They steal underwear, electrocute roommates, and hold motorcycles hostage—and those are just the runners-up. Meet Toronto’s worst landlords (and a terrible tenant or two).
Back in October—on the occasion of our cover story about how incredibly hard it is to get rid of bad tenants—The Grid asked property-owning readers for stories about the worst renters they’d ever had and, to keep things fair, asked renters for stories about the worst landlords they’d ever had, too. And guess what? The tenants won. Or lost. They have the best stories they were willing to share, at least. Here’s the very worst of what they told us (plus a story from a landlord we feel especially sorry for, and another from someone who just might have this city’s most miserable call-centre job).
“His job title was listed as ‘fireworks expert.’”
I lived in a shared house just off U of T campus in the early 2000s. The place was a crap-hole but we loved it so because of the location, and the price.
The time I knew I had to get out, however, was when we got around to asking our landlord if she could send someone to fix the toilet. It had always leaked a bit, but we noticed water was starting to leach into the floor of the bathroom (which had itself been illegally installed on top of the main-floor kitchen, but I digress).
After a few days of nagging the landlord, this fellow comes by to fix it. His solution to a rotting floor? Plywood. He nailed down a bunch of plywood on top of the bathroom tiles. So now we had added a few more pounds of weight onto a floor that already felt like it was on the verge of collapse. There’s nothing more comfortable than waterlogged plywood underfoot when you’re coming out of the shower.
Oh, and on his way out, the guy handed us his business card. His job title was listed as “fireworks expert.”
The toilet kept leaking, the floor kept sinking, and I got moving—out.
“I thought that maybe the reason my underwear was
there was that I accidentally left it behind while doing laundry”
Back in 2010, I knew something was off with my new landlord when I noticed that he took daily trips to the basement laundry room, surfaced about half an hour later, and left no evidence of having done any work.
Intrigued and suspicious, I kept my eyes on him and the basement in the weeks to come. One day, while snooping around, I checked the drawers of a discarded dresser that is in that room and was shocked to find a selection of lacy women’s thongs, along with lubricants, condoms, crusty hand towels, and a men’s silicone penis-sleeve used for enhancing “his pleasure.” One drawer below there was a pair of underwear and a camisole that had gone missing from my apartment a little while earlier. As violated and disgusted as I felt, I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt and thought that maybe what was in the drawer belonged to a former tenant who simply forgot his or her toys while moving, and maybe the reason my underwear was there was that I accidentally left it behind while doing laundry, and whoever found it simply put it away in the dresser without noticing the sex toys…
None of the other tenants had found and stored my underwear there—I asked. The next couple of weeks of amateur detective work revealed that the landlord moved the contents of the dresser around during his visits, and left fresh drips of lube behind. From time to time, a young girl who looked like she was on drugs would accompany him to the basement for what it’s safe to assume was sex. (The empty condom wrapper I found after they left was not there prior to his and his date’s arrival.) He even installed a lock inside the door for privacy, and sealed the windows with old bed sheets.
This continued for a while. Fed up of feeling scared and violated, I wrote the landlord a note letting him know that all the tenants were aware of this basement routine, and that he would be well-advised to stop it. I watched him read the note through my door’s peephole with equal parts fear of how he would react and satisfaction of standing up for my right to a sex-offender–free home. Without a word, he proceeded down to the basement, packed a box full of his sex stuff, and left.
The next few weeks were awkward. I avoided leaving or coming into the house if I knew he was there. I was afraid to leave my apartment unattended for fear that he would come in again without my knowing. The cops weren’t of much help, insisting this was a tenant–landlord issue.
I moved shortly after that.
“No idiot ever stayed in this guy’s houses more than a year.”
I used to live in Little Italy and had a landlord who I originally thought was just mind-numbingly stupid but later discovered was actually a mean and cheap little weasel.
He had this little “deal” going, wherein he would “rebate” a portion of the rent every month in exchange for the tenants completing certain chores. So, for example, our rent on paper was $1,620. However, at the end of each month, in theory, this landlord would rebate us $210 so that we were actually paying $1,410, the price advertised.
The reason he did this was so that no one would ever attempt to go month-to-month once their lease was up. That is, once your lease was up, should you request to go month-to-month, you’d immediately begin paying the $1,610, which he could demonstrate on paper had been your rent the whole time. If you signed on for another year, however, he’d continue his little “rebate deal.”
He would also constantly try to find ways to get out of not paying the “rebate.” Some months he just simply “forgot” it, and we had to hound him to bring it. Other months he brought it and it was post-dated so that we couldn’t cash it for a week.
Evidently, he never once paid the other tenants in the house their rebates. Apparently they just didn’t care enough to follow up to get their $200 a month back, so they just never got that money.
No idiot ever stayed in this guy’s houses more than a year. (He owns a few in the neighbourhood.) He wanted to lock you into a second year if it was at all possible. If you’re about to rent a place in Little Italy and your landlord offers a chore-based “rebate,” run like hell.
