I sublet my apartment to a hoarder!

I wish this post wasn’t so personal.

I subletted my apartment for two months and recently found out that my subletter hoards. I see my current predicament as an opportunity to share the horror, in hopes to protect you, my fair reader, from a disastrous renter.

I started working at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? at the same time I was moving into a new place. During my first month at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I had the opportunity to visit an A&E Hoarders shoot. It was an unforgettable experience that I never thought I’d relive so close to home.

I was leaving my old apartment two months before my 1 year lease was coming to an end and received permission from my landlord to find a subletter for the final two months.

I found my subletter on Craigslist like a lot of people do. I received references, got a copy of his healthy bank statement, received the full 2 months rent and damage deposit up front and we even shared our appreciation for the beautiful aesthetic of the heritage building. He seemed perfect.  Two months later I get a call from my old landlord letting me know that she hadn’t seen him in weeks and was frustrated by the furniture he had left in the hall.
After giving 24 hours notice I entered the apartment to find a nightmare. The apartment that I had diligently cleaned before his arrival was now consumed by garbage, rotting food, broken furniture, and next to the unmentionable toilet, lay a soiled interior design magazine. His interest in interior design also showed itself in the form of a dozen dark colour samples painted throughout the walls of the apartment. Half Nate Berkus, half hoarder.

I contacted my brother-in-law whose job involves tenant rights. Turned out because I was subletting I am therefore responsible for the state of the apartment and considered “the landlord”. Great.

It’s not as easy as kicking a troubling tenant out and throwing away their sticky stuff. Tenants have rights and you need to tread carefully or you could be forced to pay them. In B.C. we have the Residential Tenancy Branch available to guide landlords and tenants through this process.

Luckily I know a couple people at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and 1-888-WOW-1DAY Painting and asked for their help. In my case there were health and safety concerns stemming from the hoarder’s stuff, so I had the right to remove what was harmful and impacting the rest of the building like rotting food, disturbing garbage and furniture blocking exits. After 4 hours, my poor apartment was free of junk and the cryptic painting samples were painted over. The smell remained and 20 hours of cleaning was still necessary.

Although I won’t be returning to this apartment, I want to make sure my karma is in check and new tenants can enjoy the space like I did before it was devastated.

I have a hearing with the Residential Tenancy Branch and my tenant next week.  In preparation for the hearing I had to compile three 32 page documents and send them by registered mail (more $$) to the hoarder and the RTB.

My biggest tip for avoiding my experience is to sublet to a friend or friend of a friend who can vouch for your tenant. If that’s not possible make sure to take advantage of the right you have to visit your apartment after providing the appropriate notice to your tenant. I would suggest weekly visits for the first couple of months. My tenant was only living in the apartment for 2 months and the damage he created was inconceivable.  Beware!

Andrew Sutherland is PR Manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and You Move Me. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? inspired Andrew to regain space by saying good-bye to 1/3 of his possessions. Andrew is a mountain man in training who appreciates an awesome view, a good story and organized closets. Connect with Andrew on Google+ or LinkedIn.

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