Fig 001 – cropped-vlcsnap-2017-08-01.png

Our ex-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 (Doc 001us. John 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 (NPD) (Doc 002as defined by the American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) (DSM5) (Doc 003(Also the equivalent in ICD-10. Take your pick). 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 (MLE) and the Hamilton police (HPS), 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 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 Municipal Law Enforcement, the Landlord Tenant Board and HPS. 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.)

As of today (May 12, 2020), the situation for tenants in Ontario is very uncertain. For many tenants, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, rent was 40% or more of their income. Affordable housing is non-existent in Hamilton, and there is no real enforcement of Property Standards and slow, reluctant enforcement of criminal law when the complainant is a tenant and the respondent is a landlord or his agents.

Both systems are “complaint driven”. One of the faults of a “complaint driven” system is that it can be easier to discourage the complainant than to enforce the law, especially given the scarcity of resources allocated by the provincial government for enforcement. If you add in a largely non-functional (even before the pandemic) Landlord Tenant Board, the system becomes ripe for abuse by landlords and tenants both. I’ve seen both in the three years I’ve observed LTB proceedings, but the abusive tenants are few and far between. Landlords who abuse the system are quite common, especially larger landlords. It’s very easy for a landlord to force a self-represented tenant to expend enormous amounts of time and resources defending against vexatious eviction applications (with little or no repercussions for the landlord) while a tenant seems to have difficulty getting anything beyond a very simple application heard in a timely manner or at all. For a larger, corporate landlord, legal costs are very little compared to the increase in rental income that comes with a vacated unit that can be re-rented at “market” rate. Based purely on my own observations and what I’ve been able to find online, it has become quite common for larger landlords to use LTB applications as a means to encourage tenants to move. That’s what happened to my roomate and myself, although our landlord isn’t a large corporation. He’s a narcissistic sociopath.

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 (Doc 004) 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 (or has owned) at least four (and likely more) multi-unit rental properties (three in Hamilton and one in Dunnville), and has been a landlord for the last 36 years. My information is that his property at 6 Acorn in Hamilton (more on that below) has been sold as of January 31, 2020 and is (or was, before the pandemic) scheduled for demolition. The property was sold on the condition that the junkyard around the buildings be cleared out and will be turned into a parking lot.

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 “into anything that can make a buck” in this article that appeared in local media. (Doc 005). 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 advertised them on his truck until the end of 2019 at least, even though the url on the sign leads nowhere (for some months in 2018, it pointed to an online art consignment store, another of our landlord’s ventures. That seems to have disappeared too. I don’t think I bothered to save screenshots of it.)

Figure 2 – John’s Truck March 7, 2017

Our landlord objected to being issued two parking tickets in front of his store, and spoke to Dunnville City Council about it. (Doc 006(See page 22).

John Cerino is also politically active. He’s a member of the HDAA (Hamilton Dundas Apartment Association) (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 (Doc 007) and has addressed the Hamilton City Council Planning Committee about concerns over licensing small landlords (Doc 008(pages 5, 7, 28) on September 13, 2013 and on December 11, 2018 (go to item 6.5 here for the video or you can watch the video on youtube below, since it appears videos on the City of Hamilton website come and go at random intervals). (Vid 01)

2018-12-11 – John Cerino addresses Hamilton City Council

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 ex-landlord to portray himself as a hard working victim. That portrayal of himself as a victim has been characteristic of our dealings with our landlord, and you’ll see that theme recurring throughout the videos and audio recordings. His agents are masters of this art as well.

He’s also had a few run-ins with municipal law enforcement, notably Property Standards, on September 7, 2007 for debris and garbage on his East Ave South property (Doc 09), and for using the building as a six plex when it was zoned as a boarding house (Doc 10),  on February 20, 2008 for lack of heat (Document 11), on February 25, 2008 for lack of heat (Document 12), on August 17, 2010 for numerous Property Standards violations (Doc 13(which add up to a lack of maintenance) and for which a Compliance Order (Document 14was written, on February 10, 2012 for noise (Document 15and on May 15, 2013 for a rotted deck (Document 16).  His brother (and co-owner of the building) was also ordered by the Landlord Tenant Board on October 21, 2011 to install screens on the windows of our unit (which he ignored) (Doc 17), 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.

