A man in southwestern Ontario said he's sleeping on a couch in his Realtor's basement, hoping tenants will vacate his home ahead of a hearing with the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Kelvin Edmondson first rented out his Tillsonburg home in August last year before heading off to work on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. While he was away, he said the tenants neglected to pay rent, including heat and hydro, and substantially damaged his property by housing a number of pets against their initial agreement.
Edmondson said the tenants refused to leave on the agreed-upon move-out date of July 31. While financial records provided by the tenant show a portion of the rent was paid on a sporadic basis, Edmondson said he is still owed around $13,000 and is on the brink of losing the house.
"My refinancing is up in October, and if I don't get this resolved, the bank is going to take my house away from me," said Edmondson. "And I will lose everything I own because of these people."
Edmondson listed his house for sale in November, and said the tenants deterred prospective buyers by preaching about the Ontario landlord and tenants act as they went through the house. He recently took a leave of absence from his job to prepare the house for viewing. The tenants refused to let him in when he returned and he could only enter with the help of the police.
He found the property, which he had left in mint condition, was in a state of disarray, with the wooden flooring ruined from animal urine. Although the tenants at first said they only had a small puppy, they brought in three large Rottweilers, three cats and four rabbits. A bed is now in the downstairs area, while the master bedroom has been converted into a makeshift kennel with at least five animal crates.
Outside the house, Edmondson discovered marijuana plants growing in the front yard. A flag featuring a marijuana leaf on the front porch activates the outside motion detector light throughout the day, running up the power bill. A metal sign threatening the use of guns pending trespassing has been nailed to one of the beams.
In the back, another makeshift kennel has been attached to the shed, now filled with junk not belonging to Edmondson. He said the yard is filled with animal feces.
Edmondson's credit score has been impacted from his missing mortgage payments, and he's unable to take a new job offer. He has been couch surfing since returning to Ontario. His Realtor, Alisha Wheeldon, is the latest friend to take him in.
Both Edmondson and Wheeldon have been working to bring the case to the Landlord and Tenant Board since December. They have filed two N4 notices to end a tenancy early for non-payment of rent. Edmondson has been unable to disconnect the utilities, as per his responsibilities under the Landlord and Tenant Board.
They filed an L1 notice (an application to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent and collect money owed) for eviction in February and have been waiting with the tribunal for a trial date since then. After filing for an escalation, a hearing date has been set for Aug. 29.
"But that's a really long time for someone to wait while these people are destroying his home and not paying," said Wheeldon.
Thousands of complaints over backlog
Edmondson's story comes on the heels of Ombudsman Paul Dube announcing his office is wrapping up an investigation into delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board, including nearly 2,000 complaints about the backlogged tribunal.
Dube said the backlog has created hardship on both the tenants' and landlords' sides, setting them up for facing financial ruin. A report on the matter is in its final stages.
"What they're being deprived of is access to justice in many cases," said Dube during an Aug. 10 news conference. "The system is bogging down. They're not getting answers. They're not getting hearings. They're not getting answers in several cases. "
Edmondson says his tenants have agreed in writing to leave the property on Aug. 15 and have verbally confirmed that twice. Ideally, they'll hold to that agreement and he'll be able to repair the home and then get it back on the market.
But if the tenants wait until the hearing on Aug. 29, he'll miss his bills for yet another month, leaving his future even more uncertain.
"If I lose my property and the bank takes over, the first thing the bank will do is kick out these people. So why can't I kick these people out of my own house?" he said.
"Everyone understands my situation, but not one person is willing to do anything about it because they can't. They just seem to accept the fact that the tenants have all the rights. And that's it. End of story."