Skip to main content

Five Hilarious Encounters With The Slumlord

I generally try to avoid posting entries with too many autobiographical details so the following entry might seem a little out of place.  At the same time, however, I feel that the semi-theory that has defined this blog of late (transforming the blog into a place where I have started to relegate aborted academic ideas that fail to make it into papers) has been all too serious and a ranty entry might be in order.

I just got off the phone with my landlord, an experience that always puts me in a bad mood––a mood made all the worse these days because we’re being evicted, our landlord having sold the property, probably for millions, to a gentrifying condo development company.  Onward urban progress!

Usually, because I am somewhat paranoid, I would avoid mentioning my landlord (though I would have no problem mentioning landlords together as a class) in a public blog because, for all I know, she reads this blog as part of her tenant surveillance.  But now that we’re being evicted I figure I can flaunt tact: what is she going to do, evict us a second time?  So in honour of our eviction, and the call I just received, today’s entry will be about the five most “hilarious” encounters with our landlord.

1.  Garbage Strike Shenanigans

We moved into the apartment at the end of the Toronto garbage strike and discovered that the landlord had not bothered to deal with the previous tenant’s trash and was expecting us to deal with these mounds of garbage.  In fact, we still have pictures of our moving party where my partner, myself, and our union friends are sitting outside surrounded by this garbage, drinking beer and having a grand old time.

Eventually, after my partner called our slumlord numerous times that resulted in multiple fights, our landlord finally agreed to “help” move the garbage.  That’s right: she still acted as if it was our responsibility to move the sogging bags of filth belonging to her previous tenant that had accumulated for months––most probably leading to an eventual and ongoing vermin problem.  But because we wanted this garbage gone, we put on gloves and engaged in bagging and hauling the waste away from the side of the house.  (It ended up on the curb at the front of our house for weeks because our landlord also failed to contact the city to deal with her post garbage strike problem, but I won’t get into that.)

It is not, however, the garbage hauling that makes this encounter hilarious.  The humour comes from our interactions with our landlord during the hauling where she complained about the “greedy” garbage workers and their strike, grumbled about how they were “lazy and overpaid”, and extolled the virtues of a privatized garbage utopia.  I should have responded by pointing out that, during the strike, many landlords drew on strike-breaking privatized services to haul garbage and that she was too cheap to pay for this beloved private system: “when you had the chance to participate in garbage privatization you refused, so why do you think it will work?”  Instead I politely asked if she wanted to return to a time where there were no public garbage services, people threw their excrement and urine into the streets, and the plague was rampant.  She conceded that I might have a point, but if only the public workers weren’t so damned lazy and greedy!

Now I truly find it amusing that someone who inherited multiple properties throughout the city, performed the bare minimum of upkeep (as I shall complain below), and is now selling some of these properties for millions, would complain about the “laziness” and “greediness” of city workers.  I love it when wealthy people, whose wealth is insanely subsidized by the work of others, complain when these others ask for a pay raise.

2.  The Swamp that is Our Basement

When we decided we wanted to rent this apartment we were overwhelmed by its combination of size and cheapness.  Perhaps we should have put these two things together, paid more attention in our whirlwind tour through the place, and realized that a cheap place of this size, especially combined with its trendy location, was suspicious.  But oh no: we were overcome with thoughts of proper office spaces and a workshop in the basement.

Except the basement is a mould-infected abyss, complete with a river that emerges whenever it rains.  We like to think of this river as a moat that divides the furnace from what failed to develop into my partner’s work space.  We had to buy a dehumidifier and we run it all the time, removing over 75 pints of water from the air each day.  (On a tangental note, I think someone should develop a dehumidifier that doubles as a water purifier, thus removing the spores from mouldy air moisture and converting it into drinkable water: that would be a truly green product.)

The bathroom is also in the unfinished basement, and it is a lovely place to take baths and showers: that rusty nail that juts out at my face every time I take a shower is pleasant indeed!