In regards to maintenance issues, relevant parts of that document read (page 4):

10. The Landlord shall inspect the water pressure in the building and ensure it meets municipal standards no later than November 5, 2011.

12. The Landlord shall install screens securely to the windows of the second floor of this rental unit on or before November 5, 2011.

13. The Landlord shall ensure the windows and the locking mechanisms are in compliance with the relevant municipal building code.

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 (Fig 3) was taken on February 7, 2017, and shows the lock on the kitchen 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.

Fig 003 – kitchen-window-lock1.jpg

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. The storm window on my roomate’s bedroom window was held in place with an old fashioned iron when we moved in, the storm window in the kitchen was in pieces in the frame, the storm windows on the bathroom, another bedroom and most of the bay window in the living room were missing. The unit below us (Richard Pollington’s unit) was in the same state of repair in regards to the windows.

John Cerino (and his brother and business partner Agostino) have also filed some applications with the LTB over the years, (Doc 18) all eviction proceedings against tenants. John is not an unsophisticated landlord, and is quite accustomed to dealing with MLE and the LTB. He is an expert at manipulating the system.

Nothing too serious, 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 (Doc 19(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 (Doc 05) since his mother passed away (Doc 20) on February 21, 2015. John has no children and has never been married according to his brother Agostino, which is a bit unusual for someone of his age and cultural background.

My roomate (Marie Ball) and I were tenants at our landlord’s East Ave South property, from October 1, 2015 until January 31, 2020.

Fig 004 – panorama-1-west-side-of-97-99-east-ave-s.jpg

We were in the upper right unit in the photo (Fig 4), 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 Norman; the upper left unit is occupied by a couple and their two small children (Cora Mitchell and Adam), 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 spring of 2018, but the Stampers refer to Richard Pollington as “family” and we believe Christina may be Richard Pollington Sr’s sister.

We had originally moved in with a third roomate, who was (prior to moving to East Ave South) Marie’s roomate. (Document 21-blog). Mike was our roomate (but rarely home, he worked a lot) until July 31, 2016.

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. (Vid 02)

2015 09 12 Stabilized Video of East Ave Before Moving In

One point to note:

In Vid 02 (at 2:10 to 2:30 seconds, I referred to “bedroom two” which is actually Bedroom 1 in the floor plan below (Doc 22) and referred to Bedroom 2 in the floor plan below as “bedroom three” in the video.

Doc 022 – 2-99 East Ave S – Floor Plan.jpg

Going forward, all references to rooms in the apartment will coincide with the labels in the floor plan above.

A few stills from the video show the condition of parts of the unit at the time. The carpet from Bedroom 1 :

Fig 005 – 2015-09-12 – BR1 carpet.jpg
Fig 006 – 2015-09-12 – BR1 carpet2.jpg

had stains, animal (I hope) feces embedded in it (but from so long ago there was little smell), and was badly worn in spots.

The windows in Bedroom 1 had cracked panes, with one of the storm windows being held in place by an old fashioned iron (although I hadn’t noticed this at the time. In a later inspection, my roomate Marie noticed the storm window and commented on it in a meeting with John before we rented the apartment. John assured her it would fixed before we moved in, as well as the broken panes).

Fig 007 – 2015-09-12 – BR1 window 1.jpg
Fig 008 – 2015-09-12 – BR1 window 2.jpg

The living room bay window had cracked panes, gaps along the frame that allowed air in, and the left side wouldn’t open as there was a screen that had been nailed into various parts of the window.

