Start Here. All Will Be Explained.

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Okay – so I can’t figure out how to make an archive or search feature. Bear with me. If you click on one of the pages there are tags that will take you to similar topics. I’m inserting some links to create a basic synopsis of what is going on with this blog, house and situation:

I bought this house in the fall of 2016, and moved here in November 2016.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/31/trying-to-leave-toronto/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/looking-for-a-home/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/why-did-you-buy-such-an-old-house/

The heritage tag is a grab bag of related topics. My house is currently under review for Heritage Designation :

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/heritage/

This neighbourhood had some problems, that was obvious. It still seemed less bad than where I had previously been.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/13/east-of-adelaide/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/18/john-troubles/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/nightmare-apartment-nightmare-neighbours/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/preface/

I thought the house had some really great things going on with it. I loved all the original details. I liked that while it was in plain sight, that it was also private, and far enough away from neighbours, or so I thought.  I knew I didn’t want to live near student rentals, frightening rooming houses, an Air B n B, or anywhere that there was a lot of human intrusion. Commercial neighbours seemed ideal.

The house had a serious case of deferred maintenance, and some unsettling color choices. I was prepared for all the undoing and re-doing. It only took three years to get this point.

I did as much as I knew how to do, which was sourcing vintage or antique salvaged materials, stripping paint, plaster repairs, prepwork, basic demolition and more painting. I had a series of exasperating experiences trying to find professionals who would even work on my house in this area. The contempt and derision from professionals who I would be potentially paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work on my house was pretty astonishing. I did not hire anyone who with a bad attitude towards me or my house. Your loss, dudes !

If you are THAT interested the DIY tag will take you through the greatest hits:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/diy/page/1/

The Before and During tag will take you down a similar route:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/before-and-during/page/1/

In context of the whole, it shouldn’t matter whether I spruced up the entire house, or only changed a lightbulb.

What I didn’t expect to butt up against were the grave deficiencies in bylaws and building code within the City of London. I didn’t expect that Site Plans from 70 years ago, that do not even have a written record, would be considered acceptable without periodic review for modern industry. When I bought this house, my neighbour was a used car lot that sold a little gas. It was open 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The lot was sold, then renovated by a gas station flipper then sold again to a buyer who I suppose wanted a turn key business. I am now living next to a 24 hour gas and convenience store.

This was possible as the City of London does not require a site plan review if a building is renovated, and there is no change of use. The City also does not require any sort of community input from businesses that want to operate 24 hours a day, even if they are right next door to and/or close to other residences. This is a real problem in areas with a history of street prostitution, drug dealing, drug houses and petty crime. Things like 24 hour convenience stores create a plausible deniability for the creepy johns and drug buyers that cruise my neighbourhood, especially after dark.

The City’s only concern is the correct zoning for the land usage. Yet this planning creates a two tiered standard of development. My new neighbour would not have been permitted to create what they made in a new development from the ground up – there would be guidelines for the square footage, traffic control, buffer zones, lighting, garbage containment and so on.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/08/city-of-london-site-planning/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/07/site-planning-and-gas-station-design/

You can wade through the whole stinking mess with the Hey City of London ! tag:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-city-of-london/

What it comes down to is that the City of London offers NO protection for a residence that is next to a commercial property. A residence thusly located does not have the same rights as other residences, with regards to quiet enjoyment, privacy, safety or even darkness. A residence next to a commercial lot has no rights to freedom FROM their commercial neighbour’s activities. The City of London does not even have ANY bylaws about light pollution or infiltration. Ask me how I know:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/10/02/light-blight/

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I complained when the headlights from gas station customers shone in my dining room and kitchen windows. My elevation was about 48″ lower. The gas station manager said they would put up a fence. No one ever shared quotes with me or asked for a carpenter or post hole recommendation. Decisions were made unilaterally – though the gas station manager first expected that I would contribute $ 2500.00 towards this fence – quotes unseen. This is the fence my commercial neighbour erected – then demanded I contribute $ 1000.00 towards. I refused ! This the fence that I see when I look out my dining room, kitchen, back porch and west bedroom windows:

