London

'Someone who does this should be thrown in jail': Trashed rental unit leaves landlord frustrated

A landlord says he's on the hook for about $20,000 in damage and unpaid rent after a tenant was evicted and her two dogs taken in by the local Humane Society.

Landlord says he faces hefty bill to clean up apartment strewn with used syringes, animal feces

Landlord Alex Solga estimates he's on the hook for $20,000 in lost rent and cleanup costs. He says the tenant left two Cane Corso dogs in the apartment without food and water for at least five days. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Left to clean up a rental unit trashed by a "tenant from hell," landlord Alex Solga doesn't know where to start. 

There are the used syringes — scores of them — strewn across the floor and covering almost every surface. 

There are animal faeces and dried urine, the result, according to Solga's property manager, of the tenant abandoning two Cane Corsos in the unit for at least five days. 

There is a flea infestation so severe Solga was frantically picking them off his legs after a short walk through the suite on Monday to survey the damage. 

The stench inside the three-bedroom apartment — located on the main floor of a brick duplex on Highbury Avenue south of Dundas — is overwhelming.  

Everywhere there is garbage, spoiled food on the counters and broken cabinets. It's a situation Solga says will leave him out at least $20,000 in damage and lost rent. 

The tenant left scores of used needles throughout the rental unit. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

"Someone who does this to a unit should be thrown in jail," he said after showing CBC News the damaged suite. "I'm borrowing money off my family so I can fix this rental unit up enough that it can be rented again."

Solga says he rented the suite to a young woman in October of last year but says she stopped paying rent in May. This prompted him to start eviction proceedings through the Landlord and Tenant Board. 

The eviction was approved but had to wait for a hearing, which happened on July 2. The tenant did not show up. Then there was an 11-day wait to give her time to pay her arrears or leave. (Solga says she did neither.) After that, it took two weeks for a sheriff to execute the eviction. 

On Friday Aug. 2, a sheriff showed up to execute the eviction order. The two dogs were removed by staff from the Humane Society of London and Middlesex. 

Solga's property manager, who witnessed the removal of the dogs, said they were in "terrible condition." 

"These dogs had been abandoned in the unit for most of a week and when they actually were removed, they were down to their ribs," said Solga. 

A notice left behind by the Animal Care Review Board says the animals were removed under the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The kitchen area of the rental unit in a duplex on Highbury Avenue. Landlord Alex Solga says rental rules in Ontario should be changed to bring back damage deposits. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

CBC News inquired about the state of the dogs, but a Humane Society spokesperson said they would not comment about an active case. 

Solga said his tenant also had two children staying with her for part of the tenancy but they were removed in June by staff with the London Middlesex Children's Aid. CBC News contacted the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services but were told that details of such cases are not released. CBC News has decided not to name the tenant to protect the identity of the children.

Solga said the tenant appears to have moved out days before the sheriff arrived, leaving him with an expensive mess to clean up. His property manager told him two cleaning companies have turned down the job after seeing the state of the suite. 

Not a landlord with multiple holdings, Solga said he owns two rental properties in London, which he uses to supplement his income. 

"I know a lot of people think landlords are the bad guys but this will really set my family back," he said.  

Paralegal blasts rules

Harry Fine is a paralegal who represents both landlords and tenants. He said Solga's situation happens to other landlords often. 

"Landlords are asked to accept incredible risk that no other group in society is required to take," he said. 

Fine said a big part of the problem is that the Ontario Human Rights Code policy on rental housing prevents landlords from asking tenants if they are on social assistance. 

The rules are designed to stop landlords from discriminating against low-income tenants. Solga said his tenant was on social assistance, information he says she provided on her rental application.

"I have no problem renting to someone on social assistance," said Solga. "But they have to pay their rent and can't do this to a suite."

Fine says the province should do more to provide housing for people on social assistance and says the existing rules leave landlords taking all the risk. 

Solga said a credit check revealed his tenant had "mediocre" credit but that he decided to rent to her. 

Fine said Solga could take his former tenant to small claims court, but that it's almost impossible to collect damages.

"Most landlords don't even bother trying if a tenant doesn't have a stable long-term job where they can garnishee wages," he said.

Fine said Solga is likely to lose "every penny he took in" during the tenancy, and Solga concurs. 

"The financial impact of this couldn't be worse," he said. "I have no way of getting that money back."

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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