UofT students return from trip to New Jersey to find belongings outside

Click to play video: '2 international students living in a friend’s garage after allegedly being thrown out of basement apartment'
2 international students living in a friend’s garage after allegedly being thrown out of basement apartment
WATCH: 2 international students living in a friend's garage after allegedly being thrown out of basement apartment – Sep 9, 2022

Two international students studying in Toronto say they were thrown out of their North York basement apartment after taking a 10-day vacation in New Jersey, days before beginning their studies in computer engineering at the University of Toronto.

Hamza Mohammed said he was shocked to see what had happened.

“We go inside, all of our stuff is thrown outside,” said Hamza Mohammed, who rented a room in the apartment alongside his brother Abdullah.

“Then I go to my room and there are two people sleeping in my bed, and then the landlord comes down and tells us to get out.”

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The brothers, who are from Dubai, said they told their landlord about their 10-day trip south prior to them leaving, but on Aug. 31, they received a text message from their landlord, who also lives in the upstairs dwelling, telling them they needed to move.

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“He tells me, ‘Find a new place on Sept. 1,'” Abdullah Mohammed said. “We cancelled our trip from New Jersey, came back, and found our stuff outside and our rooms already rented out.”

The brothers signed a one-year lease in September 2021 and say they told the landlord on Aug. 28 that they would continue to rent the rooms after that lease expired, assuming they would sign a new lease or transition to a month-to-month agreement.

But through text messages, the landlord kicked the brothers out. In text messages obtained by Global News, Sumit Sen writes: “I have decided NOT to renew your lease given the general health and hygiene issues. Please find another place with live with effect of 1st, September 2022.”

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The message was timestamped at 8:06 p.m. on Aug. 31. In an earlier text, the landlord also claimed the brothers had damaged the floor.

“He makes a fake claim that my room is dirty, and he tells us to get out,” Abdullah said. “He really has no other excuse. We paid the rent, everything is perfect.”

“Like, how can he do that?” Hamza said.

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website, the end of a lease agreement does not mean the tenant has to move, sign a renewal or new agreement to stay.

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The brothers say that did not happen.

Global News reached Sen, who is an immigration lawyer practising in Scarborough. Sen said the students never confirmed they wanted to stay and expressed concern with the cleanliness of the basement dwelling.

The immigration lawyer said he never wanted the students to stay past the lease date, even though his earlier text message asked if they had decided whether they were going to stay.

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“There are health and hygiene issues. What do you think I’m going to be doing?” Sen said. “I told them how the lease was going to be going. Why should I have an eviction notice? And people stay on and not pay rent.”

The tenants claim Sen withheld their last month’s rent and tried to get them to sign a “full and final settlement,” on Sept. 4, which stated in exchange for that money, they would “not directly or indirectly have any claims herein after from landlords under any circumstances. We and any of our relatives, will not write any defamatory posts anywhere. We accept personal liability if such a thing is executed.”

Global News obtained a copy of the draft settlement and Sen explained that he wanted the students to sign it.

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“Sign off and have no claim on me. They didn’t want to do it,” Sen said.

In further conversation, Sen threatened legal action against Global News if “any incorrect information which defames my family, will result in a defamatory lawsuit from our end.”

Sen would not agree to an on-camera interview within the 48-hour timeframe provided. His previous conversation took place over the phone.

As for the brothers, their stuff is packed into the back of a U-Haul and the pair are living in a friend’s garage.

“We have no idea what we’re going to do,” Abdullah said.

The pair have started back at the University of Toronto and are still trying to get their money back and find a new place.

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