Absentee landlords alive and well; lurking in university towns in Ontario
August 22, 2007 9:23 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are wondering about what her rights are as to prematurely terminating her lease with a negligent landlord (in Ontario).

My girlfriend rents a suite in an old house. Since she moved in, it has become obvious that the landlord is doing nothing to maintain the upkeep of the building, and has done absolutely nothing in terms of repairs in the suite that my girlfriend has contacted about.

Some of these involve safety issues: for example, the front door to her apartment (an exterior door) does not close properly. If the deadbolt is not locked, the door may swing open with the lightest touch or a good, strong gust of wind.

Moreover, the landlord was less than earnest about the noise level in the building. My girlfriend was told that it was a very quiet building, inhabited by all grad students. This is not the case; the tenant above her is not a grad student and, moreover, frequently plays his music exceptionally loudly in spite of repeated requests (initially just to the tenant, but also to the landlord) to turn it down. She's taken to noting the times that this occurs (although she is not at the apartment much these days for the reasons herein).

Also, the landlord seems a bit sketchy when it comes even to collecting rent. He requested the rent cheques be left in a mailbox at the front of the building for him to pick up. They sat there for weeks, in spite of phone calls reminding him to come get them.

In talking to other tenants, this seems about par for the course-- one explained that the landlord is usually good with emergency repairs and whatnot, but if it doesn't have to be fixed right away, it doesn't get fixed. (For example, said tenant has a deck that currently does not have any sort of railing on it.)

It is at the point where my girlfriend does not like even being in her own apartment. She does not feel safe there, and most certainly does not feel at home there. She wants to sublet the place, but doesn't even feel comfortable with telling anybody else it might be a good place to live. Is there anything in any sort of tenant's rights legislation in Ontario that will allow her to get out of her lease eight months early?
posted by synecdoche to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My answer to the roach infestation in Ontario may be of help.

Also, try googling "tenant's rights legislation in Ontario"
posted by acoutu at 9:35 PM on August 22, 2007

Just give two months notice and walk after that. If he doesn't collect rent cheques, he's not going to take her to court. Hell, if it's not safe, pack your bags and take off, let him explain himself to the housing tribunal, if he bothers to do anything about it.
posted by loquax at 9:36 PM on August 22, 2007

Honestly, little that you've said sounds unbearable to me. Is this her first tenancy?

The door opens easily when not locked? Lock it! I've lived in a couple of places like this and I've never for one second considered it an issue of safety. If the door didn't lock, then yes. Unsafe and lease-breaking-worthy for sure. But in truth, if she owned a house, would she buy and replace an entire door handle assembly just because she had to keep it locked to ensure it stays closed? I sure as heck wouldn't.

One tenant isn't a grad student? Well, what does that necessarily mean about a person anyway? Based on my experience, I've never had a landlord detail the personal lives of all the tenants. It's not really my business. And saying "the building is full of grad students" isn't necessarily to be interpreted as "every single tenant is a grad student" but as a generalization.

If the music is extremely loud in late hours (10-11pm and later), ask the tenant to turn it down; if it's not turned down, report it to landlord; if nothing is done then call the cops. If it's during the day or early evening and/or not of shelf-rattling volume then your girlfriend will need to accept what living in apartments is about. And it couldn't hurt for her to do the congenial groundwork of talking to the tenant when the music isn't on, mentioning that the noise transmits easily, and ask in a friendly way for a compromise during specific hours.

As for the cheques: it sucks when your cheque isn't deposited quickly. I hate it. What I did is set up a separate account and transfer funds into it, so it doesn't get mixed up with my spending money and I don't have to worry about whether or not it's been withdrawn. I believe the legal lifespan of a cheque is one year -- you can't limit the amount of time a person can use your cheque other than that -- so you're expected to honour it until that point. So she should find a way to manage her money so it's not a problem for her.

You can certainly call the new Landlord & Tenant Board -- they have an 800 number where they just answer questions like this all the time -- but I doubt you're going to have much to work with in terms of justifying the breaking of a lease.

It sounds harsh, and I'm not even a fan of landlords; I've had lots of terrible ones. (I just had mine call and ream me out for half an hour for telling potential new tenants how much I pay.) But apartment living is alllllll about compromise, accepting the people you share your space with, handling the potentially loaded and difficult relationship with the person who owns your living space, and knowing what's important enough to go to the mat about and what's ultimately small potatoes. It takes adjustment to do this with finesse -- maybe your girlfriend needs time.
posted by loiseau at 4:22 AM on August 23, 2007

Call 416-645-8080 and ask them. However, I doubt what you're describing is grounds to break a lease.

I am not a lawyer, but were it me, I'd simply break the lease anyway. I've done it before and never had a problem. I just gave 60 days notice and left. One time I moved in 30 days and ate a month's rent but it was worth it.

And trust me, landlords are NEVER honest about the noise. Ever.
posted by dobbs at 5:37 AM on August 23, 2007

Oh man, how I hate those renting days! I've had some sketchy landlords and crappy neighbours in the past and once had my own copy of the Tenant Protection Act, now known as the Residential Tenancies Act. I've called cops, written letters and used some of the forms to deal with the bullshit. If she's being treated wrongly or ignored, she needs to stand up for herself. Keep detailed notes of when she asked to have repairs made, when noise issues occurred, etc. Write unbiased and polite letters with dates of when you want something dealt with and finish it off with a notice of termination.

It's hard not to get emotional in situations like this (it's your safety! it's your peaceful enjoyment of your home!) and I know what it feels like to hate going home or having the smallest noise set you off. I was too nice in the beginning, pacing back and forth at 3 AM while my landlord's sister drunkenly sang a tune off-key below me. Start calling the cops and see if there are any noise bylaw officers you can start calling too. Written letters with deadlines are irritating to anyone who hates dealing with the realities of managing a building and once you've done all you can to make the situation work, give your notice and be done with it. Good luck!
posted by KathyK at 6:12 AM on August 23, 2007

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