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The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to better the relationship between renters and landlords across the province of Ontario. While pro-tenant and renter groups have called for full-on rent forgiveness, the federal government has aided only in providing specialized rent relief to commercial property, leaving renters feeling disgruntled.
Pro-renter groups, such as Keep Your Rent Toronto—a Facebook group exceeding 6,000 members—have put pressure on provincial and local government, calling for action from the Ford government, as well as from their mayors, city councils, and Members of Parliament.
While pressure mounts on the pro-tenant side, residential landlords have called out for help from the Ford government. One polarizing call for help came from Peterborough landlord Liz Woosey, who says she had to sell her home partly because of a renter who hasn't paid rent in over a year.
A viral post from Woosey shows a large sign displayed outside her property with the name of her tenant, Sean Heffernan, fully visible. The sign is brief, but provides insight into a frustrating situation.
"Sean Heffernan owes me 13 months' rent ($16,250). Premier Doug Ford, please help Ontario landlords with tenants who refuse to pay rent," the sign reads.
The post, which tags the Conservative Party, initially garnered support before being swiftly flooded with angered renters, calling Woosey a "parasite," posting Maoist memes, some including guillotines.
The Post Millennial reached out to Liz Woosey, who told us her side of the story.
Woosey that Heffernan paid first-and-last rent in July 2019, but that by September, he had stopped paying rent. Heffernan told Woosey that his father was ill, and that he was unsure about his future in the apartment.
"He told me that his father had passed away, and that he was going to come into an inheritance, so he would borrow money from a family member in the mean time to get caught up. Just stories, all the time," said Woosey.
Woosey said that she gave Heffernan an N4 eviction form, also filing out an L1 form to the landlord-tenant board for a request to evict over lack of payment.
"I sent that in at the end of December. In February, I got a letter from them saying our hearing date is in June, six months away. Then COVID hit in March, and nothing's changed. He's still here, they've canceled all of the hearings at the end of March," Woosey explained.
Woosey said that she decided to put up the sign when she realized that Heffernan had lived in her property for "over a year, for free."
"I'm paying for all of his utilities. He pays nothing. I pay for his electricity, heat, cold and hot water, and maintenance... How much longer is he going to be here?"
Woosey said that Heffernan's lack of payments was part of the reason why she had to sell her house and move into the apartment above Heffernan's.
"I moved into the apartment above him... Because I could not afford to support a house and this building without any income coming in, or any income to cover the building... I'm really glad I sold my house, because this is stretching out even longer," said Woosey.
Getting the attention of Premier Ford
Woosey told The Post Millennial that the sign had a dual purpose; to get the attention of Heffernan, and to get the attention of Premier Ford.
"I wasn't really writing it to Sean, I was writing it to Premier Doug Ford, that Ontario landlords need help with tenants who don't pay their rent. To be honest, it was to get [Premier Ford's] attention. I was hoping that somehow it would get his attention, because we tagged the Conservative Party in the post. Maybe he'll hear about it, maybe people will learn what it's like to be a landlord, that—landlords don't make tonnes of money. This isn't something you retire on, unless you've got tonnes of units. I'm not wealthy," said Woosey.
Woosey says that Heffernan has had income throughout the 13 months, and has "chosen not to pay a penny towards where he lives."
"He's older than my three kids, and none of them ask for money," Woosey continued.
Woosey said that she's received threats of violence on Facebook, saying that while the initial feedback was positive, comments have become "very negative. I just wrote up a thing and posting it."
Heffernan would go on to damage the sign, removing his name from being publicly visible.
Heffernan has not yet responded to The Post Millennial's request for a comment.