Nightmare tenant Nina Willis battling with new landlord over 7th eviction
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Nina Willis is facing eviction, again. The Toronto tenant, who has a long history of failing to pay her rent and dragging her landlords to court, has been ordered to leave the two-storey Scarborough area property she has rented for more than a year.
As with each of her previous evictions — this case is the seventh Torstar News Service has documented dating back to 2005 — privacy legislation means her tactics and rental history will be kept secret from current or prospective landlords.
Willis is appealing a January 2014 ruling from the provincially funded Landlord and Tenant Board, instructing her to clear out for failing to pay her full rent, or pay on time. The board ordered her to leave by March. Because she appealed, as she has done in each previous case, her eviction is put on hold pending the outcome of the hearing.
Willis did not respond to emails asking for comment, or a letter left at the rental property. Her landlord, through his real estate agent, declined to comment.
In 2012, Torstar reported that Willis has been ordered out of at least six houses since 2005, according to tribunal and court documents obtained by Torstar, as well as interviews with landlords, lawyers and paralegals.
Board hearings are open to the public, but unlike cases before the courts, the record of a tenant’s appearances cannot be accessed, and the tribunal won’t comment on, or release information about, a tenant’s history. Provincial privacy legislation means the board has the option simply to confirm or deny if records exist, if those records contain information that could be considered an unjustified invasion of personal privacy.
Prior to 2003, rental information was released for a fee. But that stopped, in part, after broad requests for files were rejected and then appealed before the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC).
A board spokesperson explained they now adhere to an “approach set out in a decision” from the IPC, where an adjudicator determined that the release of the information in the files — including names, addresses, marital status, sex and financial history — would violate a person’s privacy.
The files do become part of public court records if a tenant or landlord appeal a decision made by the board, which is how Torstar pieced together Willis’ record and learned about her current eviction order.
When Willis first meets a landlord she seems like an ideal tenant, according to former landlords. She is friendly and outgoing and rents homes in need of minor repairs, often with the promise she and her family will fix the place up.
Once inside she often stops paying, or pays late. When she is taken to the tenant board she complains about the state of the house — which according to renting rules can result in an abatement of rent — and makes allegations of discrimination and harassment.
If ordered out, she appeals, and takes her case to a division of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which results in a stay of the eviction. A date for her current appeal has not been set.
At her current address, Willis and Christopher Lancelotte, who has rented before with Willis, verbally agreed to pay $1,600 a month for the house, starting in late 2012, according to tribunal documents. They paid for two months and provided a rent deposit of $1,600.
That was the last time the rent was paid in full, or on time, and from August 2013 through November 2013 no rent was paid, the documents showed. Prior to the hearing they paid the board $3,200 in trust, which was later given to the landlord.
Willis and Lancelotte told the tribunal the landlord’s agent was late collecting the rent, and they withheld money because of maintenance issues and utility bills. They also blamed car troubles, a vacation and issues at their bank.
The landlord was ordered to make repairs, after a list of maintenance issues was reviewed by the Property Standards Committee, in Scarborough. An appeal of the order, written by the landlord’s former lawyer, details allegations that Willis and a fellow tenant deliberately caused the damage, including holes in the ceiling. Willis was “asking for significant amounts of money in compensation” from the landlord, and had changed the locks and stopped the landlord from entering to assess potential damage, the lawyer wrote in letter to the committee.
In February 2012, Willis was convicted of two counts of obstructing her previous landlord’s right to enter the unit and one count of changing the lock without her landlord’s consent and was ordered to pay $2,750. The charges were laid by the enforcement and investigations arm of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Willis is also awaiting the outcome of a case heard in small claims court. Her last landlord is trying to recover money for damage he alleges she did to his rental home. A judgment is expected in June.
She has also been charged with fraud by Toronto police, allegedly for providing fake employment information and bad cheques. Her court date to address the criminal charges is scheduled for late 2014.