, Ontario.

 

 

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