Last year I had a steep learning curve. I spent hours in Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant courtrooms—at times with a newborn—as I desperately tried to hold my dead-beat tenants accountable. It took me months. Cost me hundreds of dollars in court fees, and in the end I learned the hard way how to evict a tenant from hell.
It all started a few weeks before I was due to give birth to my second child. I rushed to find a tenant and, as a result, I made one of the biggest mistakes a landlord can make: I didn’t do my due diligence. Instead of calling all references and verifying all financial information, I glossed over the references, accepted spotty work histories and let the couple move in to the apartment in our west-end raised bungalow.
The result? Almost $10,000 worth of damage, a pile of mail that literally stood three-feet high and two feet wide, feces smeared on the walls and floor, and the pleasure of paying cleaners hundreds of dollars just to get the apartment ready to show. It was a nightmare.
What made it worse? A systemic lack of guidance and the massive wall of bureaucracy (due, in part, to a bias towards landlords but more on that sentiment at another time).
Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely, believe the number of ‘tenants-from-hell’ are strongly out-numbered by the amount of amazing people that live in rental units across Canada’s cities. Truth be told: my husband and I have been blessed by some amazing tenants—not just for their respectful natures (and their prompt payments certainly help!), but also by their amazing attitudes and a desire to keep us updated on each milestone in their life. We’ve gotten calls about wedding proposals (accepted), as well as honeymoon ideas, post-secondary school acceptance, along with successful first-home purchases. Actually, I truly believe this is one of the intangible benefits of being a landlord—a chance to celebrate another person’s success.
But what if you do end up with a tenant from hell? Where can you go for some guidance? Like me, you could call Ontario’s Landlord’s Self-Help Centre (or your provincial equivalent)—but this ad hoc approach to help is just not detailed enough. Of course, my husband and I could’ve paid a lawyer—that is, in fact, the most appropriate step—but we are small-time landlords and adding legal fees (that can quickly spiral into thousands of dollars!) was just not in the budget.
That’s when I came across this great ‘how-to’ blog by Matthew J. Wilson, at Lerners. The post is authored by a lawyer, but written in plain language, so it’s a great step-by-step introduction into the process of evicting a tenant.
The blog post won’t prevent the hassle, aggravation, or headaches that come from evicting a tenant from hell, but it’s a good first step to deciding what action to take.