Newmarket Ont Slumlord lives cozy in Calgary

In a previous blog I'd touched on a few things, and I'd like to expand on something here today.


At some point, I'd referred to "Slum Lords" when speaking of the notion of so-called "second suites", mentioned often erroneously as one "alternative solution" to alleviate the affordable housing issue, to which I'd replied nonsense as people living on low income still couldn't handle the costs...and then I'd mentioned "slumlords".
I got to see a "slumlord" in action. A slumlord, per say, does not have to be in any particular "type" of neighbourhood as they could own a home in a "respectable one" and still rent to whoever they wish, all the while allowing for disarray through non conformity of bylaws, landlord and tenant laws and by performing the most minimal amount of repairs and maintenance. Or duck paying contractors and such to the point that that the unit only attracts certain tenants. That's a slumlord. Someone who would order mold painted over instead of removed if they could.

Luckily we at least likely saved some new tenants from that. I'll explain.

I came across the owner of a house looking for someone to act as agent or property manager while doing some minor repairs, as well as meeting with and signing up prospective tenants, as they were an absent out-of-province-landlord. It seemed like a good opportunity - not lucrative but you would collect a percentage monthly thereafter once set with residents. First there was also a matter to coordinate minor maintenance such as removal of garbage, a boat, and supervise a fridge being replaced. I told  my new "partner" I'd help her with anything need be, and away we went! At first glance it reminded me of when I grew up, as the house was built in the same era with a typical style as our neighbourhood. Likely even the same builders. Sigh. The memory lane trip was short lived.

The first red flag was the previous property manager showing up claiming he'd never been paid, then rumours that the contractors had been stiffed surfaced, and the neighbour next door shared some doozies like the house had previously had everything from prostitution running from it, to dug dealers to...... You get the drift, our little paradise extra money job was turning into a nightmare. Still, we're of the mold that when doing a job it should be done right, and since we'd started decided to play it out a bit more. Besides, there was an opportunity to place someone here that may not otherwise be qualified to and we could make it pretty nice. My companion warned at that point we likely wouldn't see any money, but we'd decided to play it out anyway for awhile hoping beyond hope that decency would prevail.

We worked like dogs every spare moment we had - she often between teaching classes - like in a courtroom, she  gave no less than the best effort and expected the same from those around her. We knew sprucing the place up was needed as well to get good tenants in addition to making the lawn sign asked of and borrowed the neighbour's mower to groom the lawn. Nice guy too, an electrical engineer, who gave me the low-down whilst showing me his granite stone chip lawn. Yawn.

A big obstacle was the ever-present stench of smoke that seemed always present in the upstairs portion of the two apartment house from previous tenants along with the disgusting bathrooms and the 1970's built cheapest style, brown fake wood cupboards which hindered the renting of it to respectable tenants. Then came the visit from the Newmarket Bylaws Officer alongside the Fire Inspector, both of which had to sign off before anyone could even live there! Oops someone forgot to tell us that part! More pressure.

As the F.I. checked electrical work that had been ordered done and tested the smoke and Co2 detectors,  the Bylaw Officer inspected and passed the interior window frames that had prior been ordered redone and for mold removal - showing me the before pics - and then also showed pics of how tobacco stained the walls were underneath the new paint. It struck me then that had the painters been allowed / told to use a special primer paint that soaks up tobacco odours, the place'd move quicker certainly. But still, the kitchen floors and bathroom were filthy also and someone still had to clean them.... gulp...and then there was the downstairs unit to ready and rent out with people coming to look already, Lisa already having feverishly and personally cleaned the floors down there to ensure success! The Inspector had pictures as well of the boat outside and of the garbage we'd already removed by then - but this was the first we'd known it had been ordered removed!  Also ordered done and still on her list were brick work that was sinking at the
entrance of the house, doorway trim was to be painted, and as well the yards cut and groomed.

Meantime this absent landlord who lives in Calgary who still hadn't paid us a penny was instructing from afar and trying to get my friend paralegal to arrange with contractors etc but she's too smart for that.

"I'm not putting my name on anything as part of hiring anyone for this place" she said incredulously, " Does she think I was born yesterday?" adding, " She could then just say I hired people without her authorization if unpaid workers ever sued for payment. No, I can't do that to people in good conscience. I'll fulfill the obligation I feel I have now to the couple looking to move in downstairs, but beyond that we'll see."

Meantime I cut the lawn front and back, and decided the brick work was minor enough that I could do it myself, and Lisa and I purchased more supplies and some special flooring cleaner to try and salvage the floor tiling in the upstairs kitchen and bathroom after some great advice from a bathrooms place guy who'd come in for a quote, which we hadn't a hope in hell of getting we were realizing by then from the absent landlord.

