How To Sue Your Landlord and Win

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One of the biggest complains from tenants living in expensive cities is “renovictions.” To recap, this is when landlords evict their tenants under the guise of “renovation” so that they can raise rent above guidelines. I wrote about this in a previous post and today, we’re going to see a real-life example of someone who actually sued their landlord and won in small claims court!

I’m sure the comments below will be full of thoughtful and civilized discussions. *slides sharpened knives onto table while whistling nonchalantly*

So, without further ado, let’s hear it from “Mrs.I-Fought-My-Landlord-And-Won:”

1) How long have you been living in your place? 

About two years


2) Tell me a bit about your place (# of bedrooms, type of rental, etc)?

We rented a 2 bd, 2 bath condo in the North York area of Toronto.


3) Tell me about your experience with your landlord.

When we first rented the property, we worked with the landlord’s property manager and seldomly interacted with the landlord. When we renewed our lease after the first year, the landlord had stopped using the property manager, so we worked with him directly. We would help him collect mail that was sent to our address, and his receptionist would pick it up from us usually in the lobby. So, we didn’t really interact with him much unless he needed something.

Near the end of our 2nd year lease, the landlord started messaging us about his child wanting to move back in and he was also thinking of selling, but then kept changing his mind. He also wanted to up our rent by more than the rental increase guideline, which we rejected. Then he started to become quite rude and unpleasant to deal with. 

We told him that we had no intentions of moving, but if his son was moving back in, we would need some time to look for a new place because I was scheduled to give birth near the end of our lease. It would be really challenging to look for places and move during this time.

4) How did you manage to take them to small claims court and win?

Throughout this ordeal, I had a feeling the landlord was going to sell and that the claim that his child was moving back in was just to be able to evict us so he could renovate and sell. Which is exactly what happened. We were keeping an eye on the property through Zolo, and when we saw the listing, we starting looking at the process for filing a bad faith claim against the landlord.

We took screenshots of all the evidence we had in order to prove that the landlord was selling the unit and proceeded with the application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). 

When it came to our court date, we presented our evidence to the judge, and she asked us a few questions about the application like what damages we’re looking to claim. We were eligible for a year’s worth of the difference in rent and moving expenses. She granted those to us and scolded the landlord a bit.

So all in all, it was a relatively straight forward process. Just a lot of anxiety around this situation because it feels like you’re going to battle in very unfamiliar grounds.



5) Does taking them to court make it difficult to get references for future rentals?

When we got our next rental, the landlord never asked for references so this didn’t affect us.



6) Is there anything you would’ve done differently?

hmm.. haha maybe claim more expenses.



7) What did you learn from this experience?

I learned more about my rights as a tenant and how to navigate the small claims system. I also learned about the tenant hotline that’s been pretty useful to discuss tenant related issues.



8) What advice would you give to other tenants in a similar situation?

I would tell other tenants to make sure they educate themselves on their rights, and what they’re entitled to. 



9) Do you think the laws do enough to protect tenants? Why or why not? Would you change anything?

No, because the fines are not great enough to deter landlords from evicting in bad faith.

In the end he had to pay not even $10k, which is nothing compared to the profits he made from selling the property.

Also, even after there is a judgement against the landlord, the landlord might not pay and the tenant has to do the following up to make sure they get the money.

For our situation, the landlord had to pay us by a deadline, but hadn’t done so. We ended up having to go the route of garnishing the landlords wage from his bank. I’m a little fuzzy on the details now but I remember going
to the LTB to first apply to garnish wages. Then I had to bring a copy to the landlord’s bank and wait to see if we would get paid. It was funny because that same week we actually received the cheque from the landlord, but it was too late. The garnishment was already taking place. 

The reason I even knew about how to do the garnishment was because I dug around the internet and found a really helpful article about another guy who went through a very similar situation. He broke the process down step by step which was amazing.

All in all, there is not much support for tenants and the onus is on the tenant to make sure they get what they deserve. 

***

Wow, so I learned a lot today. Apparently, if your landlord acts in bad faith you can take them to court without repercussions for your next rental AND garnish your landlord’s wages if they refuse to pay.

What do you think? Was the verdict fair? Has this ever happened to you?


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13 thoughts on “How To Sue Your Landlord and Win”

  1. Another reason why landlords like this should never become “landlords” to begin with

    The proper way would be to observe and adhere to their tenant’s rights, either wait it out OR serve them the appropriate notice and sell the property as is. This now becomes part of the purchase sale agreement between seller and buyer as in the tenants cannot and should NOT be evicted to accommodate the sale of the home especially if the tenants still have a valid lease (unless of course the buyers themselves will be living in it) or in this particular case, trick them into believing something else then doing the complete 180 degree turn! Ughhh idiots!!!

    I’m glad to be out of this game! This just makes “the good ones” look bad!

    ImmigrantOnFIRE

  2. What if the landlord initially had planned for his son coming back but had to sell because the son changed his mind. Would that still show his bad intent.

    1. You still have to give proper notice and not whipsaw the tenant. The tenant needs to have time to look for a new place. Also, this landlord was trying to raise rent above the guidelines and lying about their son moving in when they’d actually listed the property for sale. So many red flags that clearly indicated to the judge acting in bad faith.