Fig 009 – 2015-09-12 – LR window.jpg

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 (Doc 23). 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, 2015. During that meeting our landlord had promised that the windows;

Fig 010 – kitchen-window-exterior-pic-3.jpg
Fig 011 – bathroom-window-exterior-pic-3.jpg
Fig 012 – bedroom-3-window-exterior-pic-10.jpg
Fig 013 – kitchen-window-interior-pic-7.jpg
Fig 014 – bathroom-window-interior-pic-1.jpg
Fig 015 – living-room-windows-exterior-pic-2.jpg
Fig 016 – bedroom-2-window-exterior-pic-2.jpg
Fig 017 – bedroom-1-window-2-interior-pic-5.jpg
Fig 018 – bedroom-1-window-1-interior-pic-3.jpg
Fig 019 – bedroom-1-window-1-interior-pic-6.jpg

the interior doors;

Fig 020 – bedroom-1-door-3-2016-12-21.jpg
Fig 021 – bedroom-2-door-1-2016-12-23.jpg
Fig 022 – bedroom-3-door-2-2016-12-23.jpg

the kitchen cupboards;

Fig 023 – kitchen-cupboards-1-2016-12-23.jpg
Fig 023 – kitchen-cupboards-2-2016-12-23.jpg

the front door:

Fig 024 – living-room-front-door-gap-between-lock-and-frame-1-2016-12-21.jpg
Fig 025 – living-room-front-door-broken-self-closure-3-2016-12-23.jpg
Fig 026 – living-room-front-door-gap-under-door-2-2016-12-21.jpg

and the back door;

Fig 027 – kitchen-rear-door-4-2016-12-21.jpg

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

Fig 028 – bedroom-1-carpet-pic-1.jpg
Fig 029 – bedroom-2-carpet-1-2016-12-21.jpg
Fig 030 – bedroom-3-carpet-2016-12-21.jpg

to be replaced a month or two in the future. (It should be noted by the reader that the photos above of the bedroom carpets were taken after Marie had used a steam cleaner on them at least three times, and had scraped bits of unidentified somethings from all three carpets for hours. This is what they looked like after extensive cleaning.) He was also made aware during that meeting that my roomate suffered from PTSD and would need peace and quiet. Our ex-landlord was quite reassuring that the unit was quiet, and would be fixed before we moved in.

The asked for rent, $1100.00/month was about market rate for a small three bedroom apartment in the neighborhood at the time, so it was affordable for two working stiffs (Mike and myself) and Marie on a disability pension. At the time Mike was employed at a scrap yard, and I was working as a customer service representative for Active Energy (and my parting of ways with that company is the subject of another blog).

{Briefly, I’d discovered that Active Energy was conducting a widespread financial scam that left homeowners (especially seniors and lower income homeowners) in debt for shoddy HVAC work, electricity contracts that were outrageously biased in the company’s favour and “sold” fraudulently or by forgery. Door to door sales of HVAC equipment and water filtration systems is now against the law in Ontario in response to Active Energy (and similar companies) business practices.}

There were a number of other issues about the apartment we did not know about at the time, so were not discussed.

We began moving in on September 29, 2015, a few days early and after we’d paid first and last month’s rent. The receipt for last month’s rent was signed by Richard Pollington.

Doc 303b – 2015-09-23 – rent receipt signed by Richard Pollington .png

The agreed upon work hadn’t been done, and our landlord made excuses. Marie 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 (Doc 25) was extremely hot (Doc 26) with day after day of 35 degree plus days (Doc 27). 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, Richard Pollington (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 as we tried to keep the apartment habitable. (Doc 28 & Doc 29).

Document 28 and 29 are invoices for electricity supplied to our apartment. Document 28 covers the period of July 20, 2016 to September 16, 2016 and totals $516.15 (there is a credit of $69.23 available from the previous billing cycle, leaving a balance due of $446.92). This invoice shows the increased usage of electricity due to air conditioning costs, which were the only change from the period covered in Document 29, March 18, 2016 to May 17, 2020. Document 29 totals $159.90 (with a prior balance of $88.78, leaving a balance due of $248.67). Document 29 is representative of our electricity usage without air conditioning (about $80/month) and with air conditioning ($257/month). Document 28 is not our highest electricity invoice for the summer. The air conditioning was for the living room and Bedroom 1 only; the other parts of the apartment were not air conditioned. I spent many nights that summer at a friend’s place because the heat made sleeping impossible.

