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Ontario woman finds someone else living in unit she signed leased for

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A 25-year-old Oshawa, Ont. resident says she has been forced to couch-surf and shell out cash for hotels after she discovered that the apartment she leased from a well-known property management group had someone else living in it.

On July 5, Madison Lavery said she was excited to finally move into her new studio apartment, located on Simcoe Street North in Oshawa.

She said she was initially supposed to move in the day before but had trouble getting a hold of Portsmouth Residential, the property management group that was leasing out the unit.

“I was messaging them all day asking for my keys and they didn’t message me back until July 5th, when they finally gave me my keys in a lockbox.”

“I had a moving truck and everything with all of my stuff outside the apartment ready to go." 

She said she arrived at the apartment, opened the door with the keys she was given, and quickly realized that the unit was occupied. The residents were not home at the time, she added.

"Someone was fully living there so I obviously didn’t want to go inside," she said. 

She said she went downstairs to the security desk to ask what was going on and was later informed by the building manager that the unit had been sold and was no longer managed by the company she signed the lease with.

“I was like, pardon, because I have a legal lease here signed and I also have keys in hand and I also have a moving truck outside with nowhere to go,” she told CP24.com on Tuesday.

She said the property management company does not have an emergency line so she couldn’t reach out to them until the next morning.

“I bugged them all day, multiple times a day,” Lavery said.

At the end of the day, she said she received an email from an employee at the company who apologized and confirmed that the unit was sold by the owner without the company’s knowledge.

The only available units they were able to offer were shared accommodation, she said.

“I am someone that suffers from mental health… I need to live alone. I got a bachelor apartment for a reason,” Lavery said.

“I said like, ‘I don’t have a very supportive family. I don’t have a whole lot of friends. I don’t have anywhere to go. Where do you really expect me to go?’”

At that point, Lavery said they offered to pay for her to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights, money she said she has not received.

Madison Lavery went to move into her new apartment in Oshawa on July 5 only to find someone else living there. The property management group who leased her the apartment said the unit was sold without their knowledge and has apologized for the mistake. (Supplied)

“I have been couch-surfing. I have been staying at hotels. I have been staying at friends’ houses,” she said, adding that she did finally receive a refund for the first and last month rent deposit she paid.

In addition to being out money for the hotel stays and the U-Haul rental, she said she paid for tenant insurance at the property and has not been reimbursed for that cost.

“Alongside of this, I also have somebody’s keys that probably is completely unaware that I have access to their unit," she said. 

Brandon Ackerman, the vice-president of rental management at Portsmouth Residential, confirmed to CP24.com Thursday that the owner of the unit did not inform the company, which is a third-party manager, that the unit had been sold.

“So the new owner that came in must have occupied the unit between the time that we last visited it and the time Madison was moving in,” Ackerman said.

He said the company is working with Lavery to “make it right” and will reimburse her for hotel stays and expenses once receipts are provided.

He added that the company will also consider reimbursing her for any additional costs she incurred as a result of the incident.

“To be honest, this is the first time this has happened in our firm’s history,” he said.

When asked if he thought the delay in responding to her initial inquiries was reasonable, he replied, “Absolutely not. I don’t think it is reasonable.”

“There is always an opportunity to review anything, any processes we have. That’s how people learn. So there are things that happen and we will as an organization take a look at what we can do differently next time.”

Lavery, who works as a receptionist at a medical clinic in Oshawa, said she has started looking for other apartments.

“I make $19 an hour. It’s very stressful for me,” she said. “Everywhere I’m looking seems to be a higher price.”

She said she originally signed a lease with Portsmouth because she thought it would be safer to deal with a well-established company.

“I was figuring that by going with a corporation I would be avoiding any landlord issues,” Lavery said. 

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