 

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The 4 x 4 posts are not even securely or properly anchored. Do you trust this construction method ? I do not trust this construction method:

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This is how the front section looked 6 months after it was built. The entire fence flaps back and forth in the wind, as there are no posts set into the ground, and only a small amount of DUCT STRAPPING tethers it to the previous chainlink fence posts:

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Did you know that the City of London’s fence bylaw does not even have a clause which addresses structural stability ? And that there is no requirement of a 24 hour commercial business with vehicular traffic to erect an opaque fence, if they are next to a residential neighbour ? There might be, for a new development, built from the ground up – but not for the Site-Plan-Absent ones that get grandfathered in.

The Hey Look At That Fence tag will take you through the saga:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-look-at-that-fence/

An even worse discovery was made after the gas station renovation was complete. The vent pipe for the gas station’s underground gas storage tank had previously been located on the northeast corner of the property – next to the industrial neighbour’s parking lot. In the 13 months I lived here, while the used car lot was open, I only smelt gasoline vapours once during a tanker fill. This was a day we were working on the kitchen, so we were in and out of the back door many times to access the saw which was set up outside. We could smell this in the yard. I never smelt gasoline in my house.

(That single pipe sticking up over the roofline was the vent location for the underground gas storage tank until spring 2018)

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When the station was renovated, the vent location for the underground tanks was changed. It was now located 4 feet from the property line. I thought little of this. That was until the day in August, 2018 when suddenly my entire house was flooded with gasoline vapours, which entered through my open windows. It was horrible. I photographed the tanker doing the fill and the driver was not even using the vapour recovery system, as required by law. This is where the real nightmare begins.

(Those three silver pipes on the left are the new location for the vent pipes.)

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https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/first-gasoline-infiltration-august-11-2018/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/10/boring-but-important-gas-station-vapour-recovery-system-explained/

I contacted the TSSA – The Technical Standards and Safety Association. They are the only entity with jurisdiction over liquid fuel handling. They are so opaque as to be obstructive:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/hey-tssa-thats-not-okay-part-1-july-2018/

At first I was told they would not answer my questions without a fee of $ 120.00, and I would have to wait 120 days for a reply ! After much phoning and emailing I was finally given an excerpt from their Liquid Fuel Handling Code – which is not available through any library system, including University collections. I could purchase my own copy ($ 135.00 plus HST) though, from them. Their code, as it pertains to the vent location states:

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There was not even a code which addressed residences next to a gas station, bulk loading facility, etc. There was NO CODE for residential neighbours.

It took about a year, but I also discovered how far from a property line an underground gasoline storage tank was permitted to be: 1.5 m. That’s a little over 59″ ! Again there was no separate code for a residential property line. Despite the decades of documentation of LUSTS in North America – Leaking Underground Storage Tanks – that poisoned communities, contaminated groundwater and created clusters of Acute Myeloid Leukemia – this is acceptable code in Ontario in 2019 !

I made multiple complaints to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment Pollution Spill Reporting Hotline whenever gasoline vapours entered my home during a tanker refuelling. As the weather got colder, I discovered this would happen even with all my doors and windows closed ! And I had storm windows on most of my windows, weather stripping, and doors and windows that fit properly. The gasoline infiltrations would happen whenever there was a wind from the west or northwest.

Eventually the TSSA sent an inspector to my house. He came without any testing equipment whatsoever, and said that he was relying on his sense of smell to assess the issue. It turned out that this inspector was the same person who had approved the vent location to be relocated to 4′ from my property line, adjacent to all my doors and windows. How he had the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

When I purchased this house, I did not expect that my home would be periodically infiltrated by volatile and carcinogenic gasoline vapours, as a result of the TSSA’s actions, and that they would claim this vent location is acceptable within their code.