  3. I am wondering did you move on your own or the landlord gave you the notice of eviction ? We are kind of in the similar situation as you were. However, our landlord wants to sells the place. I know that he’s not trying to kick us out to tenant it to someone else since he’s using the money to buy another property.

    1. They moved on their own. I don’t blame them. Why would anyone want to live in a place with an unreasonable landlord?

  4. Its not even close to being fair. The landlord should have had to pay a fine on top of the amount here. This verdict motivates the behavior to continue to occur. Most tenants won’t go through all this hassle. Meaning landlords know they have a low chance of ever being sued, and worst case its $10k, which is nothing on the profit of selling or increased rent.

    The next thing is collecting the money. I was in this situation but as a landlord a few years back. It wasn’t even worth the hassle to find out how to collect the money. In most of these cases its best to just move on, rather than creating a even bigger emotional toll. These things get emotional because the bad actor is literally stealing from the good actor, its really draining. In this case they were pregnant and looking for a new place to live, which isn’t easy.

    Summary – There should be a serious fine of at-least another $10,000 above and beyond any tenant claim. And there should be a much easier way to collect your money. Until that happens, the bad actors (tenant or landlord, there is bad actors in both camps) end up winning, well the honest good ones lose.

  5. Congrats to Mrs. I Fought My Landlord and Won! I am so done with renting from individuals who read a book about investing in real estate but don’t want to be responsible landlords, and squander the goodwill of great tenants. I only rent in corporate owned buildings now. I’ve had one super landlord and /several/ unbelievably dishonest and scummy ones. The last one wanted me to sign a 2 year lease and 6 months later put the house up for sale. The new owner wanted to live in my unit and the landlord assured me he would cover my moving expenses. One guess the outcome of a lying jerk (*sheathing the knife*). That’s just one incident from Tales of Tenant Land. And, I’m done with home ownership in case other readers are wondering; my investment income pays the rent.

  6. I read this and thought: The tenant expended too much energy and thought complying with the landlord to leave. Then they expended too much time and energy investigating and taking the landlord to the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) and small claims court.

    This is my take: Do nothing. Landlord wants you to leave. That’s nice. Still, do nothing. The landlord can go to the LTB and try to get you evicted. In the meantime, stay put. Enjoy. Ensure you pay your rent on time. More than likely, your landlord won’t be able to make their case and you stay where you are because the LTB is aware most landlord claims are utter bullshit. And if they do win, ask the LTB for time to find a new place. They will accommodate another 2-3 months in the tenants favour. Be efficient with your time and energy as a tenant. Don’t forget, the landlord wants you out. They will give you a glowing review. And don’t be a bend over, back door receiving, spineless twit. As a tenant, you’re living a carefree lifestyle. Keep it that way.

    In this case, the tenant was a fool. Nice to share the story but still a fool.

    1. I get where you’re coming from, but, in fact, it’d be better if more tenants did this *and* documented the details of what is allowed *and* how to go about it.

      I’ve been in disputes in the past (and won) and it’s not actually that complicated once you know the system. People who find themselves in the position of inciting a lot of disputes tend to be systematically dishonest people who don’t know the fine details (and assume no one else does either) and are just trying to squeeze you. Once you know the details, it’s actually not a huge amount of effort. In my case, landlord kept the deposit without our agreement, I called them on the phone and told them to return it or dispute it. They went to the trouble of filing the dispute and lost hands down. Total actual time required – about 1-2 hours of my time. Total return – about $500. Not huge money, but not huge effort for me either.

  7. LOL. No wonder you will always be a renter as you sweat the small stuff. You sound really vindictive and obsessed. You don’t own the property dude. You must have spent thousands of dollars of your time and effort in addition to the stress involved to get a few dollars out of a land owner. Then you have to pay tax on it. Also probably took a lot of time from your newborn doing it all. You should have spent the time improving your credentials or getting a job to put some money together to buy your own place

    1. For most people $10000 is not ‘the small stuff’. That’s about 20% of the average person’s after tax income in a year. And no, you don’t have to pay tax on the money you receive from a tenancy dispute – it’s compensation for damages incurred, not lost income.

      Not owning the property doesn’t mean you don’t have rights as well.

  8. I LOVE small court claims cases. It’s where truly the little guy has the best chances of winning because there are no procedural things that you have to know and it’s a more relaxed playing field of the judge asking you questions nonchalantly.

    What a great story. I learned something new today.

  9. Always a jerky landlord in the batch that make the others look bad. I am a landlord and also a member of a few FB groups with landlords and some of the drama that goes on those sites boggles my mind. Bad tenants, bad landlords, no common sense. As a landlord you have a right to sell your property and do with it as you wish, but you have to be mindful of your tenants with those decisions. We sold a property with tenants in place, the next owner bought the property pretty much as is. Leases were kept in place, rents were the same, no drama. The new owners knew what needed to be fixed, and everything else about the properties. I think trying to do something weasely or unethical on both sides never ends well and will always bite you in the you know what in the end. Moral of the story, do the right thing.

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