International researcher housing woes and tenant rights
February 8, 2010 2:44 PM Subscribe
Question: I'm from the UK temporarily working and living in a university city in Ontario, Canada for the 2009/2010 academic year. Due to the fact that I work from home a lot and have to transfer large files (via Skype/DropBox/FTP) from Canada to my labmates overseas, my landlady's internet usage has gone up since I've become a tenant. I think she's using Rogers Express or Extreme Plan
. If I'm understanding things correctly, according to the Ontario Landlord/Tenant Act
, Canadian landlords can't increase a rent until 12 months after a tenancy has started. What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (17 answers total)
Apologies for the length
Background: I'm an international researcher conducting research in a lab as part of an exchange program. I am not a graduate student/exchange student/post-doc/employee of my visiting university (I am when at my home university), and thus not eligible for student/employee services at the university here in Canada. Even the international student advisor is ineligible to help. I already checked through my very helpful lab supervisor.
I am subletting a month-to month fully furnished room from my landlady directly (no 3rd parties involved) for $x.00/mo - all utilities included (internet/washer&dryer/dishwasher/electricity/heat) flat rate. When I moved in this sublet, we had a verbal agreement on the price and didn't sign an agreement (in hindsight I am kicking myself for this, but I guess I was overwhelmed by moving across the pond?). There was no discussion of internet usage limits, but she knew before I moved in that I would be working from home a lot.
As I mentioned above, I work from home when I am not at the lab in the university (75% of my work is from home, I'd estimate), as the university does not have office space for me (only lab space). Most of the time this is fine for me as I'll work in the university library/coffeeshops/on campus/around town. This way I don't use my landlady's internet quota each month and cost her extra (she uses little, mostly emails). She knows this and has commented on how social I've been since moving in.
Unfortunately, I've become quite ill since the beginning of January and have to temporarily suspend my lab duties until I become healthy once again (both Dr and Lab Supervisor rules). Thus, I've had to spend my time at home waiting for my body to fight whatever is attacking my immune system (I have chronic health issues so it takes longer for my body to become healthy again). This means that since 2010 began, my landlady's internet usage has spiked up due to me transferring data to my home lab/talking to family and friends via Skype at home (I only have a pay as you go cheap cellphone since I'm in Canada for less than a year).
In short, my landlady is not happy. I think she might try to raise my rent as a result, but wouldn't that violate the Rental Act? (She hasn't yet, but wrote me a note to "talk to her face to face" this morning - her words/underlining, not mine). Due to my health our generally opposite schedules (she gets up early/goes to bed by 9pm) while I get up after she leaves to shower/start my day and return home from coffeeshop/lab around midnight when not ill), we often communicate via notes/emails -- but I found the note today rather odd and forceful (and know she has commented on my working from home increasing her internet traffic even when I'm not stuck at home sick like I am currently). I hope I'm just over-thinking this plate of beans, but I want to know my rights/responsibilities before I talk to her this week.
I should note that I don't torrent or download anything besides my lab materials from my lab supervisors here and at my home university. I don't often stream TV shows/movies either, so that's not eating up bandwidth. I can't really cut down on Skype or file transfers because it's my job and I work from home.
My only thought of how to get out of this sticky situation is to pay her in lump sum to compensate, but is that even legal for us to enter in that agreement? As academics know, I'm not exactly rich on this researcher stipend, so it's not like I have a money tree sitting in my bank account.
As an aside, I don't really want to move due to this issue. Normally we get along great, so this seems like a small thing to crumble a good tenant/landlord relationship. I'm only in Canada for a few more months and it's difficult to find a good living/working condition as the one I am currently in. Compounding this issue is that I'm permanently in a wheelchair/use crutches and it's difficult to find nice, non-government apartments to sublet for a short term that are accessible for my needs.
What do I do? Where can I go for help? I tried calling the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board this afternoon but their lines were busy. My labmates don't have the answer, and I can't afford a lawyer (but this doesn't need a lawyer to solve this, right?).