Wade through the Hey TSSA ! It’s Not Okay ! tag at your own risk:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-tssa-its-not-okay/

I did not expect that my pets would become ill or gravely ill after the renovated gas station opened in July, 2018:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/26/canaries/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2020/01/04/two-more-canaries/

I did not expect that I would need to consider the implications of waiting for my own Acute Myeloid Leukemia to happen. Benzene is an additive to gasoline. It has been known for over 100 years that workers, children and animals exposed to chronic levels of benzene develop blood cancers, cardiovascular issues, neurological problems. Some light reading about the effects of benzene exposure, and the effects of living close to gas stations can be found under the tag Health Questions, Serious Ones:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/health-questions-serious-ones/

I have gone in circles phoning and emailing municipal, provincial and federal government entities about my issues with the gas station next door. Without exception, they have all deferred to the TSSA.

The City of London has a bylaw that smoking is not permitted within 9m of the entrances to municipal buildings and recreational facilities (https://www.london.ca/city-hall/by-laws/Documents/smoking-recreation-areas.pdf) but nothing on the books that a commercial entity is not permitted to fill an adjacent property with volatile and carcinogenic vapours.

There is nothing I can do to correct or mitigate the vent location. If I attempted to sell my property, I would need to disclose this extremely serious defect – that is not even a result of my own actions.

This blog is a documentation of my experiences with this matter, but I hope the information can help other people in this situation. This is disgraceful.

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Speaking With Property Appraisers

(Image : 550 Hamilton Road, where the Crouch Public Library now stands. This house has an identical front porch to mine, which I haven’t seen elsewhere)

A couple of the realtors I had spoken with had been very helpful, and recommended property appraisers.

I contacted those ones, and others I found online.

I discovered that since my property was zoned residential and commercial, that a residential appraiser could not do the appraisal. An appraisal of a residential/commercial property was more complicated and expensive.

I also learned that if I needed the appraisal for a legal purpose, that it should be done on the advice of my lawyer which I suppose has specific areas of relevancy vs my general curiosity. An appraisal has a shelf life, so an appraisal done in March, 2019 would not be very useful by December, 2020. Also news to me.

My biggest question was whether the gas station vents had devalued my property to land value only ?

No one could answer this question. One guy said he would speak with a senior colleague – and actually did – and called me back several days later. No one I spoke with had any experience dealing with a residential property that was negatively affected by a commercial neighbour’s actions in this capacity.

Again, there was no simple answer or real estate algebra that could answer my questions.

Talking to Realtors

I wondered if an experienced realtor could give me professional insight on what effect the gas station and vent situation were having on the value of my property.

I contacted several London realtors who had a variety of years in the profession. All of them had an office near this area or had recently represented property in the tainted EOA area.

I wondered if there was some secret guidebook they had to do a valuation, like ” Good landscaping adds $ 5000.00, ugly exterior paint color loses $ 3000.00, etc.”

I was upfront that I was not ready to list my property, but hoped that they could offer their opinion. No one was willing to speak on the record. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, so no one actually visited my house though a couple drove by to have a general look, and everyone looked at Streetview.

I emailed them all a similar inquiry where I mentioned that I was now next to a 24 hr gas station/convenience store and wondered how this might affect my property value ?

No one said that it INCREASED my property value. The location near a busy street was a deficit, as was the neighbourhood due to the lower values in the area.

The approximate valuation they could give me was speculative – based on the comparable solds from the area. The value of a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

As we got futher into the conversation, I explained about the vent location and the problems thereof. A couple of the realtors didn’t seem to take my description seriously and acted like I was complaining about engine exhaust. No one said that my home might be worth $ XXX, XXX but due to the vent location the value would be reduced by $ xx,xxx

I said that I knew that I was legally obligated to disclose this negative issue, or else I potentially opened myself to litigation. A neighbour in Toronto hadn’t disclosed  water infiltration in their basement, which was an ongoing issue they never remedied, nor the owners before them, and had to give the buyer back $ 50,000 due to this.

https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2017/01/07/what-sellers-must-disclose-about-a-home-ask-joe.html

It gets even more complicated as the defect I would have to disclose is not actually even on my property ! Due to the actions of the TSSA’s approval and the Petroleum Contractor who did this modification a serious issue had resulted that I felt made my property unsaleable as residential or even commercial/light industrial property. Who would buy a home that is periodically filled with gasoline vapours ?

