Mike’s Letter on Bad Landlords

Hi Charles, 

Always enjoy your program while I'm driving and needing something good to chew on. 

I haven't had the time to check your archive so forgive me if this email is just full of ideas you've already been through. I'll try to keep it short. 

Recently my girlfriend and I moved back to Canada after having working abroad for 6 years. When we left Canada we lived in Toronto; Toronto is our home. So this is where we decided to land and get settled to start. We figured with a substantial amount of savings and our relatively mature personalities that finding a place to live in the city would be what it had always been; a reasonably formidable task but doable.

Instead it became quickly apparent that the prices in the rental market had jumped up quite a bit in 6 years. Ok, that was something we just had to come to terms with if we were going to find a place that even resembled where we had come from (which was in fact a VERY expensive place to live). 6 weeks of hunting produced only 3 apartments that we could even consider. We just were not willing to risk the bed-bug situation with apartments that were 'newly renovated' but had the all the previous tenants belongings dumped out on the yard for some reason. Some of them would lie and say a neighbor dumped it there. Others were honest that they had bedbugs but were not willing to negotiate, not that it mattered. 

Other apartments had cockroach infestations, signs of fire-damage, no appliances, security issues, insulation issues, noise issues and on and on… and mind you these were NOT places going for $800 a month. We're talking $1200 – $1400 a month plus hydro/parking etc. Our fear of bedbugs in particular was fueled by the fact that a good friend had her life ripped apart by them for half a year.

The place we decided upon seemed OK for a measly $1550 a month (that was sarcasm). But after only a week we realized we were sitting on a lemon. The houses around us are so close that the raccoons have nests between them and they fight over them because they are perfect for staying warm. Getting the landlord to deal with the raccoons has been very difficult and we've been spending our days figuring out ways to keep them away and not make noise at night. It's a battle to say the least, and in fact shouldn't be my job at all.  We asked if there had been pest problems in the apartment and of course we were told there were none. Ah, but alas, Pantry Moths. Almost impossible to get rid of with their 300 day life-cycle; there are worms hiding in every nook and cranny that you can and can't see. Our landlord assured us he would have a pest-control person come over and assess the situation but nothing yet 5 days later. And yes cute little mice, lovingly killed by our neighbor's rat poison and coming to rest in our refrigerator. It took me getting quite upset to get the landlord over and take the fridge out to deal with the rotting carcass that was stinking up the whole apartment. Ok, I could go on but let's just get to the point. 

You need a license to drive a car, go fishing, sell alcohol and get married. The person who designs the concrete sidewalk slabs we walk on has to be an engineer. The guy who sells you gum at the corner store must have a merchant's license. I have to get a credit check to open a bank account, buy a cell-phone or rent an apartment. When I'm brave enough to apply for an apartment I have to provide more personal information than if I'm giving blood that will be injected into another human. 

BUT, in order to be landlord all you need is to own some property. There are no standards or testing for being a landlord. Yes there is building code that 'should' be adhered to when the property is converted to a rental but there is no way of knowing if you are in the presence of an honest person or a scoundrel. You can speculate yes. In the case of a scoundrel, it doesn't seem to matter that people who move in are actually renting the place where they are going to LIVE; the place where they will clean themselves, prepare and eat their food, sleep at night (hopefully if the raccoons are on your side), be with their children and family.

The MO seems to end up being that as long as the rent check keeps clearing the deal is healthy. But this can be so far from the truth. When things go wrong this way it is so disheartening and destructive. The stress of finding a place, then the move itself, only to find out you're in a bad deal. And guess what, this bad deal you're in still costs what you agreed to pay when you thought it was a good deal. The Landlord Tenant act forbids you from withholding rent in lieu of service/actions promised in the lease but not provided for. So basically, it's buyer beware, seller have no care. 

I've often thought that landlords should have to fill out an application too. 

Shouldn't I know what the landlord's credit report says? What if I spend months of my time finding an apartment and the landlord loses the building? What of my time? Do I get my rent back? For that matter maybe include a medical exam so that I know he's up to the job physically and mentally. 

What if he/she is involved in criminal activity that gets brought to my doorstep? How about a police-check?

Has he/she ever been late paying land-taxes, water-bills or electricity bills?

Shouldn't I be entitled to at least get some character references so I know who I'm going to be giving my hard-earned cash every month? 

Where do they live in case I need to find them? Do the previous tenants think they are prompt?

What do they do for a job? Are they 'working' like we are supposed to be? How is their cash-flow? 

Would they be able to afford a serious repair or will I be left waiting for the hole in the roof to be fixed for weeks or months?

Maybe this sounds kind of silly. But ask people in the city who have rented for years. EVERYBODY has stories. But nothing is being done about it. Your landlord is a name and signature on a contract that they can honor if they feel like it.  

This winter I met more liars is 6 weeks than in the 6 years I was away… it's not the way I wanted to return to Canada. Thankfully we can actually still laugh about the ridiculousness of it at least once a day. 

