If you're a renter in a Canadian city, chances are you live with a quiet but constant fear of being evicted.
With affordable housing becoming more of a myth than an actual possibility, and apartment vacancy rates hovering around one percent in Vancouver and Toronto, nobody wants to find themselves with a notice on their door. Desperately scrolling through the housing section of Craigslist is not how you want to be spending literally every moment of your spare time.
Inspired by this paranoia—which is justified in many cases—VICE decided to ask people for stories about eviction, and about their biggest fuck-ups as tenants. What does it actually take to get the boot? Will cramming 150 people and 7,000 pounds of sand into your apartment lead to the immediate dissolution of your lease agreement?
Below are stories of mud-wrestling, missed payments, pit bulls and police visits. And if there's anything we can learn from the stories below, it's that although eviction can be out of our control and totally unfair (I'm looking at you, greedy landlords), maybe sometimes it's actually warranted.
We got the idea for a beach party when we were coming back from a spring break trip to Cancun. We were like, that was fun, but what if we did it again, here in Canada? So we started doing research into how we could get sand in Canada in the middle of March. We contacted a landscaping company—they were the only ones who would deliver on a weekend and that had thawed sand. That's actually an issue in Canada: getting sand that's not frozen in the winter.
When we got the sand delivered, it took eight of us three hours to get it into our apartment, shovelling it in buckets and running it up the stairs. It was also quite expensive—I think we spent about $1,300 on sand and polyvinyl so we could cover our floors and also make a slip n' slide, which ended up being about 50 feet long, down our hallway. On the first slip n' slide test run, we ended up breaking a door. We had one mattress at the end and that wasn't enough to stop the momentum of a full-speed university male. Then at the party itself we had about 170 people, but the police never actually showed up. We were shut down by the fire department because someone pulled the building's fire alarm when we wouldn't let him in. (It was a kegger and he didn't want to pay.) But I had people coming up to me a year later, at the bar, recognizing me or my roommates saying it was the best party they'd ever been to, and we didn't even get in trouble for it.
But then we decided to throw a mud wrestling party. All it took was mixing a bunch of topsoil with water, so it was pretty simple this time. Our turnout was about 50 people, and we had a good amount of people come in and wrestle. But then the next day, one of the property managers was walking by and we had the door wide open. The guy just looked and was like, "what the fuck?" But he walked in, and that's technically illegal because he didn't give us 24 hours notice and he didn't knock. He kind of got caught in his own trap, and I think that's kind of why we didn't get in as much shit as we did. We didn't get in any shit, actually. Obviously we were being idiots, but that didn't give him permission to break the law.
I'd been living in this apartment for five years when we had a change of landlord. With the previous landlord, I'd just pay my rent whenever I wanted and it was fine. She'd put notices up but they were more reminders for me, like, "oh I gotta pay rent soon." So when the new management came in and started giving me notices about the rent, I just ignored them as usual.
I got home one day and everything was outside on the grass. Everything. People had stolen a bunch of my stuff—both of my TVs and the camera I use to record my show. It had been sitting out there since 9 AM but I didn't get home until 3 PM. My stuff was out there all day, and they never even called me. It was a total shock and I was like, how did this happen? But I'm not a person who panics, so I went into the leasing office and they were kind of smiling and laughing, smirking, and they said "you haven't come in, you haven't talked to us, we put the notices on the door so what did you expect?" And I was like, "you know what, you're right." And they really were. I'd seen the notices. I had actually paid that month's rent but there was a late fee balance—$235—which I didn't know about. They put me out for $235.
But it was a good message for me because I needed to grow up. That place was my first apartment, and at the time I was going to school, working a full time job, and so I really had a lot on my plate. But still—how could I be so blind as to ignore those notices and stuff? It made me wonder what else I was blind to, and really opened my mind to so many other things I was not paying attention to before.
A few months ago I was washing my delicates in the laundry room sink. It's a huge sink that takes a while to fill and so I left the water running while I went to answer a quick email or two, which was incredibly dumb because, predictably, I forgot about the sink. Fifteen or so minutes later I bolted from my desk with that oh shit feeling. I didn't notice anything catastrophic at the time—there was just a big puddle. I threw down towels and used a dustpan to scoop the excess water into a mop bucket. Then I did a final mop and everything looked good as new. The floor had never looked better, actually. I was like, whew, good save.
Thirty minutes later the tap in my kitchen wouldn't work. They'd shut off the water to my apartment. I was immediately nervous (did the water shut-off have something to do with my little mistake?) but rationalized it must be a coincidence. The water eventually came back on, but over the next couple days repairmen kept coming in and out of the building. I had this sinking feeling that it had to do with my mishap, and I grew increasingly terrified. Then I noticed a sign on the door of the toy store below our building: "CLOSED DUE TO FLOOD!" I just about passed out. Did I single-handedly shut down the toy store? And if I had, would I be charged an obscene amount of money? Or evicted?
A day or so later, two repairmen came to my door and asked if I'd used the washing machine on the day they shut off the water. I said no. Then they asked if I'd used the sink and I confessed everything. Their reaction was bizarre—they were happy! I guess in telling the truth I'd saved them hours of work trying to figure out what went wrong. They said the toy store below our building had flooded, but that I shouldn't worry because the store's insurance would cover it. They were like, "ah, no worries, you won't have to pay, and thank you for being honest!" This hardly relieved me. I had probably broken the dreams of a thousand children.
For the next few months I was confronted with the "CLOSED DUE TO FLOOD!" sign every day. Once, I even saw a child crying outside the shop. They were staring into the dark windows and literally balling! And to this day the place is still closed—I may have driven their business into the ground. I'm amazed I didn't face any consequences.
It started with weed and dogs. I was living with a buddy in a condo, and my dad was covering about 75 percent of the rent—which he agreed to do if I went to college. I was going to school to be a nurse or a paramedic and but I didn't like the lifestyle. The nursing department required me to get mandatory vaccines—flu shots every six months—but I believe in holistic medicine, not vaccines, and so I dropped out of school.
At this time the apartment complex was asking me to neuter my dog—a pitbull-mastiff—and to show his vaccination records and all that. But I wouldn't, because my dog is my prerogative. The neighbours also smelled a lot of marijuana coming from my apartment, which they complained about, and so the landlord kicked me out with a ten day notice. I have a prescription for a service dog, which is a natural alternative for treating PTSD, and I also have a prescription for cannabis use, but no, they still kicked me out. But it's funny because the the things that got me kicked out—weed and dogs—are how I make money now. I decided I was going to become a dog trainer and what I call a holistic advisor for cannabis.
Anyhow, I went back to my parent's house and lived in their garage for nine months. During this time I worked in construction for my dad's company, while also trying to grow my dog training business and my weed business. My parents didn't know about the cannabis, but then they started catching on to all the people coming down the street, and they could smell pot, and then they found a bunch of it in the garage. And so my parents literally evicted me. They had the government and the police involved, and so I was legally evicted from the garage.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
*Name has been changed
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