A couple of the realtors said that I should just sell and move, and not disclose this. Take the money and run. I argued that I had made numerous reports to the Ministry of the Environment and the TSSA so I could not claim I did not know there was a problem.

One realtor told me I should not attempt to go public about my situation, as it would give my property a stigma, which would last in the public memory, and potentially render it unsaleable.

All the realtors suggested I what I needed was an appraisal, which would be admissible in a legal context, whereas a suggested listing price would not be.

“Why did you buy such an old house ?”

The greenest house is one that is already built.

A pre-1900 house is built of natural materials, that have functioned for close to 120 years.

Old houses are repairable. Wood sash windows are made from old growth wood, which have a tighter grain than farmed wood. A wood sash window can be repaired. Joints can be tightened up, the glazing (aka putty) can be replaced and the wood repainted. The old wavy glass is beautiful. These windows were designed to be used with storm windows during the coldest months. A properly fitting storm window with a single paned glass sash window has a better R value than a new double glazed replacement window, that might only last for 20 years ! This house had all the original windows, and 20th century aluminum storm windows, too.

https://www.nps.gov/tps/sustainability/energy-efficiency/weatherization/windows-doors.htm

I loved the high ceilings, and the scale of the rooms.

The trim and mouldings were completely intact except in the kitchen and powder room. The trim is a generous 4.75″ wide, with tall baseboards, wood. All the doors were solid wood – which can be planed down as a house shifts. Most of them even had the original rimlocks and porcelain doorknobs – still in good working shape after a century+ of use.

I liked the funny Queen Anne/cottage/late victorian/somethingsomethingsomething style with the exagerrated roof, and the heavy application of fancy whatnots on the exterior.

All the rooms had the original plaster and lath. Home renovation shows demonize plaster and lath, and act like it is some kind of emergency to remove it all right away. This is ridiculous. Plaster can be repaired by a person with some skill and practice. True lime plaster repairs are a more complicated situation, but there are a few professionals around who know how to do this. I have read that the reason insurance companies are fussy about lathe and plaster is that this is a more expensive and labour intensive material to replace than drywall.

New construction has a faster burn time than a heritage home, due to new synthetic materials, and the smoke and fumes are much more toxic:

https://www.today.com/home/newer-homes-furniture-burn-faster-giving-you-less-time-escape-t65826

There was a giant silver maple in the backyard, for lots of shade.

There was room for a garden in the front, which gets plenty of sun.

When you walk in the front door, there is a small foyer, which helps to keep the cold out of the house. It had a nice stained glass door, too. This is also useful for keeping cats from rushing out the door. This is thoughtful and functional design.

There are windows on all sides of the house, and the neighbouring properties are far enough away to let all the rooms get sun throughout the day.

The house had the original room configuration, so I knew that the structure had not been undermined. Rooms with doors are infinitely preferable to me, to confine work areas from cats and prying eyes. This is the opposite of open concept.

This house seemed like it had the potential to be my home, though it needed a lot of work, more work than I imagined. I saw what I wanted to see.

 

 

 

The Furnace

The building inspector burst out laughing when he saw the furnace. It was an octopus gravity fed furnace, and appeared to be original to the house. Notes were written on the side from December, 1960, which is when I suppose that it was converted from coal to gas.

The seller supplied the previous year’s bills, so I could get a better idea of the potential expenses. Long after moving in, various neighbours told me that no one had lived in the house for years, and that the owner would come back periodically to pick up the mail. It was only when he was getting ready to sell that he was around more frequently.

I lived in an old row house 20 years ago, where each unit had one of these furnaces. We paid close to $ 400.00 per month in gas, during the coldest months. The utilities did seem suspiciously low…

Maybe I could squeak through the approaching winter with this furnace, and there was some sort of retrofit that could increase the efficiency ? Several furnace places came by for quotes, and none would even light the pilot light, which was just an open flame with no safety controls whatsoever. I pointed at the cast iron door, which had the word “MODERN” in large letters, but none were convinced.

I had to spring for a new furnace. I chose the furnace dude who seemed the least appalled by the house and location.

