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Ontario Landlords Be Careful Who You Choose To Be Your Ontario Tenants

September 13th, 2012 · Ontario tenants

 

The Rules and Laws Are Unfair

The Ontario Landlords Association says tenancy laws in Ontario are tilted too much in favour of tenants and that some are taking advantage of the situation.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ted Matlow recently called for changes to the system in an Ontario Divisional Court ruling.

Justice Matlow said:

“My recent experience sitting as a judge of the court to hear motions has convinced me that there is a growing practice by unscrupulous residential tenants to manipulate the law improperly and often dishonestly, to enable them to remain in their rented premises for long periods of time without having to pay rent to their landlords,” he wrote. “It is a practice that imposes an unfair hardship on landlords and reflects badly on the civil justice system in Ontario. It calls for government, the Landlord and Tenant Board and this court to respond.”

As an example, Judge Matlow used the case of landlord Melissa D’Amico, who bought a small building with a commercial unit and an apartment. She lived in the apartment for a few years and but then moved out “into a cheap rental property as I wanted to use the unit to generate some income. This is the only investment property I own,” she stated in her affidavit to the court.

She rented the unit on October 11, 2011 and signed a lease with tenant Rony Hitti and Anastassia Adani and Hitti’s company, Toronto Bespoke Inc. The rent was to be $3,600 per month.

The tenants never paid any rent. Twice in the ensuing months there were eviction hearings, and twice the tenants delayed eviction by giving D’Amico bad cheques. At the time of Matlow’s ruling, the tenants were still in the unit and owed about $25,000 in rent.

D’Amico’s affidavit says that recently she discovered that the tenants “have a history of initiating frivolous appeals to obtain rent-free housing,” citing court disputes about unpaid rent with Hitti’s former landlord.

Judge Matlow ruled that the tenants’ most recent appeal “raised no bona fide question of law” and that “it was totally devoid of merit, vexatious and an abuse of process.” He awarded court costs of more than $13,000 to D’Amico.

The paralega representing D’Amico in the case states: “The law is so imbalanced in favour of the tenants the small landlord doesn’t have a chance. Every small landlord case is a nightmare. They get into the business because their Realtor says a property has income potential but they forget that it is a business – and a highly regulated business.”

Still don’t want to do proper credit screening?  Ontario Landlords make sure you screen and choose great Ontario Tenants for your property!

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A Credit Check Would Have Saved These Ontario Landlords! Nina Willis is Back!

September 1st, 2012 · Ontario Landlords Association, tenant screening

September 1, 2012

Still don’t want to do credit checks as an Ontario Landlord?

A credit check would have saved these Ontario landlords a fortune.

The story continues, Nina Willis fails to pay rent again, violating court order

Nina Willis has done it again.

A nightmare tenant, Willis habitually fails to pay her rent, flouts the rules and procedures of Ontario tribunals and courts and leaves a trail of eviction notices and frustrated landlords behind her.

The Star has been following her case, which shows how easily tenants can manipulate the provincially funded Landlord and Tenant Board, using protections designed to avoid unfair evictions to stay in properties rent free.

At the beginning of August, Willis once again failed to pay her landlord, violating an earlier order by a Superior Court judge who said she must pay on time each month or be forced out of the house.

Her landlord has called the sheriff to begin the eviction process, which Willis can stave off at the last minute with a rent payment, a protection rule for tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act. After almost a year of excuses, delays, tribunals and court proceedings, there is no guarantee Willis will have to leave the Don Mills house she currently rents.

Landlord Darius Vakili said he will not breathe easily until she is out of the house.

“The courts have done their job. It took them a long time to do it, but they did their job,” said Vakili.

The case was in court this summer because Willis was appealing a Landlord and Tenant Board decision to evict her for failing to pay rent. That process put the eviction order on hold, but only on the condition Willis pay back rent and her monthly rent on time.

Willis met the deadline for back rent and turned over $8,200. She also paid her landlord the $1,650 she owed him for July’s rent.

Then the money stopped.

About a week and a half ago, a judge signed an order lifting the stay, which means the eviction can move forward. Willis’s landlord, Vakili, told the Star he has contacted the Ontario Sheriff’s office and was told she would likely be evicted near the end of September.