“The police officer who took my statement asked,
‘Why don’t you just move out?’”
I moved into the top floor of two-storey house. It had cockroaches, mice droppings, and a grease-covered stove when I moved in, but I got permission—not written, big mistake—to make repairs and update things like carpeting, plumbing, electrical, lighting, and wall furnishings. Rent was so cheap it was worth it to have a nice place to live.
A boyfriend was helping me, but didn’t live there. He did some plumbing that—due to the lower tenants turning on their water when they were told not to—resulted in some water damage. The landlord used his insurance to do the repairs.
Fast forward two years, and the apartment looks great due to all the updates that I paid for myself. He now decides to evict me for noise, for coming home late from my work and “walking on the floor and using the bathroom after midnight.” (WTF?)
The eviction fails, of course (I’m not a loud person, had no parties, no music, no pets, and am a non-smoker), so he sues me for $6,000 for damages from two years earlier. Remember, this was paid for by the insurance company.
At this point, it was obvious that the landlord wanted me out of the apartment because now he could easily rent it for twice what I was paying. Meanwhile, he changed the locks on an outside shed and would not give me a key, locking up my motorcycle, and changed the garbage arrangement, ordering me to dump it in a rodent-infested box and drag it to the curb, but only between certain times of the day.
Next he sicced a lawyer on me, who sent so much mail I had to claim harassment.
Sessions in court ensued. After one session, where he lost again, he uttered death threats as we left the courthouse.
I filed a police report. The officer who took my statement asked, “Why don’t you just move out?” So I did.
Small-claims court sessions continued to stretch over the next three years. I won every appearance but only got an average of $200 in damages each court session. My final lawyer bill was over $6,000.
Hope that landlord rots in hell!
“We got our first noise complaint while playing soft
rock at 2 p.m. on computer speakers and unpacking.”
I was a second-year engineering undergraduate at U of T. Not necessarily the greatest-sounding tenant off the bat, but I was well-behaved. I tried to keep things relatively tidy, and would usually go out once a week—occasionally twice, if a batch of midterms had just passed.
Living in a student residence had lost its novelty, and a group of close friends and I decided to take a run at off-campus housing. There were not many properties that fit our budget, and of the few that did, many were ratholes. Finally, we found the upper half of a semi-detached Victorian century home steps away from campus: high ceilings, large bedrooms, great living space, all within our budget. The only issue was that it was a seven-bedroom home, but it wasn’t difficult to find a few more able bodies to fill the space.
The landlord seemed very friendly, but he was obviously not a native English speaker, and he didn’t seem to understand many of our questions while he gave us a tour, shrugging or laughing off the ones we asked about neighbours, water pressure, what to do in case of problems, and many others we thought were vital. That was the first clue.
He assured us not to worry by informing us that he houses 20,000 students. Twenty thousand— all while having an office in Markham that he wouldn’t let us sign our lease anywhere other than, with all seven tenants present. But we were convinced that for the price and fit, the house would work. We decided that we would move in.
Apparently the former tenants didn’t get the news that their lease was over. On move-in day, it was a complete clusterfuck of moving trucks and scurrying up and down a steep, narrow staircase. One former tenant wasn’t from Toronto and actually ended up staying another night. My room was never emptied, and had someone’s full life still there: laptop, TV, clothing, cash, everything. After waiting for three days and trying to contact this person (I never had any replies via phone or text and they didn’t have Facebook—what student doesn’t have Facebook?!), the landlord instructed me to simply throw all of his stuff on the curb. After sleeping on the living room couch for three nights, it didn’t seem so harsh.
We got our first noise complaint while playing soft rock at 2 p.m. on computer speakers and unpacking. It was from a 60-year-old woman who lived in the attached semi. Bad news. We profusely apologized and kept the music off for the rest of the move.
Rather than talk to us, our landlord would go on Microsoft Word, turn off spellcheck, and print out notices for us about how we should try to tiptoe up the stairs because there is a family living below. Wait, rewind: you’re renting a property to seven students with a family below and a noise-sensitive 60-year-old woman beside? This has to be some sort of a prank.
Things only got worse from there: noise complaints every Friday at 9 p.m., screaming matches, threats of eviction and lawsuits. We were not throwing mega-parties: we would simply have seven to 10 people having a couple drinks, with a bookshelf stereo playing mid-volume music, before all heading elsewhere. After bringing a barbeque onto the open third floor patio, we were notified that it would be forcibly removed because “they cause cancer.” Often while out front of the house, the intercom light would turn on, with the family below listening in on our conversations.
It got to the point where we received a noise complaint on a Saturday at 7 p.m. while watching The King’s Speech.
Overall, a difficult and unpleasant experience. That said, I learned the entire Landlord and Tenant Act, which goes to show that for every yin, there is a yang.
Next page: Yes, it really does get even worse. (Electrocution-
by-shampooing, anyone?) Plus: we crown our winner.