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Looking for a Home

My plan was to move somewhere with a University and/or college, to continue my education. Hamilton, Peterborough, Kingston, London and Windsor all seemed possible. The houses at the bottom of those markets were affordable. I missed out on a place that seemed okay in Peterborough. Kingston was iffy for a number of reasons. Windsor was a little far away for a day trip to look at houses.

The kind of house I wanted was a geezer. This meant an older house, probably one that had belonged to the same person for a long time, with few updates. I grew up in a plain bungalow built in the late 50’s, which held little charm for me. Since I moved out of my parents home I lived in pre-1920’s buildings, on the verge of decrepitude. The house I owned with my ex was built in 1873. Its last owners bought it in 1952, and died two months apart in 2004. They had done little to it besides some groovy wallpaper and a dysfunctional powder room. A house like this was conceptually familiar.

I wasn’t afraid of run down houses that needed work, that suffered from deferred maintenance. I was really averse to flipper houses. I had seen many of the cheap cover-ups in my old neighbourhood, and loathed them. I wanted to avoid any proximity to student rentals, obvious hoarders, scary rooming houses, or areas that seemed to have a fussy or picky community. I needed to be close to public transit, and within walking distance to a grocery store.

I spotted a house in London that seemed perfect. This turned out to be a For Sale By Owner (FSBO), with another insane seller, so I never was able to view this house. My realtor drove me past it after some pestering – and right next door was an even better house that looked intact from when it was built in the late 1800’s (not for sale, alas). This was exactly what I was looking for. London seemed liveable, and the houses were mostly detached, and even really modest houses had yards, with trees.

We looked at some duds. My realtor scheduled a viewing for a home that looked really good – intact, with all the original woodwork and stained glass. The night before the viewing she got intensely ill with some 24 hour bug, so we had to cancel. This turned out to be fortuitous, as the house I ultimately bought was listed that night.

After she recovered, we made the trip to look at both houses, which were within a few blocks of each other. The first house was pretty amazing. It may have been a manse as it was next to a church. The house was in very good condition, had a front and back staircase, pocket doors, a giant high basement, and many other features. It was also HUGE for one person, with 5 bedrooms. There was a garage in poor condition, which worried me.

The other house seemed like a manageable size. It had more condition issues, but was also $ 30,000 less. All the doors and windows were original, and the room configuration and exterior had never been messed with. The location was sort of antisocial – between a used car lot, and the side and parking lot of a factory, on a tiny side street. This was especially appealing as I would never be dealing with neighbour’s drunken parties. The lot was very overgrown, but had been trimmed back when it was listed. There were many trees, and the back wall of the used car building made the yard quite private. There were houses across the street, and none looked troublesome.

The realtor and the seller had obviously worked very hard to make this listing as palatable as possible with creative staging and strategic photography. The plaster in most of the rooms was in rough condition, which the seller attempted to disguise with dramatic paint schemes. The house was a little beat up, but had all the things I was looking for, including stained glass windows in three rooms.

We went back for a second look the same day. All things considered, this seemed like the right house. The house inspection didn’t have any surprises. The issues were obvious. I ruminated for a couple of days then bought it.

Was this smart or stupid ?

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Trying to Leave Toronto

Even before my former house had closed, I was looking at Realtor.ca.

Staying in Toronto was not a reasonable economic option. If I went to back to school for a 4 year program and graduated with a new lucrative career, that would be least $ 72,000 in rent alone –  if I stayed put and the new owner didn’t raise the rent, or evict me so the unit could be renovated. A modest condo in a so-so location would cost more than I had to spend – before the condo fees.

I had also grown to sort of loathe the city. I couldn’t find the space to be away from people. I could hear them upstairs, I could hear the salon music downstairs, I could hear their cars and wretched music through the windows. Even when I went to the laundromat at 10:00 p.m. (it was open until 1:00 a.m. — and just across the street) there was always someone around. There was a high school across the street. I blamed all the teenage germs and viruses on the local streetcar for making me sick all the time in that apartment.

I saw a few great prospective houses and buildings come and go, while I was waiting for my funds. A friend drove me all over Hamilton, to look around. It seemed like a possibility.