The Star first wrote about Willis in May, using court and tenant board documents to piece together a rental history that has included at least six eviction orders in seven years.

Each time Willis appeared before the board she used tactics to delay evictions. She pays portions of what she owes her landlords, claims properties fail to meet health and safety standards and demands inspections and abatements on rent. She also alleges harassment if her landlords try to collect.

If she is ordered out, she appeals in Divisional court. Privacy legislation means her appearances at the board are kept secret.

The ease by which tenants can abuse the system recently prompted Justice Ted Matlow to call on the province, tenant board and courts to respond to a “growing practice by unscrupulous residential tenants to manipulate the law improperly.” Justice Matlow wrote the comments in his reasons for decision in August, for an unrelated case where tenants had not paid rent and appealed their eviction.

Willis has also been charged with fraud for allegedly writing bad cheques and providing false employment information.

Landlord Vakili said he is worried and expects she will find another way to stay inside the home he owns without paying rent.

Vakili said Willis has changed the locks on the house, nailed a board across the inside of the front door and racked up high energy bills totally more than $1,200 in less than a year.

Neighbours told the Star they have seen several different people coming and going from the house at various times.

All the windows at the house are shaded, or hung with blinds. A large piece of paper has been used to block a frosted window at the front door. A green plastic tarp was hung at the side of the house, obscuring the view of an outside garage.

Vakili wants to sell the property but said in July Willis threatened a man trying to put a for sale sign on the lawn.

Vakili’s real estate agent, Steve Mostafaee, said he called the police and was told if he or someone at his office wanted to put up another sign they could call police and could be escorted if officers were available.

Mostafaee said he has decided to put the sale process on hold until Willis is out.

Willis was warned during a June court appearance by Justice Thea Herman that if she did not pay her rent on time each month her eviction would go forward.

Willis alleges in court documents she was ordered out by the board because of a “factual error” at the board hearing and because she didn’t have an “opportunity to participate.”

Vakili tried to have the appeal quashed. During the June hearing, Herman said there was “no dispute” Willis hadn’t paid rent, but it wasn’t clear if her appeal was “utterly devoid of merit.”

Discuss this at the Ontario Landlords Association forums here

Remember Ontario Landlords: Credit Checks can save you a fortune!

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Axe attack! Tenant Charged With Attempted Murder in Toronto

August 16th, 2012 · tenant screening

August 15th, 2012

Still thinking of not doing proper tenant screening?

Still think credit, employment and criminal background checks aren’t worth the cost?

A Toronto man is charged with attempted murder after a landlord was attacked with an axe Friday morning.

Police were called to Dundas St. W. and Bloor St. W. just before 9 a.m.

Police spokesman Tony Vella said the landlord attempted to collect monthly rent from a tenant who “unprovoked, assaulted him with the axe, hitting the victim a number of times over the head.”

The landlord was sent to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Rallin Edward Lawes, 64, is scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall on Saturday.

Read more at www.ontariolandlords.org

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The Toronto “Tenant from Hell” Story Continues…

July 1st, 2012 · Ontario Landlords Association, tenant from hell

July 1st, 2012

If Only The Landlords Had Done a Credit Check…

A tenant from hell with a track record of bounced checks and eviction notices has been warned by an Ontario Superior Court judge to pay what she owes or she should expect to face consequences in court.

Tenant from Hell Nina Willis made a brief appearance at Osgoode Hall courts Wednesday. Willis is appealing an eviction order issued by the Landlord and Tenant Board after she again failed to pay rent.

“You have the right to prosecute an appeal but not to withhold your rent,” stated Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel, after granting an adjournment to allow Willis time to obtain a lawyer and pay her landlord the $8,250 she owes him.

“The circumstances before the court when it hears this matter will be completely different depending on whether you pay your rent,” the judge said.

Willis, who habitually fails to pay her landlords and has a track record abusing protections at the Landlord and Tenant Board to delay her evictions, was the subject of a Star investigation in early May. Willis has been living inside a home in Don Mills since August, failing to pay rent to her  landlord Darius Vakili for many of those months.