Starting in August, Mike wouldn’t be paying rent (he was moving out) so Marie and I split the rent, and we looked for another compatible roommate to split expenses in the summer and late fall of 2016. We did have one or two people in mind, mutual acquaintances, but after seeing the state of repair of the building and, in one case hearing the usual weekend racket coming from the Pollington’s unit, we had no takers. I had EI and was actively looking for work, but somewhat hampered by the circumstances that left me unable to use my previous employer as a reference. The apartment was still affordable, but the high electricity bills were a financial burden, as was (for me) the extra time and travel to shower, or sleep, at a friend’s house because the apartment was uninhabitably hot or there was no water.

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.

During that summer, at some point, Richard no longer had receipts available when Marie went down to his unit to pay the rent. Marie paid him, and the receipt was dropped off later that day. Over the summer the length of time between the rent being paid and a receipt provided lengthened a bit each month until in the fall, the rent receipt would be dropped off two or three days after payment. The receipt provided was always a single receipt for $1100.00 made out to Marie.

In October I needed proof of my rent to apply to OW. I hadn’t been able to find work, and my EI ran out, so I went to Richard’s door and asked him for a separate receipt. He stated that he did not have his glasses, so couldn’t write it out. I offered to write the receipt for him so all he had to do was sign it, and he agreed. When I had written the receipt, he held it close to his face for a few seconds, apparently reading it, then signed it. The receipt is below:

Doc 303a – 2016-10-01 – rent receipt signed by Richard Pollington .png

Our discussions with Richard Pollington over the summer (and his son) 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 complained about the state of repair of his own unit, especially the windows and lack of screens:

Fig 031 – panorama-south-side-of-99-east-ave-s.jpg
Fig 032 – window-in-unit-1-pic-1.jpg
Fig 033 – window-in-unit-1-pic-7.jpg

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. There is some discussion of these events in recorded conversations with Agostino Cerino later.}

Richard also described a visit to our landlord’s home at 6 Acorn Street. He was vague about the unit John lived in but 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 former home and his yard.

Our landlord lives at 6 Acorn Street in Hamilton. It was a boarding house with at least 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. It is located in the middle of industrial and commercial properties and next to one of Hamilton’s more infamous motels.

Fig 89 – 20180329_132650-PANO.jpg
Fig 90 – 20180329_132801.jpg

These photos were taken in March, 2018, four months after I’d made a property standards complaint about the state of the yard. John had already cleaned up some of the mess at this point. The documentation associated with the enforcement of the yard clean up (up until December 2018) is here (Doc 304). As near as I can tell, the “work orders” John Cerino was angrily talking about in Vid 02 was a yard maintenance letter telling him to clean up his junkyard. Which was long overdue.

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. 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).

Another of our landlord’s properties is here at 133-135 Wellington Street N, Hamilton Ontario. There’s a whole side history associated with this building, but for now I’ll stick to the issues relevant to this blog. The history is…history, from more than two decades ago. You may have noticed this in the google street view:

Fig 111 – screenshot of google photo taken oct 2018 133-135 wellington N

That’s the door to 133 Wellington Street N. The photo was created by google in October of 2018 (a couple of months before the word “FAGIT” was scratched into my front door). There’s a “For Sale” sign in front of the building, and Property.ca shows a listing for this address that expires in December, 2018 (Doc 329). I’ve since spoken with a former tenant of this building, and (if I can verify his story and get his permission) will be posting his story as well. The vandalism to the front door was part of that.

Using Google Street view (which has photos going back to 2007, including the laneway behind the property and the rear of the property) yields a lot of information about the property and it’s state of repair. To sum up, it’s a slumlord’s property, with only the bare minimum done to maintain or keep it clean. The neat appearance of the front yards coincide with City of Hamilton ‘crackdowns’ on yard maintenance bylaws.

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