Our landlord argued, when we complained about the moat, that our basement is not meant to be a “living space”––and yet, and maybe this is just me, one would assume that bathrooms form an important part of living, at least for people privileged enough to rent an apartment or own a home.  So if our basement is not a living space, what the bloody hell is our bathroom doing down there?

Moreover, sometime in the summer, the bathroom toilet and taps started leaking, forming a tributary to the larger moat.  I left a message on our landlord’s phone about this at the time, figuring that because the rent was inclusive she would care, but did not hear back from her until January of the following year––and then she complained that we should have reported it earlier, revising history and blaming us for her inability to do her job.  I suppose it’s nice that she finally fixed the running toilet, but we had already adapted to its existence: like the moat beyond the bathroom, we conditioned ourselves to pretend it didn’t exist.

3.  More Garbage Shenanigans

I am certain our landlord has a bizarre fascination with garbage and garbage related things.  I suppose that would explain why this apartment is such a hole (and don’t get me started on the boarded up room in the basement that she refuses to open and claims is “empty”) and would probably have been condemned if it was ever opened to a building inspector.  Thankfully our landlord can avoid having her property condemned because, as of June, it will be torn down and she will have both saved and made money in the process.

In any case, for almost an entire year after we moved into this apartment we did not have a proper garbage.  At first we were sharing a tiny garbage bin with our neighbour, but since he paid for it he eventually got annoyed, maybe for good reason, that our garbage was usurping the rightful place of his garbage.  For the longest time our slumlord refused to provide us with a proper bin, telling us that we should keep trying to use the neighbour’s garbage.

We kept up this argument but, because it would not be solved for nine or ten months, we had to figure out an alternate system of garbage disposal.  Our solution was to divide our garbage up into tiny bags and, whenever we went out, carriage these bags in our backpacks and clandestinely dispose of them in city garbage cans.  Yes: we were constantly carrying garbage around in our bags, which isn’t really a bad thing except for the fact that we were also paying rent to someone who should have been taking care of our garbage in the first place.

Eventually we received a garbage bin but not because our landlord decided to accept the logic of our arguments.  What happened was that our rent cheque was not forwarded properly from her previous address and, believing that we were with-holding rent so that she would accede to our garbage demands, one morning she dropped off a shiny new bin... Along with an eviction notice demanding our rent.  And though we had to cut new cheques and cancel old ones, we learned that the only way to deal with our landlord was to with-hold rent (our neighbours, it needs to be said, figured this out years earlier and were in the habit of with-holding rent to get basic things like, you know, a working stove.)

4.  Slick Deals with the Condo Developers

Building demolitions and condo construction took place outside of our bedroom window and we learned to go to sleep wearing earplugs, adapting to the 7 am jack-hammers: it was our own special alarm clock. It was even better when the condo developers were permitted to work on the weekends, provided with kindly police officers (who parked their cruisers in the parking lot / concrete front lawn outside our front doors) to direct traffic, thus again proving that the police are predominantly a force that protects private interests.  Unless I'm wrong and a billion-dollar condo company, engaged in gentrifying a once vital neighbourhood, is a public enterprise.

And so it was only natural that our awesome landlord would involve herself in the condo construction excitement.  She decided to rent the parking lot beside our place, the lot rented by the neighbour behind us for his business, to the condo developers to expand their sphere of noise-making activities closer to our bedroom window.  Then, on one lovely morning, she had the outer wall that provides a tiny covered porch between our bedroom and the lot, ripped away to expose our window to even more noise, rotated the iron stairs of the neighbour above so that they were also just outside our window, and tried to explain all of this away as her attempts to build a "sound barrier."  And this much vaunted sound barrier, when it was finally built, was constructed from the advanced sound-dampening technology of plywood and paint.