One of the houses was a run down house from the 1850’s that needed so much work. It sounded like the last family member that lived there had some hoarding issues. Because I was waiting on my funds, I didn’t go to look at it. This liar bought it, and claimed a family member would be living in it. This person had a little pressure from the local heritage group. I was appalled when it reappeared on the market, with the exterior somewhat preserved, less than a year later. Inside it looked like a Home Depot showroom. All traces of the house it had been were gone, thanks to this shoddy flipper.

My realtor was the daughter of the realtor that sold my ex and I the house. She was supremely patient about showing me the worst dumps.

In the time between the house was sold, and I received my proceeds, house sales in Hamilton had gone crazy. Everyone who had been pushed out of Toronto was now feasting on Hamilton. What could have been bought for $ 125,000 in late 2015 was now over $ 200,000, with bidding wars. I looked at Realtor.ca twice a day.  I saw listings go up at 10:00 p.m. and by the time my realtor contacted the agent the next morning to schedule a viewing the property was sold.

We did make a couple of Hamilton expeditions and it was traumatic. One of the houses said it needed work in the description, but when we got there discovered that there had been a major fire and it was gutted to the studs inside. One had a crazy seller who wouldn’t let prospective buyers inside for viewings, and also had fire damage. One had a couple of tenants who both resembled Jabba the Hut, sitting in two dark rooms, side by side, on their independent computers, with messy chaos all around. Viewings were much more uncomfortable with the residents there. One had a missing lockbox so we couldn’t get inside. Next door these two little tough kids were sizing up up. They were just standing around in their yard in their bathing suits, with no parents around, asking strangers questions.

One house that looked promising had a realtor that told all prospective viewers to bring a dust mask, and advised that there were still cats living in the house. An elderly woman had been living there until she couldn’t anymore, and the family was selling the estate. The house had been cleaned up the best they could, which wasn’t very clean. I brought a can of cat food and some cat treats with me. I imagined the cats were probably pretty stressed out in there alone, with strangers coming through. I also brought extra shoes, in case the house was Hoarders level bad.

The house smelt like neglected cat boxes, old blankets, dust and despair. The cats were shy for a moment, but when they realized I was friendly stayed close by us. One of the cats was a love starved dilute calico, who was so happy to get pet. She had a funny, bony bump on her jaw, and I guessed she had bone cancer there. I noticed she was walking oddly, so I picked her up to look at her feet. All the claws on her front feet had grown so long they were embedded in her footpads, which would be so incredibly painful.

The kitchen was still filthy. Even the cat dishes were half empty with cloudy water that hadn’t been changed for days, and layers of old, old food. I washed their dishes and gave them clean water and a can of food. My realtor had a Swiss army knife, so I used the little scissors to trim the terrible claws and pull them out of her footpads. Her feet would be tender for a couple of days, but not as sore as they had been for MONTHS.

The house had many of the things I was looking for. It was an early 20th century house that still retained the original mouldings, plaster ceiling medallions, original windows and exterior details. Almost every room had a gruesomely overflowing cat box, that had not been cleaned for months, which one or all of the cats had been peeing beside. The house needed a new roof, new wiring, new plumbing, exterior repairs, new kitchen, new bathroom, new furnace, new flooring and extensive work to seal in all the bad pee smells, before any occupancy could begin. It did have a mature tree – exceptional for Hamilton.

I turned myself in knots trying to make this house situation reasonable. Maybe the seller would be willing to sell it to me at a lower price if I agreed to adopt and care for the three cats that were there ? I knew the family had removed other cats from the house, and there was a very panicked feral tortie in the backyard. I estimated that basic thorough repairs would cost at least $ 100,000. It was listed for $ 199,000. I chose to walk away and not jump into the frey. It sold for $ 370,000. I’ll bet some Toronto buyer felt incredibly lucky to get this semi, after having their dreams utterly crushed in the Toronto real estate market. To get a house like this in Toronto, even in this condition, would have cost at least $ 750,000 at that point in time.

