Our Landlord, John Cerino, is an interesting character. The photo at the top of this article is a still taken from a video of us paying our rent, an occasion he routinely used as an opportunity to antagonize us or to attempt to gaslight us. Our landlord often does things outside of the accepted social norms (such as suddenly picking his nose and eating it with a smirk on his face in the middle of conversation). He does things like this as a means to antagonize and provoke, and then exploits any reaction to create confusion and doubt. If he doesn’t get a reaction, he sometimes invents one.

He also (in my untrained opinion) suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder as defined by the American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) (In other words, a malignant amoral prick. The description isn’t entirely mine; his brother Agostino (and only living immediate family member) describes him as “John’s a prick. Just a regular prick…he will argue everything, on every level”. I am not a mental health professional of any kind; I’m just a citizen who has educated myself on the subject as best I can, and who has observed and recorded behavior that I can’t explain in any other way. During this series of articles about our landlord, and our experiences with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), municipal law enforcement and the Hamilton police, you may notice many similarities between John’s behavior, and the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (NPD).He manipulates, lies and gaslights constantly and is quite skilled in those arts. Most of his lies are by inference or equivocation but misrepresentation of fact isn’t uncommon.

This blog will NOT be a rant against an evil landlord. This blog will be a detailed example of how far a landlord can go without any real consequences, the lack of any real protection at all for tenants in Hamilton from a landlord who refuses to do repairs and who is willing to harass and intimidate a tenant into moving. It is a clear failure of both Municipal Law Enforcement, the Landlord Tenant Board and police. This is an example of the general inability of our legal system to deal with “sociopathic” behavior that is extremely disturbing and affects quality of life for everyone. Badly. The most well-known example would be the current POTUS, Donald Trump (and I’m not certain that Trump is a “sociopath”, since I’ve never met the man. But his behavior closely mimics what one would expect from someone suffering from NPD.

However, in fairness to our landlord, I’ll use the term “douchebag” instead of narcissistic sociopath, since a) I’m not qualified to make that diagnosis; b) I’m involved in the situation and therefore not objective. (Douchebag is a subjective term, and conveys my disgust for the kind of behavior you’ll see. It also fits my previously posted definition of douchebag), and c) the word “sociopath” has negative connotations (which aren’t entirely reasonable. Some “sociopaths” are quite useful to society; I’ve met a few, particularly in the time I spent in uniform. Other “sociopaths” are a constant drain on society’s resources, and responsible for a lot of misery in the world. It’s a spectrum of behavior, like autism.) The word “sociopath” itself is no longer used by The American Psychiatric Association.

So I’ll tell the story, with links to supporting documents, recordings and video, and then make my argument, after more carefully defining the words used.

First you’ll need some background on our landlord.

Our landlord owns at least four multi-unit rental properties, and has been a landlord for the last 36 years (three in Hamilton and one in Dunnville). He has owned all of those properties since the early 80’s. I’ve been told that his properties were inherited, and some of what his brother says in conversation about our Landlord seems to confirm it.

He also describes himself as a “into anything that can make a buck” . His ebike storefront appears to have been short lived; a little searching on Google Street view is left as an exercise to the reader. However, he still advertises them on his truck, even though the url on the sign leads nowhere (for some months last year, it pointed to an online art consignment store, another of our landlord’s ventures. That seems to have disappeared too.)

20170307_104450

Our landlord objected to being issued two parking tickets in front of his store, and spoke to Dunnville City Council about it. (See page 22)

Our landlord is also politically active. He’s a member of the HDAA (a local landlord’s association known for opposing anything that would impact a landlord’s bottom line, no matter what the cost to tenants), has posted comments to their site and has addressed the Hamilton City Council Planning Committee about concerns over licensing small landlords (pages 5, 7, 28) on September 13, 2013 and on December 11, 2018 (go to item 6.5 here for the video. John tells a lot of lies to Hamilton City Council, but it would be skipping ahead to detail them just yet. Or you can watch the video below, since it appears videos on the City of Hamilton website come and go at random intervals).

If you have the suspicion it’s because none of his properties would pass such a licensing inspection, you are likely correct. You may notice a tendency for our landlord to portray himself as a hard working victim. If so, you’d be correct. That portrayal has been characteristic of our dealings with our landlord, and you’ll see that theme recurring throughout the videos and audio recordings.

