The house is packed. They're ready to move in, but the tenants refuse to leave
A couple's bid to buy their first home could be scuppered by tenants who won't leave
The buyers of a four-bedroom home in White Oaks say a standoff between them and an uncooperative family of tenants who refuse to leave has left them in legal limbo, causing weeks of sleepless nights and could even sink the $527,000 sale.
Jeff Skuse and Kate Smith bought the four-bedroom home that "fits their family needs." The home is within walking distance of their children's school and backs onto a network of trails that run through the White Oaks suburb.
But the deal they signed in March may not come to pass because a family of tenants is refusing to move out before the deal is set to close on Monday, June 12.
The tenants, who did not want to be identified, declined to speak to CBC News Thursday.
Skuse and Smith say the stress of the ordeal has been "incredible."
"I haven't stopped crying because I don't know what to do," Smith told CBC News on Thursday. "I don't know what to tell the kids. The house is packed. We're ready to go."
To make matters worse, Skuse and Smith say their landlord is lawfully evicting them from their apartment by August 31, compounding the pressure for the couple and their three children to move into their new home before they're left homeless.
WATCH | Jeff Skuse and Kate Smith describe how a standoff with tenants is affecting their kids:
The couple is currently seeking a 60-day extension on the purchase agreement through the courts while the landlord tries to get the tenants to leave through Ontario's Landlord Tenant Board (LTB), which could take up to a year to get a ruling.
"The system is broken," said Skuse. "We just want to give our children some stability."
Tenants who refuse to leave becoming more common
The standoff is emblematic of a housing market where the surge in prices has pushed disputes between tenants and landlords into overdrive, with tenants who refuse to leave becoming more common as they opt to contest the eviction in front of a provincial tribunal in an attempt to stand their ground.
"More and more tenants aren't picking up and leaving," said Harry Fine, a retired paralegal who spent 21 years representing clients at the LTB and now offers training for landlords and real estate agents to, in his words, "keep them out of trouble."
Fine said in any case where a landlord decides to sell a property with tenants, the landlord is taking on a big legal risk, especially if they guarantee the tenant will be gone by the time the buyer takes possession, opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit if the tenants are uncooperative.
"The seller, he's the one with the biggest risk if they guaranteed vacant possession," he said. "The buyer can refuse to close."
As for the tenants, Fine said, all they have to do is insist on a hearing in front of the LTB and they can hold up the entire process for months or even up to a year, and all the while avoid moving and, in turn, paying more rent in a highly competitive market.
"It's going to take six months to get a hearing, so I might as well just wait to get a hearing and that'll give me six months."
Fine said there is an option to ask the tribunal for a quicker hearing, but with a huge backlog before the LTB, getting one is a slim possibility.
"Everybody's filing a request to shorten the time to get a hearing, so it's really tough to get approval," he said. "It's a mess."