I contacted a couple of Hamilton cat rescues and gave them the house address. I suppose the family was probably just dumping the cats at the local shelter. The elderly lovebug would have no chance, and would probably just be euthanized upon intake, due to her condition. I don’t know what happened with those cats and it bothers me to this day.

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Nightmare Apartment – Sold !

Just after the hearing at the Landlord/Tenant Board, a building inspection was scheduled by the prospective buyer. I was expecting them – but imagine my shock when I opened my door and that creepster landlord was standing there with them !

He had told a whopping lie about being at the airport, just to not appear at the Landlord/Tenant Board. I think the hearing was on a Thursday, and this was Sunday. He didn’t even bother to have a fake tan or a t-shirt with Egypt printed on it or anything. What a baby !

While the inspector (actually the prospective owner) was looking over the apartment, and asking me questions, the landlord kept physically getting in the way, and talking over me. I was so angry, but tried to keep my cool. There really weren’t serious issues with the apartment. It was old, and needed some repairs and maintenance. The lack of smoke detectors, unsafe fire escape, lack of fire blocking, poor lighting and confused wiring were all fixable issues, that were the responsibility of a reasonable landlord. The biggest problem I had experienced was the owner.

After they left, I was shaking with anger, so I called a friend. As I was talking to her on the phone, someone started knocking on my door. I assumed it was the nightmare owner. No way was I going to open the door ! Instead, it was a woman’s voice, speaking to me. This was the realtor, for the buyer, who had witnessed the entire inspection situation. She asked to come in, to speak with me.

I felt very uncomfortable. On one hand, I really didn’t want to mess up the sale. I wanted that owner GONE, ASAP ! On the other hand, I could not keep my silence about the unethical person I had been dealing with. I tried to emphasize that the building needed some work, but the location was good, and that this was a desireable and convenient location. I tried to gently suggest that they should verify all the measurements, as I did not think that these apartments were as big as advertised, and that I had just gone through a hearing at the Landlord/Tenant Board…

That buyer bought it, for $ 100,000 under asking*. Remember, my asshole landlord was a realtor, who is supposed to be a professional, who knows how to buy and sell property. His knowing misrepresentation of his property was a violation of his realtor’s code of conduct. Shameful.

* This was truly remarkable in a market like Toronto’s. The asking price was not out of line, and would have been a steal, if the building had been accurately described. I guess the landlord was measuring in “internet inches”, wishfully.

The Nightmare Apartment -Landlord/Tenant Board

My landlord kept evading the City of Toronto Building Inspector, who came looking for him many times. I saw him taking notes on the fire escape. I bet he needed more paper to describe the visible issues.

I decided to file a complaint with the Landlord/Tenant Board. I was really mad about the extra Hydro I had been paying, and all the other issues. I read the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act backwards and forwards.

The lease I had signed looked official. It had the logo of the Toronto Real Estate Board on it. One thing I had not done, that was in my lease, was get apartment insurance. The ORTA states that if you agree to something in the rental agreement – even if it is not a legal clause – then if you do not abide by this you could be evicted. By law a landlord cannot make you get insurance – but I had agreed to this, sigh.

I went to an insurance broker and explained what I needed. I brought my lease with me. He read it, then read it again and sort of sputtered. He excused himself to run around the office to show this to his colleagues. When he came back he explained what was going on. While my lease said that I had to get apartment insurance, with a value of $ 30,000, this insurance was to be made payable to my LANDLORD !!! Incredible. He sold me a policy, payable to me.

This revelation made me more creeped out about my asshole landlord. Was he going to burn the building down to collect on insurance – his and mine ? This clause was not an accident.

The woman upstairs came with me to a couple of meetings at the Landlord/Tenant Board. Her situation was a little different in that they had been paying extra rent for the child, who had never come to live with them. There had also been ongoing issues with a lack of heat and other stuff. She found the whole experience of just going to the office super stressful. She said she was going to file but I guess she never did. They moved out soon after.

I didn’t want to file, but I also felt that my landlord had acted in extremely bad faith. He  had to know that I would be paying for the water heater electricity ?