Naturally she was rewarded for accommodating the condo developers because soon she was able to sell our property to the same developers, thus absolving her of whatever meagre responsibility she still owed the tenants.  Which leads me to…

5.  Phone call to Speed up Eviction

Apparently the landlord wants us to be nice by agreeing to move out a month before the eviction date.  Although we will be more than happy to not have to pay her another month's rent, the fact that she is hoping that, out of the goodness of our hearts, we will help her get her millions earlier by allowing her to not honour the 120 day eviction notice is truly hilarious.  What is more hilarious is that she has made this suggestion as if she is well within her rights to force us to move a month earlier: she even mentioned her lawyers.

But really, what is she going to do if we refuse to leave a month earlier?  EVICT US?

Or maybe the condo developer will start smashing our walls while we're sleeping: which I suppose could happen, and probably with the kindly police officers directing traffic away from the wrecking ball.


  1. Good grief!

    I guess it's not inappropriate at this time to say it's not hard to appreciate why Mao wanted to destroy the landlords. This one sounds like a prime candidate for expropriation and re-education. Hell, sounds like a trip to the GULAG would not be out order.

    Craps all over you, then has has the nerve to ask/threaten a favour from you. Shameless to the end. The rotten nature of the class never fails to amaze me. Good on you though for the quip about throwing garbage and excrement into the street. You certainly displayed more restraint than I could have.

    Good luck finding a new (better place). Hopefully, the parasite doesn't have a body or something boarded up in that room that she'll dutifully try to hang on you when the demo takes place(I'm a bit paranoid too). You know how f'n weird they can be.

    I liked your assessment of the police as well. Funny how they're always around to facilitate the bourgeoisie but never around to protect someone from them. Realizing this, I have told my kids that when they are stopped by the police and asked to identify themselves, they are to use a Stalinism which refers to copulation with a parent.


    By the way, I finished reading Karl's Mao Zedong today. I thought she was hard on the Cultural Revoluton but pretty bang on regarding Deng and beyond.

  2. Yeah, it's probably not super cool to mention gulags and the like, but whenever I encounter landlords and their ilk I think, regardless of the obvious problems of the gulag system, that's probably why the gulags emerged in the first place.

    Yeah I don't agree with everything Karl says - and I think that her unwillingness to deal with a lot of the current debates around the GLF is a problem - but it's a better historical overview than most of what passes as history these days. My friend argues that it's kind of just a summary of the Meisner position on Mao's China, and I think he's correct. Still, she does raise some good points - and it is always good to be critical of even the greatest periods of revolutionary struggle - even if she fails in some areas. Still, because she's not entirely a Maoist but is definitely not a reactionary, this is a good corrective to a lot of the bad historiographies about China that are being lauded by the bourgeois press these days. Thanks again for convincing me to give it a read.

  3. Oh my! I knew some of these stories, but had no clue you were traipsing around the city with small bags of garbage! I almost spit out the cereal I was eating when I read that.

    For understandable reasons, you want to get out of there ASAP. At the same time, it would be funny to not move out until the bitter end out of spite. I'm a big believer in spite. At the very least, you should pry open that boarded up room before you move.... just to see what's in there. I'll bring a crowbar!

  4. But as RRH indicated above, Xtina, our landlord might be a serial killer and that room her lair - we are scared to see what's in there...

  5. Yes Comrade J, as we say around here in such situations: it's high time to 'bust a move'. She gives me the creeps just reading about her. The basement and garbage situation (even minus "the room") says volumes about her mental state.

    As for my previous (not super cool) comment. I must in the future not forget that this is your blog (and what a magnificent blog it is!) and off the cuff statements regarding the gulag etc. may not be appreciated. For the record, I have issues with that system as well and, as a whole, have found it to be tragic and unproductive (though it will not cause me to break with J.S-nor to have much use for class enemies). I am, however, going to continue to investigate his dealings with Mao and the CPC. As you've pointed out again and again, we muct be willing to critique and accept good criticism of our position(s).


  6. Well, to be fair, I did find the comment funny and responded in kind. And though I also have problems with the gulag system, and Stalinist-style socialism in general, compared to the [North] American prison-industrial complex (including military concentration camps and Rendition programs abroad), the gulags (despite right-wing rhetoric to the contrary) were pretty tame.