Wednesday’s hearing was adjourned after Willis alleged a “conflict of interest” in part because Vakili’s lawyer, David Strashin, represented three of her previous landlords. The lawyer is attempting to have her appeal quashed.

Wilton-Siegel gave Willis the time to get legal advice but strongly cautioned she “can’t simply come into court” and make allegations. He said she needs to be prepared to present a recognized legal argument when she returns to court.

Willis, dressed in a tidy white dress and grey jacket, said “I want to get a lawyer. I’ll pay for (the lawyer) and I’ll pay Mr. Vakili.”

Willis typically loses her cases in front of the Landlord and Tenant Board and then appeals the board decision, resulting in an appearance before an Ontario appeals court.

The Star had to use court records and interviews with past landlords, lawyers and paralegals to confirm Willis has been ordered out of at least six homes since 2005.

Board hearings are open to the public, but unlike cases before the courts privacy legislation means landlords have no access to previous decisions.

Are you still wondering if you should do a credit check or not…?

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Tenant Evicted 6 Times: What Landlords Can Do to Avoid Trouble?

May 25th, 2012 · tenant screening

The Toronto Star has been following the story of a tenant who managed to rent properties despite having been previously evicted multiple times.

Having a tenant from hell is not news to many landlords.  What’s significant about this story is the fact that it took the resources and skills of an investigative news reporter to uncover the extensive eviction history on this tenant.

Landlords face an uphill battle when it comes to avoiding professional tenants like this one, whose strategy, according to the report, is to move in, stop paying rent and then file maintenance or discrimination charges against the unsuspecting landlord. Meanwhile, she lives rent-free, on the landlord’s dime, because of systemic delays in the eviction process.

Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board no longer discloses prior eviction records, including names, addresses or the amount of rent owed because of a decision by the Information and Privacy Commissioner that such disclosure would violate the Privacy Act.  A spokesperson told the newspaper that the Landlord and Tenant Board has chosen to adhere to the IPC policy.  Many members of the Ontario Landlords Association disagree!

An important part of the newspaper’s investigation into this tenant’s background included interviews with previous landlords, a strategy that is available to all landlords, and serves as a crucial step in effective tenant screening.

Another important weapon available to landlords is accessing the tenant’s credit report.  This information may flag money judgements for past due rent or damage to a previous rental home.  A credit report also may reveal previous addresses that the tenant omitted from the rental application, pointing to another landlord who has been scammed.

According to the news report, it could be several weeks before the woman’s current landlord can enforce an eviction order and get her out of the property.  What do BC and Alberta Landlords think?

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A Credit Check Could Have Avoided This Nightmare!

May 7th, 2012 · tenant from hell, tenant screening

Still think investing in property tenant screening tools and doing credit checks is a waste of money?

If you do, check this out!

Nina Willis seemed like the ideal tenant.

She was well-spoken and tidy, posing as an employee for a cellphone company with offices in Toronto and Montreal. She came with glowing references.

What landlord Darius Vakili, 63, didn’t know was that the 48-year-old Willis was a tenant from hell, with a track record of bounced cheques and eviction notices.

A Star investigation reveals that the rules governing the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board have allowed people like Willis to flourish. Privacy legislation means her dodgy past as a tenant is kept secret from prospective landlords.

Willis denies any wrongdoing. “There is a lot more to it than what you have been told,” she said, but did not provide details. “I don’t have anything to hide. I have done nothing wrong.”

Landlord Vakili, who owns a small rental home in Don Mills is one in a long series of at least six landlords who have had trouble with Willis. Vakili is locked in a battle to evict Willis and recover more than $7,000 in unpaid rent.

Like landlords who have sought information on Willis, the Star was told by the Landlord and Tenant Board individuals cannot request a tenant’s history. We had to use court records and interviews with past landlords to piece together Willis’s rental history. In the six cases we were able to find, the Star found that Willis rents a house, falls behind, issues cheques that bounce or only pays portions of what she owes.

When a landlord tries to evict her she complains of shoddy maintenance and appeals to the Landlord and Tenant Board. She has lost every case, but sometimes appeals to court, which further delays her eviction. Along the way, Willis has frequently issued allegations of harassment and discrimination against her many landlords.

Recently, she was charged with fraud and forgery by Toronto Police for allegedly providing “fake” employment information and writing bad cheques.