Sorry for the bummer story


9 thoughts on “Mike’s Letter on Bad Landlords

  1. Mike’s story is very typical of what goes on in this city. My wife and I now own a home but we rented for about 2 years prior to making a purchase. Instead of raccoons, we were blessed with a carpenter ant invasion worthy of a horror movie, and the rotting carcass of a dead squirrel in our chimney that lead to a blizzard of blue bottles inside the house. The backdoor literally fell apart. The furnace was so bad when I got Enbridge to come and look at it (because the landlord did nothing) they disconnected it because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It took threats of legal action, calls to the municipality, and/or petitioning the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal to get action. And this person owned 4 homes, all of which were similarly neglected.
    Licensing of landlords is long overdue!!!

  2. I couldn’t agree more! In these recessionary times , more times than not, landlords haven’t paid their mortgage in years. They withhold service and repairs and when you withhold rent to get the repairs the kick you out. Landlords should have to get licenses and forego the same background check as any tenant.

    • I’ve been a landlord, with my own 20 ppoiertres, for the past 5 years now.I’ve decided not to subscribe to the tenant’s deposit scheme but to take 2 or 3 months rent in advance, which is clearly worded in my ast contracts.My reasons are:I need the working capital i.e. I need the money sitting in my bank and not the deposit scheme.You may argue that I would be exposed when the tenant comes to leave and their last month (or 2 momths) are free of rent, having paid in advance on day 1 however what Ive found is:1. Those tenants that paid their rent on time also looked after the property and left it in a good state.and2. Those tenants that did not pay on time well, I had their deposit in my bank assisting my cash flow when they did not pay and if they damaged my property then I was covered by malicious damage insurance the deposit left by a bad tenant would be swallowed up by missed rent and not go anyway to paying for the damage.The biggest exposure for a landlord is not being paid so I advice that you take out rent insurance for the 1st 6 months after which section 21 can be used to evict on an accelerated procedure with no need to go to court.Any advice just drop a reply.

    • No they can’t do that it’s not possible for them to even raise the rent on you if they hveant even fixed anything in the Apt. Why would they ask for another security deposit you already live there! You need to speak to someone that knows about laws like that because it’s not fair on you.

  3. Pretty much went through this myself…..originally the owner lived upstairs and things were kept up and the bills paid (my rent included all utilities). He died and the slumlord from hell bought the place from the estate, and moved in a bunch of native tenants who did not pay a bill for months…the gas was cut off twice, and the hydro was within three days of being so when they were evicted thanks to a $900 unpaid bill. I took it to the landlord’s rep and told her to take care of it, so she opened an account with EPCOR IN MY NAME!!! I was more than a little ticked when I got a $336 bill in the mail, to pay for $10 worth of power. Add to this leaky plumbing that shorted out all the wiring in the furnace and my kitchen in March, plus a leaky toilet upstairs that ran down my bathroom wall for days before they resolved the issue. The lawn was never cut, the sidewalks never cleaned of snow, the list goes on and on. The furnace was ancient and would cycle on and off repeatedly without heating the house much…as per above the person owned multiple homes in the same ‘hood and all were neglected in the same way. I was not sorry to leave just before Xmas.

    • I find it extraordinary that so many ladlronds seem to view tenants as offenders when in the past the law has done very little to protect the rights of hard-working honest tenants. I’ve been a private householder for more than 25 years but had reason to rent short term twice when I moved house. The first landlord was reasonable, co-operative, attentive and honest. The second was out to make a buck at whatever cost and withheld my a3750 deposit because the paint he instructed me to buy to cover a couple of minor scuffs from furniture (perfectly normal wear and tear over a 10 month tenancy) was not an exact match! when I called his bluff and offered to discuss it in court (very publicly, might I add I am a journalist) he backed down faster than you could say month in advance!So many ladlronds see tenants not as a business client which is what they are in actual fact but as an object out of which they can cream as much cash as possible. Appalling injustice! And now because the law is saying this is the tenant’s money, you have to justify what you have done with it, there’s this outrageous outcry from the poor, badly-done-to money-making property owner. boo hoo

  4. I forgot the comings and goings at all hours of the night(drugs? johns?) and “Billy’ being arrested by Edmonton Police one night at 0200 hrs after he drove his mother in law, wife and three kids out of the place with abuse….Six people living in a two bedroom house!

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    Tim Leary on

    With Harpo running Stephen’s Harper’s Canada inc Fat chance landlords would ever need anything but a faint heartbeat. If the citizens only knew how much of their pension is grown on the backs of sleazy property managers they would understand why this is so unregulated. I have the misfortune of working for large landlords that are really owned by various Canadian pension funds, and it is disgusting the manner in which they abuse tenants and try to get away with what they can. I had one bimbo general director suggesting we flag student craigslists ads as inappropriate if they were lower than our market prices. I rolled my eyes and expressed how unethical that is, and how we should run a decent marketing plan rather than pick on cash strapped students trying to let their apartments for the summer. The irony is that we are owned by the government of Quebec ….. I guess I do understand the need for pots and pans in the streets ….. Thank you for sharing your story it helped me realize I need to change industries pronto

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