After he was given his notice to appear the landlord was really angry. I was, too. He offered me $ 1000.00 to move out. This was not even one months rent ! He threatened to evict me and said he was going to move in. He tried all kinds of things. I would not speak with him on the phone, and would only communicate via email, so that I had a record of who said what to whom, when.

Meanwhile I started looking for another apartment. I hated the constant viewings and the stress. A couple of apartments in the area came up, in the same price range. I went to look at one, but it was just as bad, and the actual situation seemed sketchy with the person leasing it not being the landlord. Paying for movers was also expensive.

The hearing at the Landlord/Tenant office was pretty unpleasant. The landlord didn’t show up, and sent a paralegal, Fatima, to represent him. She claimed that he had a previously booked flight to Greece and Egypt, which was non-refundable, and that he was at the airport, waiting to board. She showed what was allegedly his flight itinerary to prove this. This all seemed very odd as I knew that a conditional offer had been made on the building. Why would he leave the country while this was happening ?

He was allowed to appear via speakerphone. The mediator seemed like he intensely disliked me. I had prepared notes, and had organized copies of hydro bills, emails, a letter from the electrician. Despite his dislike, I guess my actual documentation helped. I was granted one month’s rent ($ 1500.00) to compensate me for the excess hydro bills, which had violated my rights.

The landlord attempted many ridiculous angles, claiming that I had no right to have any contents on the “deck”, and that it wasn’t a deck but a rooftop. I had the Realtor.ca listing which described this “600 sq ft communal deck”. I guess that helped. In the meantime I had locked up the vintage patio furniture that was indeed, on “the deck” as the landlord had approved when I moved in. I also had photos of the deck from all angles to better illustrate this, and my contents thereof. That argument went nowhere. Sheesh.

 

Nightmare Apartment – Building for Sale

I felt oddly relieved when the building was officially listed for sale. The owner was apparently insane as the listing stated that there would only be a tour of the property after a legally binding offer was made. WTF ? I had a realtor friend do a little research. I learned what the building had been listed and sold for previously, and the dimensions of the lot and other details. Yet “oddly”  – the square footage of the lot had somehow grown between the time the building was sold to the owner and his partner and this new listing ?

This strategy yielded zero viewings. Toronto is a super hot market, so it’s difficult to NOT be able to sell property.

After a month or so, the listing was revised.

The owner got some guy to come in and do laser stuff for a floorplan and square footage. This guy was supposed to photograph my apartment, too but I objected. According to the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act, an owner is not permitted to photograph a tenant’s belongings. The upstairs apartment was photographed by someone – flash snapshots that showed a cluttered coffee table, unmade beds, etc. There were broken boards in the ceiling over the entryway. This was hastily scribbled out using the most amateur of photoshop. The listing claimed that the two apartments were 1000 square feet each, and emphasized the “tens of thousands” that the owner had spent on renovating the property. It mentioned the 600 sq ft “communal deck”.

The salon had spent a lot of money designing and renovating their space, and it looked really good. That asshole was taking credit for this. It was galling.

The revised listing generated a lot of interest. The office the owner worked at started calling and emailing to schedule viewings. They can only be scheduled between 8:00 a.m. and 8 p.m., and tenants must have a minimum of 24 hours notice. This didn’t mean that they didn’t try otherwise – as though the tenants wouldn’t know their rights !

I was curious about how big the apartment actually was. It was an irregular shape due to the airshaft by the bedroom and bathroom windows. I measured it twice, room by room. Including the measurements for the hallway and bathroom and closets(which typically are not included). It was just under 700 square feet ! Where was that other 300 square feet I had been renting ?

There was a flurry of interest with the revised listing. I kept the apartment tidy and clean for all the viewings. I think many viewers were hopeful – the salon facade looked great. Then they would enter the stairwell – which the landlord had not even bothered to sweep  – let alone patch and paint. My apartment was as good as it could look – if you could overlook the exposed pipes in the wall, and the electrical conduit over the doorway. People always wanted to see the 600 square foot communal deck. 100% of them were surprised when I opened the back door to show them this rooftop, with no railings or decking material of any description. This also gave them a good look at the terrifying back of the building.

No offers were forthcoming. I suffered through many viewings.

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