Landlord Bullies and Lost Cats
CHAPTER 1: We Gave it our Best Shot
As you may already know,
I use cliches we moved. We had no shortage of good reasons for uprooting our physical lives and relocating, but perhaps one of the most imperative was our landlord. At first, he seemed mostly harmless. Moody perhaps, a little bit controlling, but not as bad as they get in this city. We were friendly, cheerful, helpful and generous (we gave him our electric weed whacker now that we had no lawn, and the stacked washer/dryer that we bought used specifically for that apartment). That’s why we couldn’t understand why he seemed to hate our stinking guts. Every little thing was a nuisance, like propping our bikes on the worn out, sliver-giving railing of our balcony because he didn’t want it damaged. Or like placing potted plants on the floor of either the balcony or inside the house. Or using our rolling office chairs because they were noisy. Now, I can sympathise somewhat. If it were my apartment, I’d want people to try to take care of it too, but I also understand that, strangely enough, people live. We even asked him directy if we’d done something to offend him, but he said “Why? You think I’m a prick?”. He was gruff, curt, rude, and generally disrespectful. More so when someone was watching. He was always braver when he had an audience of his friends. Case in point, we were struggling financially after I got sick. I couldn’t work, and Le Clown was doing his best to find contracts to get us through. We paid rent every month, but we were late a few months in a row. Not because we didn’t care, we just didn’t have it. Face to face, he was patient and understanding. In front of the neighbours, however, he puffed up his chest and loudly asked “hey, where’s my rent?”. Nothing like a little public humiliation to nurture a tenant/landlord relationship.
These regular and frequent morsels of disrespect begin to add up, and though Le Clown and I promised a “year of nothing”, we knew we had to go.
CHAPTER 2: It Gets Worse
There’s renting laws here in Montreal, and a bureau that tries to enforce them called La Regie du Logement. Having been renters all our lives, Le Clown and I knew most of the rights and responsibilities on both sides of the rental relationship. I can only assume, however, that our former landlord is functionally illiterate. He told us repairs were our responsibility and refused to make any. He considers smoke detectors optional, and mould as part of the cachet. The apartment wasn’t bad over all, but it was no prize winner. During the last few weeks of our inhabitation, prospective tenants came to see the apartment. Here in MTL, the law states that the current tenant must be given 24 hours notice before a visit. This happened maybe twice out of perhaps a dozen visits. Near the end, our landlord was giving us a half hour notice. Additionally, though we asked on several occasions to schedule visits during the day as LEP goes to sleep at 6pm, according to the landlord, everyone wanted to come at night. Then he stopped asking altogether. A couple showed up with no warning and the landlord didn’t even meet them. The couple were lovely. We were livid. The last time, he TOLD us that people were coming in an hour, sometime after six pm. Le Clown said no. We wanted 24 hours notice from now on, and visits before 6pm, no exceptions. Landlord acrimoniously thanked Le Clown for being so reasonable, in front of people, of course.
CHAPTER 3: That’s When Everything Went to Hell
Less than an hour after the confrontation, the doorbell rings. I answer it, knowing it’s likely the landlord. He starts making banal small talk, as is his habit when he wants something, but I stop him with a dry “what can I do for you, A*****Y”. He tells me that he’d like to show the apartment the next day between five and five thirty. My face relaxes and I smile. I thank him and start to say “I really appreciate….” but this time he cuts me off with a smirk and a “…and the same thing the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and….”. I give him an angry look and close the door in his face. So he rings, one, two, six, 12 times until Le Clown answers. We’re furious, and Le Clown lets him know. Words were exchanged, and the door was once again closed in our landlord’s face. The persistent doorbell keeps up, all the while I’m trying to put LEP to bed. Le Clown goes down once more, and was decidedly much less polite this time around. Voices were raised, cussing ensued, tempers were lost. The landlord refused to let Le Clown close the door by shoving it open once, then twice. I was frightened. I didn’t know how far the landlord would go. Would he use his own key to get in? Would he vandalize our car or steal LEP’s wagon out of spite? Would he hurt our cats? Once Le Clown manages to close the door (because he is big and strong and the landlord is sad and weak), the doorbell begins ringing again. Le Clown picks up the phone and calls 9-1-1 and tells the landlord he is doing so. The ringing stops.
The police arrive (in less than 15 minutes, surprisingly) and have a little talk with Mr. Landlord. We don’t hear from him again with two exceptions. First, he tries to play chicken, in front of his son, with Le Clown while he’s holding LEP in his arms. Le Clown does not yield, and the landlord makes a grand display of getting out of Le Clown’s way. His son, who was grinning, loses his smile. The second occurrence was waiting for us as we entered our apartment for the last time to clean it. We had plastered the nail holes we made in two years of living in this place. This was the fatal mistake. We weren’t crazy hole makers. We didn’t hang a hammock from the ceiling or use the walls as target practice. We hung pictures and shelves, like most people do, all of which our landlord had seen multiple times without remark. There was no clause in the lease about making or repairing holes. Nonetheless, a three page letter in his wife’s handwriting awaited us with accusations of vandalism, not because we made holes, but because we repaired them. He was demanding $600 for paint and $100 per room for a contractor’s fee. That would total $1200 in “damages” that, if not paid in 48 hours, would result in a complaint to the Regie.
Not only is the man illiterate, he’s obviously insane…or…too stupid to realize that we know what he’s doing is called extortion (and possibly libel). The letter demanded an acknowledgement within 48 hours, and I acknowledged good and plenty. I stormed down and rang their doorbell (only once). When the wife answered, I let her know how I felt in a cross but rational and civil way. No cuss words, no yelling, but a very firm “you have no case”. We left that place as soon as we could even though I hadn’t cleaned to my standards. I think we had good reason, however, having been subjected to such hostility. Again, I didn’t feel safe. To this day, we don’t feel safe.
Epilogue: Here We Are
Interestingly, two of our three cats went missing within a day of each other, immediately before and during the move. More interestingly, only a couple of days prior to that, our landlord had a cat in a live trap, tucked under wood and leaves. I only noticed because the poor creature was howling for over an hour below my kitchen window. We are paranoid, not knowing if our cats met an undignified end at the hands of this black-hearted man. We don’t know if the remaining cat is safe, but she is indoors at least.
We simply don’t know the extent of this man’s ill will. We do know that we will file a complaint with the Regie, for harassment among other things. We will write accurate reviews in places like The Leak. We do know that we will (and did) warn the SPCA, local shelters and other resources about his habit of trapping cats. We will poster the neighbourhood with pictures of our two missing friends and information that “someone” is stealing animals in the area. Above all, we will get back to a normal life, because our former landlord has no real power over us. He doesn’t deserve to be in our thoughts. Shaking it off, a little every day.