In interviews Willis’s landlords say they feel powerless in front of the provincially funded board.

In Vakili’s case Willis has been fighting off eviction orders for more than six months by paying portions of rent, claiming Vakili’s property failed to meet health and safety standards and asking for adjournments to present evidence that Vakili was harassing her.

“You feel you are helpless, you complain to the authorities and they take her side,” said landlord Vakili, who originally planned to give the house to his daughter but says he may be forced to sell the property. “I really don’t know what to do. If she stays another year I will be totally demolished.”

The six cases found by the Star date back to 2005.

An April 2012 ruling by Landlord and Tenant Board adjudicator Vincent Ching “failed to find (Willis) credible in any way.” Ching ordered Willis to vacate Vakili’s property, after he rejected her lawyer’s defence that she was “trying to make amends.”

The order doesn’t mean she is out. Ching estimated the time it would take from the order to the sheriff arriving could be up to four weeks. At any time Willis can pay the full amount of what she owes and stay.

Vakili was one of two landlords who reported Willis to police. A date for the trial has not been set. Willis told the Star the fraud allegations were false and she intended to sue.

The Star obtained information related to six properties Willis rented in the past seven years through files from Divisional Court and interviews with landlords, lawyers and paralegals.

The Landlord and Tenant board (formerly the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal) was created in 1998 to keep eviction and maintenance disputes out of Ontario courts and ensure fair hearings for the tens of thousands of landlords and tenants who appear before the board every year.

Critics say those protections have also allowed a small number of tenants who manipulate the system at the taxpayer’s expense and ruin small landlords.

“The process in and of itself is good intentions gone awry,” said lawyer David Strashin, who specializes in landlord and tenant law and who has represented three of the Willis landlords.

In 2007, the Residential Tenancies Act came into force and the tribunal was renamed the Landlord and Tenant Board. That, according to advocates for landlords, is when evicting tenants like Willis became even more difficult.

The new rules mean every person facing eviction has increased rights to mediation or a hearing, the board must consider any issues raised by a tenant related to non payment of rent, and tenants can pay the money they owe at any time to stop an eviction.

Willis’s landlords want her record and the record of tenants like her to be made public.

Prior to 2003, people could pay a fee and the board would produce reports on repeat tenants. The practice was stopped after the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario ruled that even though the hearings were public, releasing names, addresses and the amount of rent owed was a violation of the privacy act.

Landlord and Tenant board spokeswoman Donna Mrvaljevic said the board has chosen not to release information on tenants’ history because provincial privacy legislation “gives an institution the discretion to refuse to confirm or deny whether records exist.”

It is only when Willis appeals a board eviction notice that the file moves to court and into the public realm, where landlords can access a file for a fee. Critics say landlords should have ready access to records and not have to go to court to see if someone is a problem tenant.

If you didn’t know her history Willis seems like a perfect tenant.

When she approaches the owners of small homes in the north and east end of the city she is friendly and well-dressed. Willis also claims to make a good living, and has a good relationship with her family and loves to garden.

Her husband, she has assured potential landlords, is handy and can handle small repairs. In the case where she claimed to work at a Toronto/Montreal cellphone company, the Star contacted the company, which said it had no record of Willis working there.

Tony Poupolo said Willis seemed like an “angel” to his elderly parents, who rented a house to her in 2008. She promised to take care of the property and deal with small repairs, then the rent stopped.

At the tribunal Willis again complained about the condition of the home. Poupolo said legal aid lawyers knew Willis and warned the family they were in for a fight.

In November 2008, the Landlord and Tenant Board ordered Willis to “move out of the rental unit on or before Nov. 9, 2008 and return the keys to the rental unit.”

Willis promptly appealed the board’s decision to Divisional Court, but lost. Poupolo’s said Willis owes his parents more than $12,000. Poupolo blames the tribunal for “allowing things to go on.”

Willis also damages the properties she lives in, landlords say. One landlord showed the Star photographs of a house after Willis was forced to leave, including a kitchen and other rooms filled with garbage, dirt, broken furniture and clothing. A smoke alarm dangled from the ceiling by wires in one room.

