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First time landlords face minimum $40,000 bill to replace stolen items and repair property damage

'It slowly graduated into a crack house. We have mattresses we need to get rid of. There’s drug paraphernalia, garbage, and dead rodents. We have infestations of flies, ants, and fleas. There’s cat urine, and cat feces, and clothes everywhere.  Anything you can think of is in there' property owners.

Within mere moments of entering the rental home, one’s sense of smell is accosted by the pungent odour of rotting food, animal feces, and urine soaked carpeting.

“We have mattresses we need to get rid of. There’s drug paraphernalia, garbage, and dead rodents. We have infestations of flies, ants, and fleas. There’s cat urine, and cat feces, and clothes everywhere.  Anything you can think of is in there,“ said Shelly.

In February 2017, Shelly and her partner Greg, who asked that their last names not be used, became first-time landlords. They signed a rental agreement with someone they knew and thought they could trust.

“He moved in first, then his girlfriend and the two kids who we did not know, and that is when the problems started,” said Shelly.

Rent cheques would be short money owed, or they would be late by a few days, eventually stretching into weeks.  

Last March, the cheques stopped coming altogether.

Their “friend” moved out, leaving behind his former girlfriend and her young children.

After that they were told by neighbours there was a steady stream of people coming and going at all hours of the day and night.

“It slowly graduated into a crack house. At the beginning, it wasn’t like that at all, but once the man moved out, it slowly became a drug house and got worse, and worse and worse,” said Greg.

“I filed paperwork to evict them on May 3rd and didn’t get a hearing until June 21st. And I’m still waiting for a decision from that hearing.”  

Prior to renting the property, the couple spent $17,000 on a major kitchen renovation and had painted the inside of the home, making it “spick and span” from top to bottom.  

“In the kitchen, there’s scratches, there’s indentations. There’s burn marks on the floor. Every carpet has to be replaced, nothing is salvageable. It’s a disaster. It was like something you would see on a hoarding show on TV,” said Shelly.

In mid-July, under the cover of night, the woman moved out with the help of friends, and without notifying her landlords, who say she took anything of value that wasn’t hers.  

“She took all of our brand-new appliances. She took the lawn mower, air conditioner, snow blower, the patio set, a ladder, and the hose crank. They took everything we left. They stripped the place and left all of their garbage and filth everywhere.”

Factoring in the stolen items, the damage done to the property, and hiring someone to clean up the mess, the couple estimates it will cost roughly $40,000 to make it liveable again.  

They are also owed $7,500 in back rent.

“We’ve both got jobs, so this is going to be a weekend warrior project for us,” said Greg.

They turned to the police and as many agencies as they could, but say, for the most part, they were refused help due to the Landlord Tenant Board rules or privacy acts.  

Greg says their rental agreement isn’t worth the paper it was written on.

“As a landlord, you have zero rights to your own property. You have no rights whatsoever as the laws are right now. And if I had known at the beginning the laws were like this because I had no idea, I would never have done this. You would have been a fool to. I’m never going to do this again. I can assure you of that. I can’t get a nickel out of these people now.”

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Shelly.

“We’re never going to recoup what we’ve lost. Nobody is there to help. There is no community cleanup crew. We still have to pay the mattress fee at the dump. That’s $210 right there in mattresses alone.”

Fumigators told them it is a waste of time going in before everything is removed.  

“We have to store all her possessions for 30 days. Because of the filth, we weren’t going to rent a unit to store things, because there’s no point. It’s all going to the dump. So we’re leaving it as it is. In the meantime, the bugs are multiplying. It’s disgusting.”

Shelly says their hands are tied.

“We’d given her notice a few times, and she’d always say ‘I’m cleaning as quickly as humanly possible. I’ll be out in 10 days, I’ll be out in two weeks.’ With the new Landlord Tennant Board Act, once they know the system, they don’t have to leave. They can stay as long as they want until the decision comes,” said Shelly.       

Based on her personal experience, she says good landlords need to be protected.

“I think the Landlord Tenant Board rules have swung so far in favour of the tenants, that it needs to come back. There has to be a happy medium. There’s good tenants, and bad tenants, and there’s good landlords and bad landlords, but each person should have to have some responsibility.”

John Wilson, President of the Near North Landlords Association says this is a prime example of what is wrong with the system.

“This encapsulates everything that is wrong in the rental income property business right now. The Landlord Tenant Act is broken. The system is busted. These folks are still waiting for an eviction order from June, and they legally can’t take possession of this until they have that order. So that system is busted,” said Wilson.

His advice to anyone thinking of getting into the rental business is to educate themselves.

“We (Near North Landlords Association) are starting to provide education seminars and seminars on advocacy. And in conjunction with other landlord associations across the province, and we will have the ear of Premier Doug Ford and his staff when we have our white paper ready. We need to bring a balance back into the Residential Tenancies Act because right now, the landlords have no rights. We’re recommending that everybody do a background check on anybody they’re going to rent property to. We’re trying to sell the fact that it’s better to have a vacant property for two or three months than to have the wrong tenant in there, and lose your rent for six or seven.”

City Councillor Mark King was also asked to look at the property damage.

“I’m watching somebody come out and I think they’re going to be sick after being inside. The smell is terrible,” said King.

He says it also points to another problem in the community.

“We recognize what’s going on in this city with respect to the drug culture. There needs to be extra pressure, which I will bring to the meeting of AMO, ( Association of Municipalities of Ontario) around the 20th of August with different ministries, with what is transpiring here in the City of North Bay. I know we’re not alone. A lot of this followed the economic downturn that we never recovered from in 2008. It’s highly unfortunate it. It’s terrible to think that people actually live in that type of squalor.”

Shelly says they're "living a nightmare' that they can't wake up from.

“I would tell people to join their local landlord group, get references from previous landlords, and do a background check. We did it to help people out who were less fortunate, to give them a helping hand. We’re good people and we tried to help but it didn’t work in our favour. We’ve never rented before, and we never will again.”