As I was working fixing the brickwork late into the evening one night, a loud and fairly unhappy individual dropped by to get her mail. Apparently, as I'm sure the entire neighbourhood including the just moving in downstairs neighbours heard, she wasn't happy, and loudly wished the place good riddance, often and loudly! She fired question after question at me which I deflected, as I began to suspect she may have some alcohol issues going on.

" What was she saying?!" a panicked mother of one of the two moving in downstairs asked me excitedly as I downplayed it by offering I didn't deal with drunks, but deep down at that point I felt this absentee landlord - despite how belligerent this woman who dropped by was - was also not on the level. And now we were caught between a rock and a hard place.

Tiles had to be soaked and scrubbed
We continued to try and extract even a token payment from the Calgary living landlord, as more and more confirming information such as a track record of not paying and code violations etc began to surface, including actions taken against her. Gulp. Almost time to cut our losses. Meantime we had continued due diligence to fulfill any conceived contractual obligations ( my firend had amended the original and returned it signed to the property owner) to show and rent the property despite discovering the extra work still needing done before it could even be occupied - part of her amendments to procedure removing her as 'care-taker" of this obligation, and directing that parties were to deal with the owner directly regarding hiring (for cleaning and construction or bathroom work) - as well as removing no pets clauses which are not allowed in Ontario.

Dream home job a Nightmare
Meantime my partner on this met with prospective tenants, workmen, and inspectors whenever she could, while I filled in when she couldn't be there and made minor repairs upon request for the new downstairs tenants who were otherwise happy. I scrubbed the upstairs bathtub, finished the brickwork, cleaned out the overflowing eaves troughs, trimmed the bushes and cut the lawn front and back, removed all garbage - including a dresser and a fridge by hand alone.

At one point the now happy mom from the downstairs couple noticed the brickwork done and asked incredulously,  

" Did you just do all that work?", " Shouldn't they be hiring someone to do that? ", " Is that her in there cleaning floors?"

It was too as my partner in this mess had soaked the floors with a special cleaning de-greaser suggested by bathrooms guy and was commencing to scrub it before removing it with rags.

All I could say was "when we do something we do it right and regardless of this woman we wanted to make it as nice as we could...and who knows...maybe she'll miraculously pay us something..." my voice trailed off as I had no conviction in that. But still, I had enjoyed the experience to a degree and it was nice fixing up a place. Just a freakin' shame...

Bathroom floors atrocious
That was about where we left it. After a number of more attempts to extract any type of payment from the lady in question, in addition to the continuing assertion that she had never paid any of her previous ( apparently growing list) of property managers, we reluctantly bid the place adieu.

Too bad really, with just a small amount of work - like proper tobacco stain removal products, new windows, a bathroom wall stall covering and kitchen cabinets, the place could be rented out to good responsible tenants proud to call it home, and very easy to manage at that point and with a little higher rent too than it could have commanded as was...and thus still "affordable" but in a nice neighbourhood.

It's just too bad some people are too stupid too realize this.

Meantime, this woman continues to victimize vulnerable people and businesses from afar without a worry. By operating her scam from outside the province it appears for now she can...but stay tuned...

stained floor and 70's cheap wood cabinets
Who knows? Maybe a greater purpose is at work as from all this has come an idea, through discussions about the need for drafting legislation to protect vulnerable seniors and others from eviction - now hopefully with the help of an M.PP..

Paccman Out

York Region, Canada's worst provider of Private Rental Housing

Recently, there has been a spate of articles written in the YRMG on the subject of poverty, homelessness and housing by various writers. It never ceases to amaze me how they spin things at times and write stories - at least locally - that don't include much critical input and often pander to the "help" organizations and not the actual affected people - like many PACC members.

This street is owned on one side, rented on the other, tell which?
The article I was quoted in, however, was fairly accurate and surprisingly enough, mentioned some controversial subjects I didn't think they would frankly. Sometimes I just throw things out there to see what sticks and I guess this did - that being the fact that a neighbourhood park with nearby kids banned from using it because they are not technically from that neighborhood - yet some live on the same street!

The side by side neighbours have a unique set up with one side of the street owned houses and the other side rentals with mixed income and some low income units thereby creating a real diverse mix of residents - except only one side of that street can use the good kids park. I guess the association doesn't embrace diversity. Does this policy encourage friendship and camaraderie between the two side by side hoods that one has to look hard to distinguish between, despite what one person quoted as a "leader" in local poverty work ( I read the quote but couldn't find it so his name shall remain out for now) said about renters not having "ownership pride" in keeping their properties (in one of the recent columns)? Biased attitudes like this that feed the stereotype of low income or renting residents are likely part of the reason we have so little rentals in York Region - 12% of all our housing stock according to the article (actually 11.7%) which is the lowest ratio in CANADA - not highlighted in the article while availability sits around 1%.
Kids from Mulock Village live on this street but cannot play here

In one column the writer quotes a Y.R. Habitat for Humanity Director as a local expert on housing needs - having been in the job a few months - and they of course used the opportunity to promote themselves as a viable builder of affordable housing, yet the American based franchise boasts on their website of having more assets than
This empty space once housed a park for M.V. kids on same street
and has built 0 houses in Newmarket in a number of years despite paying out millions in operational costs" last year for the Y.R. Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. To even be lucky enough to be chosen for one of their homes, you seemingly must often first be a visible minority or have come here from another country, as well you also must agree to become a face for them to the public to tell the world how wonderful they are. These are degrading and esteem killing conditions and you cannot sell your home either should you ever wish to move.

