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More about landlord and tenant headaches and how to protect yourself. Robert.
Steven from Toronto writes:
“I successfully evicted a tenant on September 5, 2012 at 8:40 AM by Sheriff but they destroyed the apartment. They broke the bathroom sink, the toilet, the doors, windows, light switches, put peanut butter everywhere, put ketchup on the ceilings, walls, everything they could break they did break. They even poured dried rice down the sink to clog it and opening the water would cause the rice to expand and make it worse.”
Alice from Waterloo writes about how her daughter was told by her landlord to leave the premises early and then sent a bill for $800 for clean-up costs. The landlord also threatened that if the amount wasn’t paid immediately, the bill would be sent to a collection agency and it would ruin her daughter’s credit rating. Her daughter indicated that there was nothing wrong with the apartment when she left.
These emails raise all kinds of issues as to what to do to protect yourself when a lease comes to an end. Here are some things to consider:
• Landlords will have to prove that damage was done. Landlords and tenants should prepare and sign a form called a rental unit condition statement, which is similar to what you sign before you rent a car. You go through the apartment and make a list of everything; whether there are any damages and confirming that everything is working. Then you should do the same thing at the end of the tenancy, to both agree on any damages that may have been caused by the tenant.
• Landlords should regularly inspect the unit during the lease, to make sure that it is being properly cared for by the tenant. You have to give 24 hours’ notice and can get in during the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to do it. If you notice any damage, you can immediately demand that it be fixed, or consider an application to the Board to get the tenant to fix it.
• Landlords should respond to requests by the tenant to fix things that break down in a timely manner.
• Tenants should also take pictures of the unit when they leave as additional proof that they left the place in similar shape to what they got in the first place.
Once the tenant leaves, you will have to go to Small Claims Court to sue for any damages. You can sue for any amount up to $25,000 in Ontario, which usually is enough for most of these types of claims. When deciding whether to bring a claim, ask whether you are going to collect anything if you win. If the tenant has disappeared, it may just be a further waste of money to sue. However, if you know where the tenant is working, it may be worth your while. Consult with a lawyer or paralegal before making these types of decisions.
Landlords cannot threaten to ruin a tenant’s credit over these types of issues. In my experience, the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services would probably consider this type of claim to be an unliquidated damage, meaning it is just an accusation and has not yet been proven. As such, if the landlord or their agent reports you to the credit bureaus over this, in my opinion, you can report the landlord to the Ministry by calling (416) 326-8800. Do not let someone bully you into paying for any damage that you did not cause.
In my experience, when landlords do more during the lease to be appreciative of their tenants and proactively try to work things out, it will reduce the risk of any damage being done to the unit when the tenant vacates.
Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org