When Farima Mohseni first checked out an apartment at 91 Cosburn Ave., the unit looked like it was undergoing renovations, with workers milling about, plastic covering the whole floor, and the scent of paint in the air.
Mohseni asked for a broken window to be fixed and new appliances installed before the move-in date, and she says the landlord agreed — so she signed a lease for the $1,595-a-month apartment.
But when she tried moving in on Nov. 2, Mohseni was shocked.
Instead of a newly-renovated unit, she recalls spotting cockroaches, both dead and alive, inside kitchen drawers, on the walls, and inside the fridge. There was mould and dirt on the floors and appliances. And even with temperatures dropping, the broken bedroom window still wasn't fixed.
"I've never seen such a dirty place, never in my life," said Mohseni, who moved to Canada in 2013 from Afghanistan.
That same day, Mohseni handed back the keys, deeming the place unlivable for herself and her two sons.
Now, she's fighting to get back her first and last month's rent — totalling nearly $3,200 — and hired a lawyer after unsuccessfully trying to get assistance from her corporate landlord, Wynn Group of Companies.
Mohseni hoping to get rent payments back
It's a situation Mohseni's lawyer shared with CBC Toronto after reading its coverage of another tenant's fight against another well-known landlord, who she said was trying to evict her after not providing basic details on how to pay her rent, despite her reaching out multiple times to the property management company.
Many tenants across Toronto are facing similar situations at the hands of corporate landlords like Wynn, said lawyer Rahul Soni.
On its website, Wynn bills itself as a purveyor of "cheap apartments" in Toronto with "unparalleled rental offerings," including more than than 4,500 residential units. But over the years, the company has made headlines due to tenant concerns about alleged disrepair at the company's various buildings, and has been slapped with multiple repair orders by the city.
CBC Toronto reached out to Wynn multiple times for comment on this story over a period of several days, by both phone and email. The messages were not returned.
Soni said Mohseni's multiple attempts to contact the company about her concerns with the unit were met with dismissal and a refusal to address the issues. Mohseni alleged that in various instances, she was hung up on by Wynn representatives, or was told they couldn't help.
"Initially, we had sent out a demand letter, hoping that would resolve the issue. Unfortunately, there was no response by the landlord," Soni said.
A second letter to Wynn, which contains photos of the mould and cockroaches Mohseni found in the unit, says the landlord made "intentional efforts to mislead, ignore, and harass" Mohseni and her sons.
Soni said they have filed two applications with the Landlord and Tenant Board in hopes of getting Mohseni's rent payments back. A hearing is expected in early 2018.
"We still have not heard anything from the landlord," he added.
Family spent month sleeping on floor, couch
Mohseni still can't understand what she feels was unfair treatment from the well-known company — a situation she said took both a financial and personal toll on her family.
After returning her keys on Nov. 2, Mohseni said she spent more than a month sleeping in a friend's living room, with Mohseni and one of her sons taking a spot on the floor, and another one of her sons taking the couch.
It meant there were six people living in a one-bedroom apartment. So, with thousands tied up in her rent payments for the 91 Cosburn Ave. unit she never even lived in, Mohseni put down another roughly $4,000 for first and last month's rent at a new apartment and started moving in over the weekend.
Those costs mean she's now picking up extra shifts as a personal support worker, sometimes working overnight and then another shift again in the morning.
When asked about her experience with a Wynn property, Mohseni put it this way: "The worst experience of my life — ever."