They also label the residents they place in homes as 'hardworking", as if anyone else caught in the trap of poverty may not be, which helps perpetuate the myth of some poor being more deserving than others. It also divides not unites people. A person with an illness for example that does not enable them to do labor does not mean they should be labelled as "not hard working" or lazy, nor someone unemployed. These private owned corporate charities should not be quoted within serious discussions of providing affordable housing as they only confuse the issue and do very little actual building anyway.
                     kids must play on the streets when no playground allowed as in above video

2nd suites being shopped as a "solution" also are not "affordable housing" either as they average over $1200 per month in York Region, whereas a single person on low income cannot afford this. The problem is the region 's official definition of' "affordable housing" does not comply with the reality for those on low income as they cannot afford this 'affordable" solution - not to mention they are unsafe - especially if operated by a "slumlord".

The Star actually reported that more private developers in Toronto are adding condos to the affordable housing mix via proposals, which P.A.C.C. has tried to do here as well for years having brought a group in on Oct 17, Int Day for the Eradication of Poverty to speak on the very subject. One politician, Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor showed up. Newmarket's Mayor Tony Van Bynen was no where to be found nor any other regional or town councilors or mayors who all seem to take their directional cues from the Region which in turn is getting its direction from the provincial and federal governments and not its residents. But this is what we get when buying into the Russia originated, relatively new to N.A.'s, regional government model - decisions about what we do made centrally, such as building up (people density), water, access to green areas(through "protectionism") and adding transit lines we don't need or didn't ask for while be assured we need it..

More and more decisions affecting our towns are made by  governing bodies not even living in the areas affected.

Mildred, 93, lost her housing and lives in limbo ever since
Speaking of the Toronto Star, the media outlet reported that seniors had been evicted at an alarming rate and that Toronto Community Housing Corp had not been using it as a last means as mandated, but rather as a way to open up some spots.

I know a fair bit about how they operated, through knowing a former TCHC contracted paralegal whose job was to evict delinquent and difficult tenants and set-up arrears collections and who was contracted there during the time in question examined by the Toronto Ombudsman. Although the person did not come out and say it to me, I got the feeling she was pressured to back off evicting gang members (mostly minorities), by encouraging the entry of incomplete paperwork knowing it could then result in the case being tossed and concentrate on others, for which the paralegal felt conflicted. This conflict lead to them eventually leaving. So in essence T.C.H.C. was asking them to illegally file - knowing the info was not complete.

Perhaps by OUTSOURCING paralegal work the city could make substantial inroads, save $ thousands in wasted court costs. and save lives.

A Newmarket Paralegal who has represented some of Canada's largest landlords including T.C.H.C., was quoted in the York Region Media Group article as saying, "Gang members must be housed somewhere", referring to the dilemma Housing Authorities have when dealing with them as residents, yet time and again innocent residents are corrupted by such practices and denied their right to live in peace. There are no easy solutions, but one thing is for sure, more youth and education opportunities need be entered into the mix because these kids - and I mean under 10 - exposed to guns and violent ways will come to think it's the "norm" which it is not. This all being said, York Region Housing's stock is not full of gangs or modeled like Toronto's although many, if not most of its residents, somehow come from Toronto or elsewhere and not from York Region - and again this is a regional system dilemma.

The Paralegal also suggested to me that there needs to be legislation put in place to protect seniors and others from housing authority evictions, because Housing Tribunals supersede Landlord and Tenant Board decisions and allow for the delivery of C-4 notices (eviction) to be served based on allegations only - whereas the L&T Board requires more tangible proof before evicting.
For example someone accused of having another person not on their lease living at their residence can currently be evicted based on just that - an allegation - which is exactly what happened to this senior.

When a senior wedged in our system tells me she wished she'd just hurry up and die, I'm pretty sure we're doing something wrong. She can't watch t.v. since her hearing device went missing shortly after being moved into the Newmarket long term care located centre, and her eyes are bad so reading is tough, and the food is lousy she says. She's dying of boredom perhaps although they suspect cancer now too.

" It's worse than being in the joint Tom" the once feisty 93 year old told me.

Until Next time.

Tom out