    As for "Uncle Joe", although he was the leader of the Soviet Union, I think it's high time we criticize the whole Stalin-Trotsky divide (Trotskyists need to criticize this as well) considering that, as a lot of Maoist-influenced theorists have pointed out, their dialectical materialist theory was pretty much the same (or, as Amin argues, two sides of the same dogmatic coin). The point is that Trotsky, because he lost the political struggle to Stalin, ended up causing problems (and I reject he was working for the CIA, or a "social fascist", but was just egotistical and unprincipled), whereas Stalin remained the recognized leader of the world communist movement. The rise of revolutionary China and the new development of theory from this second world historical communist revolution, took both Trotsky and Stalin by surprise - and the Trotskyists and Stalinists in China had, pretty much, the same analysis of how the original CPC should work before Mao broke from their dogmatism. There's a lot on this...

    Actually, in the debate between Kruschev's revisionist Soviet Union and China in the 60s, there's a great piece by the Chinese communists on Stalin: they critique is errors, but argue that Kruschev's critiques are critiques from the right rather than the left and point out how these types of anti-Stalinist positions serve the imperialists. That part of the Great Debate can be found here:


  8. Actually our landlord [slumlord] is a woman... But we hate her just the same. And she probably loves patriarchy anyhow! (Well certainly she loves patriarchal inheritance rites!)

  9. Thanks for the link, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    If I had been alive at the time, I would have been (actually am) in line with the position expressed by the CPC in this rebuttal.

    Yes, he made mistakes, but to me, this described him best: "Stalin stood in the forefront of the tide of history guiding the struggle, and was an irreconcilable enemy of the imperialists and all reactionaries".

    I have a rather large framed poster of the GS on a wall at home. Honestly, it's like a crucifix to Dracula when it comes my partner's right wing "friends". They don't hang around our place long (maybe for fear of hanging around longer)and I wish we had put him up sooner. The kids like it though, and when their friends ask who it is they say "that's Uncle Joe". Funny thing, their friends keep coming back.

    Maybe you should get one and try it on the (next) landlord. Just sayin....


  10. If only pictures repelled landlords like crucifixes and garlic repels vampires. When it comes to getting their rent, there are no lengths they will go to!

  11. Oh, and I meant to add...

    People generally forget that the problems of "Stalinism" cannot be assigned to a single person but to the bureaucracy that emerged in that period, figureheaded by Stalin. One of the CPC's excellent points was about Khruschev's hypocrisy in his criticism of Stalin: blaming Stalin for the show trials, gulags, etc. was extremely disingenuous considering that Khruschev was a powerful bureaucrat who, under Stalin, created the policy for a lot of these things... But bourgeois thinkers always like to characterize entire social systems as the product of "great men" rather than look at them in a properly critical manner.

  12. I picked up on the criticism of Krushchev and remembered reading that Stalin commented on the cult of personality being built up by those who intended to blame things on him later. These revisionists in waiting had a lot to do with the problems of the terror which Stalin acknowleged as excesses. Regardless, I think bourgeois thinkers find it impossible to believe that the majority of the Soviet people supported JS not out of fear, but out of sincere agreement with him.

    While we're on the subject, news is Deutcher's Stalin came in the mail yesterday. I'll be getting into that when I get home.

    True about a landlord and their rent. If you "must" pay them, there's certainly some value in catching the wary look and noticeable increase in shiftiness JS induces in such devils. Then again, you probably don't need the help.

  13. Hahahaha... well Mao is more fearsome, what with the Jung Chang and Jon Halliday stuff about him being "worse than Stalin"...

  14. I would've sicced the law on her. Absentee landlords are a blight; they want their rent, but they won't do necessary repairs on their buildings. The GULAG is too good for her; I would force her to live as a deminer in Cambodia.

    1. The law is set up to defend landlords not tenants; all tenant rights exist because they've been fought for, but they are minimal at best. We fought legally with her over the duration of our tenancy and it was only because of her failure to give us proper eviction notice that we were able to get some money out of her at the end.


Post a Comment