Another landlord who reported Willis to the police, Virginia Stoymenoff, 77, said Willis had installed locks on every door in her house, something she believes was done because Willis was subletting rooms to other tenants. Stoymenoff had to remove the locks at her own expense after Willis was forced to leave.

Willis called in city inspectors who ordered minor repairs on what landlord Stoymenoff claimed were “cosmetic issues” and opened a sealed cold room to complain about mould.

Willis has been ordered to pay Stoymenoff more than $8,500 in back rent.

“It has changed my lifestyle and it is so embarrassing to me that I was taken in so completely by her,” said Stoymenoff, who has written numerous times to associate board chair Lilian Ma complaining that the process at the Board takes too long. Ma has written back saying if she is not satisfied with a decision, she can appeal it.

Willis complains Stoymenoff and Vakili have banded together to harass her. The two landlords did meet when Stoymenoff found that Willis was now renting from Vakili. When Vakili appeared before the Landlord and Tenant Board to deal with Willis’ non payment of rent, he tried to introduce what he had learned about her history with Stoymenoff.

“Every time I show my documents they just ignore me,” Vakili said.

Board spokeswoman Mrvaljevic said landlords can submit evidence related to a tenant’s history but it is then up to each adjudicator to decide whether the material is “relevant and admissible.”

Lawyers and paralegals who represent small landlords said they have rarely seen a tenant’s previous history considered at board hearings.

Lawyer Strashin said in his experience “there seems to be a general refusal to consider that type of evidence,” because it could be considered to be prejudicial.

Court documents show Willis also uses the last name Noronha or Lancelotte.

Reached in Nova Scotia, Willis’ mother, Vivian, described her daughter as a “go getter,” a successful antiques dealer who has owned homes in Toronto and Oshawa. Her mother said Willis had been stolen from and is persecuted by people who are envious of her success. “She pays, pays, pays,” she said.

When confronted at the hearing Willis tried to pull a phone from a Star reporter then said: “You are going to make me famous, thanks. I didn’t know the Toronto Star supports people being homeless. It is not going to happen to me.”

Willis also tried to have the Star removed from her hearing. As she waited for her lawyer and dispute to be heard Willis paced in an outside hallway.

“I am exercising my rights. Damn right I am exercising my rights,” she said.

Friday afternoon, a Toronto Police detective contacted the Star and said Willis has alleged a Star reporter is stalking her. Police advised the Star not to contact Willis again.

Check out a great editorial at the Ontario Landlords Association here: A Warning for all Landlords in Ontario

Landlord Success has great commentary that is must read for landlords.  Read it here.

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The previous landlord reference (and other letters of recommendation)

April 17th, 2012 · tenant screening

 

Screening: The Letter of recommendation from previous or current landlord

When calling a previous landlord, there are several questions you can ask to help you get more information on the tenant.  Some landlords will answer questions over the phone, and some will require a fax and a signed release of information from the tenant.

Questions to Ask

  • Were there any other people on the tenant’s lease?
  • What was their address? (They should know this relatively quickly, or they could be a bad reference)
  • Was their rent $xxx? (Give an amount other than the correct amount and see if they correct you – otherwise this may be a bad reference!)
  • Is their rent current?
  • Are they being evicted / have they been evicted? (If rent is not current, this may be why they are looking for a new place!)
  • Did they have any pets?
  • Were there any complaints from other tenants?
  • Did they cause any major maintenance issues?
  • Would you rent to this tenant again?
Be Careful and Make Sure you Verify Who You are Communicating With!
Current or previous landlords are often faked.  Here is a post from the Ontario Landlords Association website where a tenant asked what to do when new landlords were asking for landlord references, and they had just broken the lease:
In case you havent figured out – most tenants put on a cell number of a friend for the reference, then claim that person was the landlord for either your present place, or a previous place. Same for work reference for tenant applications.  Think about it for a second – most places you rent are private residential properties.   The owners aren’t too thorough!    I trust you know what do, something that is already done by probably 70% of the other applicants!

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What About Tenant Screening and Human Rights?

