Just Another Bump in the Road

This morning I got a call from the Landlord and Tenant Board telling me they have sent my eviction application to a hearing on Aug. 1st.

*Stomach rolls over*

I was hoping they would just issue the eviction notice, but things are obviously not going to be that easy.

Let me back up a step and give you some back story…

In September 2009, I took my life savings (from cash I’d started earning since I was a 16 year old kid working in a warehouse, to salary I’d earned working for the phone company as a summer job during college) and bought my first condo at The Pinnacle Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto (a nice west facing 1-bedroom unit on the 25th floor that was all I needed as a yuppie bachelor).

I moved in, and lived there happily until November 2010, at which time Julie and I (no longer a bachelor) purchased a condo together at another downtown core building; The Residences of Maple Leaf Square (a larger 2-bedroom unit on the 39th floor, perfect for two yuppies working less than 1km away).

I decided to keep my unit at Pinnacle, and rushed hurriedly to find a tenant to lease it so I could even come close to affording it.

Enter John Doe (name changed to avoid problems later), a friendly young guy also working downtown and looking for a nice place to live. John had good credit, and seemed responsible, so in the essence of time, and because I was feeling generous, I leased him my first home at a discount (~$100/month less than market).

For the next year and a half, John lived comfortably in my first home. I would go over once in a while to collect my mail, or to dirty up my un-calloused city-dwelling yuppie hands to fix a plugged kitchen sink, and I’d leave him a 6-pack of one of my favourite beers to keep the relationship smooth.

Just before his one year anniversary living in my first home, I had the unit professionally painted for him to make sure the unit would be nice and aesthetically appealing for the year to come.

On special occasions; Christmas, birthday (Aug. 3rd) etc… I’d get him a gift certificate (I made the mistake of getting him a Starbucks card last year, only to find out he doesn’t drink coffee… That should have tipped me off…), and I’d email him every month or so to check in and make sure he was comfortable.

He bounced a couple cheques on me over the past year and a half, but he was always ready with an excuse (“I forgot to transfer money to my chequing account…”) and was willing to meet up shortly thereafter to give me the rent in cash, so I didn’t think much of it.

Then Julie and I decided to do this trip…

I’m running a monthly deficit keeping my unit at Pinnacle, and I don’t have any savings to speak of, so I made the decision to sell my first home in order to generate enough cash to be able to bugger off from work for a year.

I emailed John shortly after I’d made the decision to sell the place, and let him know the situation and that we needed to have a sit down to discuss options.

In Ontario (as I’m sure it is elsewhere in the developed world), tenants have what is known as “Security of Tenure”, and a tenancy may be terminated only in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act. In laymans terms, that means I cannot dump his crap on the street and change the locks on him.

Luckily John and I had a great relationship (based on the tenets of any good relationships: communication, respect, and trust to name a few), so sitting down to figure out a solution was going to be a piece of cake right?

Well, it actually took me a few tries to get his attention, and I did have to email and call him a number of times… but finally on May 31st, we were able to sit down together and we reached an agreement to end the tenancy on July 31st (giving him lots of time to find a new place).

I offered to help him set up a new lease with any prospective buyer if they wished to keep a good tenant in the unit, and to be a reference should a new landlord require someone to vouch for his ability to pay rent on time and keep the place in good shape.

I offered to make it worth his while (pay him off…) should I be able to sell the place sooner than that, and he seemed quite alright with that. He also seemed quite alright with the 6-pack of nectar of the gods in the fridge, and also with the thorough professional cleaning I had done to the unit to get it ready for showings.

I listed the unit for sale on June 1st, and sat back to let the offers flood in.

Yeahhhhh… Not s’much…

I waited and waited, and in the meantime, I communicated with John weekly to keep him in the loop, and to make sure he was still ok with our agreement.

In late June, he asked if he could move out on July 1st and if I would refund him his June rent (because he’d paid ‘first and last’ month’s rent when he signed the lease those many months ago), but I was keen on sticking to our original agreement to end the tenancy on July 31st because I’d already spent every penny of that rent (and also a few hundred bucks out of my own pocket) on the mortgage, taxes, condo fees and utilities.

To reiterate our agreement that we made on May 31st, I reminded him that July was his last month, and that I would not be cashing the July 1st rent cheque because he’d already paid for his last month.

I reassured him that this would all be done with shortly, and apologized for the inconvenience of having prospective buyers visiting to look at the property (even though we scheduled the showings for times he was not at home, it still couldn’t have been fun keeping the place clean all the time or getting calls from my agent to confirm showings…).

Finally after waiting 5 weeks, on Friday August 6th I got my first (and coincidentally my second) offer.

The offer was a super lowball, almost 30K below my asking price, so I let my agent work her magic, and she was able to negotiate a more reasonable price with the buyer (that was only 17K below my original asking price), that I accepted just before the midnight deadline.

I told John I’d accepted an offer, and that the closing date was to be August 10th. I offered to let him stay in the unit for the first week of August at no charge, but that I’d need the keys back on August 9th.

On Wednesday July 11th, while I was chilling in Trinity Bellwoods park with Julie and my siblings, I got a call from John to let me know that he had not found a place yet and that he would not be moving out by the closing date on the (legally binding) Agreement of Purchase and Sale I just signed with the buyer.

Excuse me WHAT?!

What do you mean you aren’t moving out? What do you mean you don’t remember our agreement to end tenancy on July 31st? What do you mean you won’t talk to me anymore and now I have to communicate through your agent (who is autocratic, overbearing, and presumably hearing impaired based on the number of words she heard from me, and who also happens to be John’s mommie’s bff…). What do you mean ‘business is business’? Of course “business is business”, but I’m not convinced that is an excuse for you to ‘look out for #1’ at my expense. Forgive me if I don’t consider that synonymous with “shh shh just let it happen, you just lie down and get f#&*^d now” just because you suddenly can’t remember our little agreement.

I spent the next few days trying to communicate with John and to patch up our suddenly dashed relationship. I asked him if he really didn’t remember our agreement to end the tenancy on July 31st (he didn’t…). I offered to give him a month’s rent in cash to be out by the 9th of August. I made it very clear that I would do anything within my power to help him, but that I really needed him out by the 9th. He told me his agent knows these things better than him, and that I should talk to her, and that he is not willing to negotiate with me.

Ok, hard ball it is.

On Friday July 13th (go figure), I filed an L3 with the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario, accompanied with a sworn affidavit indicating that John and I had an agreement to end the tenancy on July 31st.

To make the affidavit official, I needed to have my oath commissioned by a Lawyer or Notary Public, but my usual real estate lawyer was out of town that day.

I was in constant touch with Julie, and she offered to ask around her office if anyone knew a lawyer that could help me on short notice. Luckily (and super randomly), Julie’s co-worker’s boyfriend’s sister (how many degrees is that?) was called to the Bar a week beforehand, and was willing to help me out pro bono (heh heh), so I hopped on my bike and sped to meet Julie and her co-worker and her co-worker’s boyfriend’s sister at her office to commission my oath.

That was fun. Thanks again Nicole!

I also called my agent to ask her if she remembered the agreement that John and I made on May 31st (she was present and witnessed the agreement), and she remembered it clearly.

So, here I am.

I’ve spent the past week bitching and complaining to anyone who will listen to my woes, and waiting to hear back from the LTB to see if they will evict John straight up, or if I will have to prove my case in a hearing.

You know the rest.

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