He’s also had a few run-ins with municipal law enforcement, notably Property Standards (a complete misnomer in Hamilton), on September 7, 2007 for debris and garbage on one of his properties, and for using the building as a six plex when it was zoned as a boarding house, on February 20, 2008 for lack of heat, on February 25, 2008 for lack of heat, on August 17, 2010 for numerous Property Standards violations (which add up to a lack of maintenance) and for which a Compliance Order was written, on February 10, 2012 for noise, and on May 15, 2013 for a rotted deck. His brother (and co-owner of the building) was also ordered by the Landlord Tenant Board on October 11, 2011 to install screens on the windows of our unit (which he ignored), investigate the water pressure problems in our unit (more on that later), to ensure the locking mechanisms on the windows in our unit met the standards of the Property Standards bylaws (also ignored) and a few other minor repairs.

2011-10-11 - LTB - John and Agostino Cerino (1) - 0001
2011-10-11 - LTB - John and Agostino Cerino (1) - 0002
2011-10-11 - LTB - John and Agostino Cerino (1) - 0003
2011-10-11 - LTB - John and Agostino Cerino (1) - 0004
2011-10-11 - LTB - John and Agostino Cerino (1) - 0005
2011-10-11 - LTB - John and Agostino Cerino (1) - 0006

You may wonder how I can say with confidence that the repairs were not done, four years before we moved into the apartment. For example, the photo below was taken on February 7, 2017, and shows the lock on the kitchen window window. It’s a bit difficult to see in the photo, but there are at least three layers of paint on the lock, including the incredibly inept final paint job (which mostly went on the window glass, rather than the rails or sill). The lock is non-functional, and the broken part has the same layers of paint on it. All of the window locks are like this.

kitchen window lock
Kitchen Window Lock 2017-02-07

The order to install screens on the windows was either ignored, or all but one of the screens in our unit (and all but three screens on the entire building) fell off in the four years between the time John was ordered to do the repair, and us moving in.

He’s also filed some applications with the LTB over the years, all eviction proceedings against tenants. John is not an unsophisticated landlord, and is quite accustomed to dealing with law enforcement and the LTB. He is an expert at manipulating the system.

Nothing too major, on paper, but it shows that our landlord has a persistent disregard for his responsibilities as a landlord and property owner, and doesn’t concern himself with everyday trivia such as fire safety plans (this one was 23 years out of date) or Property Standards bylaws. John will only repair his buildings, or comply with municipal regulations, when he is forced to do so.

John has only one surviving immediate family member, his brother Agostino (mentioned in the Sachem.ca article) since his mother passed away on February 21, 2015. John has no children and has never been married according to his brother Agostino, which is unusual for someone of his age and cultural background.

My roomate and I are tenants at our landlord’s East Ave South property, and have been since October 1, 2015. We’re in the upper right unit in the photo (Unit 2), the property “caretaker”/”superintendent” (his status appears fluid in all of this) and landlord’s agent, Richard Pollington, lives in the lower right unit (Unit 1) with his brother George Pollington, and a roomate Larry; the upper left unit is occupied by a couple and their two small children (Cora and Adam). More on them later), and the lower left unit was vacant for a lot of the time covered in these posts (from October 2017 until January 1, 2018). When we moved in, the lower left unit was occupied by the son of our caretaker, Richard Pollington Jr and his then girlfriend (now wife), Jennifer Lymburner Pollington. On January 1, 2018 the Stampers (Ron, Christina and Jeremie) moved in. We didn’t know it until fall of 2018, but the Stampers refer to Richard Pollington as “family” and we believe Christina may be Richard Pollington Sr’s sister.

Panorama 1 (West Side of 97-99 East Ave S)

We had originally moved in with a third roomate, who was (at the time) my current roomate’s roomate. .

Statement from Mike Nerlich

We contacted our landlord by telephone and arranged to have the place shown to me. I took videos of the unit on September 12, 2015, to show to the others, and we called our landlord to apply.

September 12, 2015

At the time, two of us were living in a complex that had recently been the subject of media coverage of bed bug infestations, so our landlord wanted to interview us in my roomate’s apartment (which was in the affected complex of buildings featured in media articles). During one of the phone calls where we applied for the apartment, in September of 2015, our landlord asked about our employment, and it was disclosed to him that my roomate was on a disability pension for mental illness. That becomes important later in the story. Our landlord knew from her rental application that she was on a disability pension, which is why he asked about it. One of the responsibilities of a landlord in Ontario is to accommodate those with disabilities, so long as the accommodation is not an undue hardship. Our landlord instead used this information to tailor a campaign of harassment, abuse and vexatious litigation designed to rid himself of what he saw as troublesome tenants.

