Landlord’s nightmare

Landlord’s nightmare

http://www.torontosun.com/news/columnists/michele_mandel/2010/01/07/12374306-sun.html

Don’t forget the comments.

She stews as her tenant sits

By MICHELE MANDEL

Last Updated: 7th January 2010, 8:58am

Jane Randall says she's owed $9,000 in back rent from a tenant who owns a $200,000 Bentley. (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)
Jane Randall says she’s owed $9,000 in back rent from a tenant who owns a $200,000 Bentley. (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)

Jane Randall’s luxury North York condo is being occupied by a tenant who refuses to move out, pleading illness and money troubles to explain why she owes $9,000 in back rent.

All while a silver $200,000-plus Bentley sits in her underground parking space.

Welcome to Randall’s nightmare — where small landlords just trying to make their mortgage payments are treated by the system as if they can endlessly wait while their tenants squat for free.

It brings back painful memories. Newly married, we paid the mortgage on our first home by renting out the main floor. We thought we had the perfect tenants — they drove matching black BMWs! — until the couple came home bronzed from their Mexican vacation to announce that they’d lost their jobs and would no longer be paying rent. We’d just have to wait for them to get back on their feet.

Nobody cared about our mortgage. It took us months at the Landlord and Tenant Board before we were finally allowed to evict them.

Little has changed.

Although her tenant hasn’t paid her for five months now, an exasperated Randall says the board continues to bend over backwards for the single mom and has scheduled yet another review — the matter’s fourth — on Jan. 19.

“What are they reviewing? She hasn’t paid her rent,” says the frustrated 58-year-old Randall. “I’m at the end of my tether here. What can she possibly say to be able to take almost $10,000 of my money? I’ve been waiting patiently for more than five months now. Do they want me to throw up my hands and say, ‘Okay, you can have my $400,000 home?’ ”

Their brochure may promise “balanced and timely dispute resolution” but Randall insists the board provides nothing of the kind.

“A landlord doesn’t have a hope in hell,” she sighs.

“I can’t get her out. She’s like sticky paper and it’s all thanks to the Landlord and Tenant Board. Well, let them pay for her rent.”

Randall says she’s in danger of falling behind on her mortgage and may lose her own home if her tenant doesn’t pay up — or move out so the two-bedroom condo can be rented again for $1,800 a month.

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold on. I’ll lose this house and how do I pay the taxes and maintenance on the condo? I don’t have a Bentley.”

She sits in her condo just north of the one she is renting out, her kitchen table covered with hundreds of rambling and angry e-mails from her tenant who displays an uncanny knowledge of a system heavily weighted in her favour: “Trust me they will not let a woman be out on the street with a cancer situation and a small child to care for,” she wrote in one e-mail about her and her 13-year-old son.

Randall doesn’t know if her tenant is really ill — and even if she is, she can’t afford to support her. In her letters to the Landlord and Tenant Board, she claims she has cancer and yet tells Randall in an October e-mail that she’s now “cancer-free.”

She also calls herself a “ghajaar princess” and says “you don’t like me for what ever reason. I don’t know. Maybe because I drive a Bentley?”

When the frail-looking woman answers her door, she refuses an opportunity to offer her side of the story. “It’s none of your business,” she says, before slamming the door.

It was just last February when Randall thought her realtor had found her a dream tenant. In her application, the 44-year-old woman said she was a $164,000-a-year program manager and drove a 500 SLK Mercedes and a 2008 Bentley.

It was only after her post-dated cheques stopped clearing after August that Randall discovered the business number on her application was not in service and her reference letter had been signed by a “personal” (sic) manager.

When she still hadn’t received any rent by October, Randall went to the Landlord and Tenant Board and was granted an eviction order when her tenant failed to show for the hearing.

Her elation quickly ended when the tenant convinced the board that she’d been directed to the wrong room and the hearing was rescheduled for November.

When she didn’t show up for that hearing, either, the eviction order was reissued and a sheriff set her moving date for Dec. 7.

In the meantime, Randall learned that urine and feces from her tenant’s dogs relieving themselves on the balcony were leaking into the unit below and scheduled a Nov. 18 inspection with the property manager and the building security guard. She couldn’t believe what they saw.

“The place was just a mess,” she recalls. “You could hardly see the floor — there was feces everywhere. It was just unbelievable. It made me cry.”

Her tenant, who was not home during the announced inspection, immediately appealed to the board, claiming Randall had terrorized her son during the visit and demanded another hearing.

Even though the property manager and two other witnesses wrote letters insisting the inspection had actually been peaceful, the board cancelled the eviction and scheduled a new review for Dec. 11.

Her tenant finally turned up for this third hearing but had no documents to substantiate her illness. She was told to pay $5,000 by Dec. 31. Not surprisingly, Randall has received nothing. Instead, she’s been told the board will hold yet another review — costing her another $700 in legal fees.

“It’s just a nightmare,” Randall says, staring out her window at her ruined condo down the road. “They don’t care if I lose my home and she sits there for free.”

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