March 11th, 2012 · human rights

March 11, 2012

 

The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act isn’t the only piece of legislation that is of importance to landlords.  The Ontario Human Rights Act is also  relevant to landlords.  Not only can the Ontario Human Rights Code affect the relationship between landlord and tenant, but it is also impacts the tenant selection process.  For the moment, we are going to look at some very basic ways the Ontario Human Rights Code affects the tenant selection process.

Ontario Human Rights Code, a brief background.

The Ontario Human Rights Code is a provincial statute which prohibits discriminatory practice in respect to the provision of services,  and goods and facilities.  It isn’t difficult to consider rental housing a good or service, but just so there was no doubt , lawmakers placed rental housing under the broad category of accommodation.

Landlords need to make themselves aware of what may be construed as a discriminatory practice.   Landlords are not permitted to engage in discriminatory practice when selecting tenants and are required to go to considerable lengths to accommodate a tenant’s disability.   Telling a prospective tenant they may not be suitable for a rental unit because they are not ‘mature’ enough can be interpreted as discrimination based on age, should the landlord decide not to rent to the prospective tenant.  Similarly, rejecting a rental an application based on the fact an applicant does not have a Canadian credit history can be viewed as discrimination based on ancestry or country or origin.  Human Rights legislation is more important than ever.

While discrimination may be alive and well in Ontario, a landlord would be foolish to act with out regard for human rights legislation.

There have been many successful applications to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, regarding discrimination in housing issues.  The fines can be severe.

Yes, the forms are complex, but there are legal clinics all over the province offering no fee advocacy for tenants.  Tenants who utilize these services receive professional representation.   Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

It is true many applications are abandoned.   It is also true that many human rights applications are settled prior to a formal hearing.  Don’t think that getting to a mediated settlement is easy or inexpensive.  It will take time, and perhaps a lawyer or paralegal to hammer out a settlement.  Then of course, there is the expense of the terms of settlement agreed to during mediation.

The next post will look at the Human Rights Code and how it impacts the type of information landlords may seek from prospective tenants.  I will also look at a few cases, in which landlords were given very expensive educations about Human Rights, and tenant selection in Ontario.

Informational purposes only. Always consult a paralegal or lawyer.

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So How Do I Choose a Good Tenant?

February 9th, 2012 · tenant screening

 

Let’s get back to the topic of finding a good tenant.  Otherwise known as the “Art of Tenant Screening.”

So what is the secret?  There’s no “Master” living in the Mountains of Tibet to teach you how to be a perfect screener.  However, there are ways to learn the ropes and get more hits than misses.

According to a post on the Ontario Landlords Association forums, the five most popular categories used by experienced landlords and property managers are:

1. Former Landlord Reference

2. Good “Gut” Feeling

3. View Where They Are Currently Living

4.  Employment Check

5.  Credit Check

Which are the most important?  How do you actually cover each category?  Are there any missing categories?

Over the next few weeks we will carefully examine each.

 

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Don’t End Up Like This Guy

January 13th, 2012 · tenant from hell, tenant screening

I tried being a landlord.  It’s not for me anymore

I thought that I’d stretch my investment portfolio and trying purchasing real estate to rent out. I bought a new condo, thinking that it would require less maintenance, and attract a higher class of tenant. I was wrong on the second point.

I rented to a family, where the woman was super friendly but turned out to be particularly deceptive. For those of you that think that they can rely on a ‘vibe’, think again. I did the reference checks: called her previous landlord and employer. A couple months later, I found out that she had given me false references. Her ‘real’ ex-landlord had tracked me down, and was looking to verify her address because of the extensive damage they had left. The Residential Tenancy Act gives you very few grounds on which to evict a tenant – and providing false references is not one of them. As long as she kept paying rent, my only option was to endure her games. I received numerous complaints from the strata citing violations, all which she had excuses for. I eventually sold the place, and had to take a small loss because it didn’t show well. Note that intent to sell a property isn’t grounds for evicting a tenant either, so I didn’t have the opportunity to clean it up. After a lengthy procedure with the Residential Tenancy Board to re-coup costs for damages done to the property, which found in my favour, she refuses to pay – I’ve got a credit collection agency involved and even they are having problems.

Long story short, I’ve decided to stay out of the real estate game. Stocks are more risky, but they have far smaller a PITA (pain-in-the-a**) factor

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