For 16 months Brad Maisonville has had to drain his savings, borrow from friends and take on loans to cover missed mortgage payments – for a tenant that is failing to pay her rent but won’t move.
Now, Maisonville says he’s out at least $50,000.
“All my savings are gone, I’m in a huge debt all because of this,” Maisonville said.
The 48-year-old Maisonville, a co-owner of the Joys of Music in Scarborough, also owns the unit for his music school and the unit above, a two-bedroom apartment. He bought the property in 2012, hoping it would be his retirement plan and where he’d end up living forever. But when COVID-19 hit and his music school had to shutter, causing him to dip into his savings, he rented out his apartment and moved into a smaller place.
Initially, Maisonville listed the place in August 2020 and by September he had found some tenants. The tenants he eventually came to an agreement with, a mother and daughter on social assistance, signed a rental agreement for $2,000 monthly. However, the tenants often paid $500, $300 or $900, rarely ever paying even half of the monthly rent.
The rental agreement stipulated that Maisonville would take care of the utilities. Prior to signing off on the agreement, Maisonville checked in with the tenant’s social worker, who he claims assured him “that a cheque would come to me every month for the price that they rented for,” which he said made him feel more comfortable.
But after the initial deposit, Maisonville says he has never been paid the full rent outside one other time in March 2021, and the duo are still living at his property.
“Social services changed the cheques to go into their name, at which point they stopped paying me,” he said.
Global News contacted the city of Toronto, which noted they cannot comment on the specifics of an Ontario Works client’s case. A landlord case in “certain situations including initial rental deposits, rental arrears or ongoing rent” establish pay deposits. The request for and establishment of a pay direct are discussed with the client in advance. The intent of the policy is to ensure housing stability through access and preventing evictions.”
They added that rental arrears do not impact the “client’s eligibility for social assistance.
The long process of evicting a tenant
The stress of the past 20 months has left Maisonville, who has types 1 and 2 diabetes, struggling to purchase the necessary medicine and medical equipment. He said that he’s been “drained” both emotionally and physically by the financial stress.
“I can’t take care of myself healthwise, the stress, the fact that I’ve lost everything I’ve worked for. Every penny I’ve managed to save in my whole life gone, sunk into debt by no fault of my own,” he said.
After trying to come to an agreement with the tenant to pay the outstanding rent in April 2021, Maisonville filed paperwork with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) in May 2021. A tribunal hearing was mediated and reached a decision on March 30, 2022 to have the tenants leave the apartment by the end of May, but due to delays in processing, Maisonville said he hasn’t been able to get a sheriff to come out for an eviction.
“I’ve been going back and forth as an errand boy, delivering paperwork back and forth from the sheriff’s office to the landlord-tenant board as they’re just buying my tenants more time at my expense,” he said. “The whole thing’s a mess, and it’s all coming out of my pocket.”
In a statement to Global News, the LTB said they have “experienced significant challenges that have caused us to fall short of meeting our service standards. We are experiencing delays in processing applications, scheduling hearings, and issuing Orders. We recognize the impact that delays have on those who access services and we are taking steps to address the backlog, including modernizing our organization and adapting many of our core services, while always keeping access to justice at the centre of everything we do.”
They added that they are constantly assessing services to adapt and improve and have implemented a new case management system to reduce the backlogs.
Global News contacted the Ministry of the Attorney General, which oversees the sheriffs, and it said it doesn’t comment on specific cases.
To Rose Marie, the vice-chair of the Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario, what Maisonville is going through is indicative of a broken rental system that is overburdened.
“There’s still a lot of delays, landlords are having to wait six to 12 months to have their applications heard,” she said. “They simply cannot keep up.”
Maisonville’s case is not necessarily an anomaly, according to Marie, who said she’s seen other cases wherein even if the tribunal orders in your favour, you could be waiting at least six to eight weeks to get the sheriff to help with evictions.
“I know many, many landlords that have lost tens of thousands, sometimes up to $100,000…. I would say there are couple thousand people waiting to get through the system,” Marie said.
The problem, according to Marie, is not just limited to Toronto.
“This is happening all across Ontario, not just the GTA,” she said. “They can’t get people out.”
After depleting most of his savings to cover legal costs, fill in the mortgage costs and continue to pay for utilities, Maisonville is at the point where he’s living off borrowed money. While he thinks he might be able to change things around financially, his fear is losing the music school he worked hard to build.
“I’ve had to borrow money from friends for the last few mortgage payments that I will have to pay back. I don’t know how much more I can borrow. I mean, yeah, if I have to sell everything and lose my dreams and give up this music school … it is a travesty of justice,” he said.
Maisonville showed tribunal and bank records that indicated the tenants only paid a portion of their rent, never paying the full amount outside one other time in March 2021. He filed paperwork with the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict them in April 2021, and a year later a decision was finally rendered to have them leave the property by May 31, but nearly a month later, they’re still living in the same unit.
“After winning in court, by the way, I am still not able to get them out,” Maisonville said.
The financial losses he’s suffered according to the tribunal decision amount to $22,801, but he suggested it was higher due to him having to pay their bills, take out loans and pay legal fees.
“I’ve been ordered by the landlord-tenant board to pay their bills because I have to uphold my end of the contract, but they haven’t paid anything, so I’m actually paying for them to stay here,” he said. “I’m paying almost over $1,000 every month for them to stay here.”
While he is dejected from how his first turn at being a landlord has gone, Maisonville doesn’t attribute this to the city being filled with bad tenants but insists this is just someone who is taking advantage of the system.
“This should not be a landlord versus tenant issue, this should be people who are abiding by the law and people who are not,” he said.
Health reasons and income made paying rent a challenge
The tenant, who for privacy reasons Global News is referring to as Jessica, said she never intended to not live up to her agreement.
“It’s not in my intention to stiff him. It’s not my intention,” she said.
Jessica claims that while the agreement stipulated $2,000 a month, she was promised leeway on monthly payments, but does acknowledge she is paying considerably less on most months.
“Pandemic happened like it did for everybody, it affected me a little bit differently as in health issues,” she said. “It kind of hindered me.”
While things started off rosy between the two sides, Jessica said that when she moved in, her daughter lost her job initially and just started university. She was not working and her social assistance was around $1,200 monthly, but due to her health concerns and inflation, they were left with less money at the end of the month to pay rent.
“We had to survive,” she said. “We can’t afford it, that’s clear. Two thousand dollars? No.
“It’s been hard. You don’t anticipate certain things to happen along the way. It was never my intention to not pay him rent.”
With the relationship between the two sides deteriorated, Jessica alleged that Maisonville used certain tactics like trying to speak to her late at night and speaking to her in a “rude and abusive manner.” Maisonville denies the allegations and claims that Jessica acts in an intimidating manner towards his musical students.
While the tribunal cut down the arrears owed to Maisonville to around $11,000, Jessica says that due to some “positive change in my finances” she does intend to clear up her debts.
“I can say for me, I do plan to pay him,” she said. “I want to get out of here by the end of this week.”
As for Maisonville, he’s eagerly waiting for Jessica and her daughter to leave but knows that moving back into the property he owns will be tough sledding moving forward.
“I will have to rent out to somebody else to get out of debt. I won’t be able to move in there myself, probably ever. That dream’s gone,” he said.