housing

An Apology to all the Landlords I’ve Ever Had

As I look for a new apartment in a city without affordable rent, I offer this confession for my housing sins.
December 23, 2019, 2:36pm
Man writes a letter apologizing to his landlord, housing
Illustration by Hunter French

A month ago, I got this text from my roommate: “Also I think Jackie will be moving in in the springtime.”

“Nice,” I responded, though I knew what it meant. I had to find a new apartment.

I have been lucky the past few years. While I have seen friends post desperate pleas on Facebook that they were willing to live in a large dog’s mouth as long as it was less than two grand, I have avoided the inhuman rigors and unspeakable price points of the Toronto rental market. I live in a nice two-bedroom in a desirable area of town for $600 a month.

I can imagine your response. “$600! Fuck you! I would devour a nest of sleeping infants for rent that’s double that!”

I get it. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,850. I’m incredibly fortunate. My roommate scooped up the place six years ago. Even more fortuitous for us has been the landlord situation. Our landlord is incredibly old and seems to be unfit for any job outside of president of the United States. One afternoon my roommate and I watched him hose down the concrete alleyway beside our building. For an hour we watched him, slouched over in a chair, aimlessly spraying water on the cement squares, while I wondered if this was him trying to renovict us.

I’m sorry if that seemed harsh. I’m stressed. I’ve had it too good for too long but now the grace period created by a confluence of friendship and the increased rates of senility among the ownership class is over. I am defenseless. I am a pathetic mass of bad credit and no savings, naked and afraid, prostrate before the gnashing teeth of this sociopathic real estate market.

What horrors will I have to face? Will I have to have multiple roommates, each one with an active and concerning sex life, the volume of their partners only matched by the volume of their own groans of pleasures? Will I be forced underground into a basement, delirious with claustrophobia and raving to increasingly infrequent visitors that the one, dirt-encrusted ray of sunshine that hits the side of my fridge at 2:15 p.m. each day is actually a pretty good amount of light? Will I have to find the love of my life, a wealthy patron of working-class comedians, who loves me for me but also just so happens to own a three-bedroom, two-bath?

I worry because I have been a bad tenant. Certainly not the worst, but I have left behind many stains, both metaphorically and literally, on my record. And like an aging hitman who (allegedly) murdered his best friend, I sit now before my moment of reckoning hoping that a last-minute confession will save me from my sins catching up. And so, I offer a catalogue of my transgressions in the hopes that it will reach the ears of the bloodthirsty gods of habitation and convince them to be merciful.

My confession

I am sorry for every late rent cheque. I am always aware of what day it is and am especially acutely aware of when the rent is due; to suggest otherwise was absurd and insulting. In fact, every reason I have given, unless it was “I am a drunk with poor impulse control,” was a lie. For these fabrications I apologize as well.

I am also sorry for what I did to your floors—your freshly buffed hardwood floors that I would ruin any time I had to move a couch, whether for remodelling purposes or because I dropped a joint under it. Tugging and pulling the furniture—my kingdom for those little pieces of felt on the legs—and then being shocked by the vicious furrows carved in the formerly unblemished surface is a horrific example of one man’s apathy toward the natural state of things, enough to make Edward Burtynsky wince. I apologize for having the same response every time: a panicked scrubbing by hand in the hopes it was not all that bad, followed by a short, cool slide into not giving a shit.

I am sorry for what I did to your walls. I am sorry for the tiny galaxy of holes I’ve left behind in every room I’ve lived in, the remnants of halting and unsuccessful attempts at some sort of interior design. A pathetic collection of posters and artwork made up of a couple gifts from an ex, things that previous tenants left behind, and stuff that fell out of record sleeves, was constantly re-arranged in the hopes that it would trick the visitor into thinking that a sophisticated creative-type resided between these walls. But really, if my walls could talk they would say, “This guy liked music, I guess.”

I am sorry for the time I invited a woman back to one of my apartments and said it was cool if she had a cigarette in the downstairs basement. And I’m doubly sorry that she then proceeded to sit on the sink that caused the sink to rip off the wall, breaking the pipes and creating a gush of water that I was eventually able to stop but not before humiliating myself by yelling, “Call your dad,” while attempting to dam the water with the palm of my hand. And I’m triple sorry that I neither got somebody to fix the sink or told you about it and instead did nothing and let the bathroom descend into a sort of snake prison.

That is less a humorous exaggeration and more a reference to the time the ball python that the girl in the basement owned escaped into our apartment and in a fit of terror my roommates and I picked up the snake with broomsticks and locked it in the wrecked washroom turning it into a low-grade set from the Indiana Jones franchise.

I am sorry for all that I’ve left behind when I moved out. The drawers of pennies and coasters that just accumulate throughout the years, like the detritus of a life not well-lived, whose existence you completely forget about until the moment of moving out when everything is packed up and suddenly you remember there is still this drawer filled with sporadic nonsense and the idea of organizing it all and figuring out what to do with it is utterly demoralizing and you decide to pretend that you didn’t even see it and then you justify this decision by telling yourself that the next people who move in will definitely need the almost finished roll of tin foil, stained tea towel, bent thumb tacks, and stretched elastic bands, and that you are actually doing them a favour.

I am sorry that in one tiny apartment we had three cats. While perhaps I paid a price in that my brain is now filled with parasites from the little monsters and my nose is permanently seared with their stench, I still owe you an apology for the litter-box scenario. We had the litter box outside in this wonderful patio space nestled between the walls of our apartment and building next door. At some point, the maintenance of it got away from us and the box consumed the space, turning it into the doorway to Cat Hell: rock-hard cat feces, smears of grey muck, and the little balls of litter rubble that made the once-delightful nook look like the remnants of some sort of cat construction site.

And I’m sorry that when you called and asked whose cats they were, I told you their owner and I had stopped being friends and were no longer communicating. That was a particularly bold lie.

Really, I’m sorry that I must trouble you with my disgusting human life at all. I know that being a landlord is hard. It would be so much better and easier for you if I did not exist at all, or if I were nothing but a watch that needed storage in a one-bedroom apartment, every tick of my second hand representing an increase in the value of your investment. Or if I was just an abstract concept like valuation or percentages. No, I have to be saddled with being alive, which is annoying for both of us!

So I’m sorry for my capacity for mistakes, for my uncleanliness, for my stench, for the hair that falls from my body in a seemingly endless supply despite its rapid diminishment on my head, for all the floss threaders, for every single peep of noise I’ve made whether braying laughter or a muffled cry, for all the fun I’ve had, for all the losses I’ve mourned, and for all the breaths I’ve taken inside of your properties. It’s a regrettable situation and, for you, certainly not ideal.

Also I’m sorry I smoked a hella lot of weed inside; I thought the smell would totally air out.

I’m sorry on behalf of all the people I know and love. That we continue to trouble you with our meagre existences, an entire generation of people attempting to buy enough succulents to make whatever hovel we’ve stuffed our dreams into seem like a home. It’s embarrassing and you shouldn’t have to deal with it. All you did was own some property.

Or maybe our dirty little asses is the price you have to pay for turning the city into a playground for the rich.

Follow Jordan Foisy on Twitter.