The runaway subtenant: A Gordon Head nightmare

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle
Image via Pixabay

Like many UVic students, I made the risky decision of signing a 12-month lease — knowing I would have to sublet for the summer. I was living in a house in Gordon Head, paying around $475 plus utilities.

I tried to get started on the sublet search early. Although the price was low, this house was not well kept. When I first got the place, I didn’t see the holes in the door or in the wall that were covered by a tapestry. 

Amy* messaged me expressing her interest in the place. We met up and I showed her the room. Because we had mutual friends, I trusted her. I told her I would leave her with my sheets, duvet, pillow, and TV — along with my Nintendo Wii. 

This seemed perfect, but she wanted to move in on April 1, when I would still be in Victoria writing finals. I ended up sleeping in one of my roommate’s rooms with her while Amy moved into mine, and I still knocked on her door every so often to get my stuff that I’d left there. 

Because we were friends, I didn’t worry about collecting a damage deposit. That was my first big mistake. And because I was desperate for a subtenant and leaving the continent soon, I offered to pay April’s rent. 

I wrote my last final, said goodbye to everybody, and left for Australia. When I got back from Australia to my parents’ place in Vancouver, I had a text from my landlord. 

He said, “Hey have you heard from Amy? She hasn’t paid rent … I think she moved out.”  

I had not heard from Amy. At this point, it was nearly June — and I was freaking out. I had to book three days off from my job in Vancouver to go back to Victoria and sort out the situation. 

I opened the door to my room and it was a mess. There was a blood stain on the bed and a condom wrapper on the floor. Her clothes were still in the closet, and spread all around the room — as if she frantically got a garbage bag and grabbed the essentials. The place was a fucking mess.

I found out that she asked the landlord if she could pay rent late because she had just started a new job. He was accommodating about that, but then she never actually paid it. He went into the room near the end of the month, after giving her lots of notice that he was planning to come in and her never replying to his messages. Most of her stuff was gone. 

I had to clean up the rest of Amy’s stuff and find someone to sublet for July and August. A Swedish couple ended up moving in. Out of desperation, I reduced the rent to $400, including utilities, and paid the difference from home in Vancouver.

When I came back from Vancouver to start my fourth year at UVic, they had folded my sheets nicely on my bed and left the room in good condition. 

But all in all, I lost $600 that summer.

Now, I live in a gorgeous apartment downtown with an amazing roommate — who always pays rent. So the story has a happy ending.

Words of wisdom: cheap rent doesn’t necessarily mean you got a good deal. My mental health was a rollercoaster that school year, which continued into the summer because of my living arrangement. At the end of the day, you’re on the hook for your rent for the entire lease, with or without a subtenant. Although there were legalities involved with Amy’s disappearance, I would have lost more money trying to seek legal action. 

Last but not least, if you love your living situation — for the roommates, the location, the shared spaces, or what have you — the odds of someone else also enjoying their time there are pretty high. However, my case wasn’t like that. If you know that you’re not going to be in Victoria for the summer and you sign a 12-month lease, have a few people already in mind that know your place and who you would trust as a subtenant. Unless your place is really nice and in demand, you should go in knowing people who would have your back if shit hits the fan. 

*The name of the subtenant has been changed to protect their privacy.