We met the landlord on September 17, 2016. During that meeting our landlord had promised that the windows;

the interior doors,

the kitchen cupboards,

the front door,

and the back door,

would be repaired or replaced before we moved in, with the carpets in the bedrooms:

to be replaced a month or two in the future. He was also made aware during that meeting that my roomate suffered from PTSD and would need peace and quiet. Our landlord was quite reassuring that the unit was quiet, and would be fixed before we moved in.

We began moving on on September 29, 2016, a few days early. The work hadn’t been done, and our landlord made excuses. My roomate (current) is quite handy with minor repairs (she’s an ex-superintendent) and did what she could, but the first year was an exercise in frustration in even trying to communicate with our landlord. Repeated requests for repairs to the window frames and panes, carpets, doors and about the debris on the property were made to his caretaker and ignored. Our landlord was abrupt and dismissive in person the one time I saw him on the property in June, 2016.

The summer of 2016 was extremely hot, with day after day of 35 degree plus days. During that summer, we again asked verbally (at least three times) for repairs to the windows, since they were contributing to very high electricity bills. (It was impossible to cool the apartment to a habitable temperature on many days, in part because our landlord had closed the widows in the vacant unit in the attic, and the unit had heated up to the point where it set off fire alarms. The heat was radiating through the ceiling of our unit from above, and adding to the warm air leaking through the window frames. In August, the caretaker (finally) opened the windows upstairs, and put an electric fan in one of the windows to circulate air and prevent heating of the vacant attic unit. He was later chastised by John for “wasting electricity”. It was annoying for me to hear that, since John’s refusal to address the situation led to some very high electricity bills for us {insert edited copy of electricity invoices} as we tried to keep the apartment habitable.

Our refrigerator broke down during the summer, so we asked Richard for another. It took him two weeks, and the “new” refrigerator we were promised turned out to be a used (and very dirty) older model.

Our discussions with Richard confirmed that our landlord was a slumlord. Repeated requests made to Richard were ignored (although he may not have passed them on to our landlord; more on that later. However, I was present when Richard called our landlord on one occasion, and John reacted the same way. John just brushed it off.). Richard expressed the opinion that our landlord would rather pay fines to the city than repair his building. He also (rightly, in my opinion) complained about the state of repair of his own unit, especially the windows and lack of screens:

and about the fact that some of the lights in the building were metered through his electricity meter. {Briefly; John had wired the front foyer light through Richard’s meter. Richard objected to this, but John did not change the light to the building meter until January 2017, after we had contacted Property Standards on other matters and made John aware that we knew the reason the front foyer light was always out was because Richard didn’t want to pay for it. Property Standards in Hamilton require the entrance of a multi-unit rental dwelling to be lit at all times.}

Richard also described a visit to our landlord’s home. He described a scene of chaos, with garbage and household items piled on every horizontal surface. That’s consistent with the exterior of our landlord’s home and his yard (more on that later)

Our landlord lives on Acorn Street in Hamilton. It was a boarding house with six tenants and our landlord in residence prior to sometime in late 2018 when John appears to have evicted all of the tenants after some trouble with the city (more on that too). It is located in the middle of industrial and commercial properties and next to one of Hamilton’s more infamous motels.

A little research on Google Streets will convince the reader that our landlord’s home has resembled a junkyard for some years, at least. You have to look around the edges, and use the satellite view. If it’s visible from the street, John appears to put some effort into the things that show, sometimes. I’ll be posting some photos of the back yard that I got from the City of Hamilton through an FoI request. (They’re greyscale printouts and not very useful, but they show the state of the yard clearly.) It’s a combination of scrapyard and junkyard. John never throws anything away. Not even his garbage.

Another property owned by John Cerino is at 118-120 Wellington Street North. The Google Street View of this property doesn’t show the garbage scattered in the back yard, or some of the repairs needed. It does show the general lack of maintenance (almost everything is long past due for a paint job). John hasn’t had much trouble with Property Standards at this address; only one Compliance Order was written for this property in 2010 (ordering John to replace all the windows).

So, you now have the bare outline of the situation. The next few posts will cover the events that took place as we tried to get our apartment repaired.

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