By Shannon Higgins
After three years of renting his house to Ryerson students, landlord Robert Singer is fed up. Every year before someone moves in, he cleans and paints the Monteith Street apartment he rents out.
And, according to Singer, every year he has to deal with plugged toilets, ruined floors and excessive amounts of filth. He adds that broken lease agreements, forgotten garbage, and constant noise complaints have driven him to take his former tenants to court. “I had new carpets put in five years ago and now they look 30 years old.”
His large house near campus, just north of Church and Wellesley streets, will likely not be occupied by students next year. “It (renting to students) was really a pain in the ass,” said Singer.
For students, this signals the potential beginning of a problematic trend. Stories such as Singer’s are straining landlord-tenant relations and making it even more difficult for students to find a place to live.
Ruth Goba, a lawyer and executive director at the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation has noticed the problem. “We often see landlords who don’t want to rent to students because they think they’ll be noisy, have lots of parties and drink all the time.”
This discrimination results in students missing out on nicer housing options. The problem, Goba said, is that most students don’t recognize when a landlord is breaking the law, specifically the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The code protects citizens from various forms of discrimination, including age and income. The Human Rights Code doesn’t apply if the landlord is sharing space — a bathroom or kitchen — with the tenant, said Goba, noting that in this scenario, it’s perfectly legal for a landlord to accept “straight men only.”
This indicates that it is not always the tenants but also landlords that can cause problems. Luke Durrer, a third-year student at Brock University, has had issues with a landlord who used to come over unannounced. “He would just let himself in,” said Durrer. “Students definitely get taken advantage of,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people know their rights.”
Carol Gualtieri is a landlord whose daughter is at Ryerson. She admits bad landlords exist, but thinks it’s unfair to clump everyone in that category. “People think landlords go to their mailbox and just pick up the rent cheque and it’s not like that,” said Gualtieri. She isn’t opposed to renting to students, so long as they’ve passed a credit check and have good references.
Usually students will need a guarantor to co-sign the lease. The guarantor will pay the rent if the tenant is unable to. But when roommates are involved, even this degree of control can be lost.
Erin Kjaer, first-year image arts student, was in a bind after her living arrangements fell through three weeks before school. She had to move in with total strangers. “I learnt a lot about myself,” said Kjaer. “You really need to know yourself before you move in with other people.” Kjaer thinks all students suffer from the mistakes of rowdy roommates.
She feels unfair judgment is passed on her in the town house community she lives in. “They think ‘well, they’re students’ and that means we’re not going to be good neighbours. I disagree.”
Ivone Alvarez, housing assistant at Ryerson’s Housing office thinks “students are really discerning clientele.” Part of her job is to help students find the information they need to make good choices.
“It is very exciting to find your own apartment and venture out on your own. Enjoy the process.”