A woman in Toronto is claiming that she was sexually harassed by a real estate agent during her apartment search in the city.
Originally from Belleville, Ontario, Alyssa Graham made the shift to downtown Toronto in 2014 and has been staying there since.
She said she began looking for a new place in mid-January, with intentions to move in on February 1.
“This certain property that I wanted was listed on Zolo.ca. So I just reached out to them and asked them if it was still available,” Graham told CTV News Toronto.
Graham said she was linked up with a real estate agent who was “very confident” he could find her an apartment by her desired move-in date.
Whereas her initial selection for a rental property fell through, Graham said she agreed to cooperate with the agent on a go-forward basis.
Thereafter, things started to get weird, Graham said.
She said she noticed that some of the phone conversations and texts with the agent were “rather flirty”.
“I answered the phone and I said ‘hello’ and he said ‘you sound so sexy when you answer the phone.”
Nevertheless, Graham said she agreed to meet the agent for a showing at another apartment as she was desperate for a place, chalking up his unorthodox way to being part of his “spiel”.
“This was our first time meeting. He kept calling it a date, he kept asking when we were going to make out, he offered to pay $500 a month in rent for me.”
“When we were leaving the unit, he shut all the lights off and the door was locked. We’re in a pitch-black apartment, I can’t even see my hand in front of me. I’m trying to find a door to get out, but I can’t see anything.”
When the agent finally did turn the lights back on, Graham said she wanted to get herself from the situation; however, the real estate agent continued his moves.
She explained that after the unit shows, the agent insisted on driving her home and that he would “not take no for an answer.”
Graham said she uneasily accepted the offer and the agent dropped her off at a nearby hotel, where she had been residing while in between apartments.
“He dropped me off and was like ‘so can I get a kiss?’” she said. She quickly refused and then went straight into the hotel.
The real estate agent then called her asking if he should come up to her room and offered to “get a place for the night” if Graham was interested, she said.
Following multiple unanswered phone calls and text messages from the real estate agent later, where Graham says he claimed he could not help being attracted to her, she decided to report the matter to his employer, Zolo.
“I told them everything that happened, that I don’t think he submitted any offers for me, that he wasted a month of time, cost me money, scared me, made me incredibly uncomfortable, etc.” Graham said.
She admits that she was initially nervous about submitting the complaint as it would likely result in termination of his contract and that the real estate agent now knew where she was staying.
She said she was assured by the firm that she “should be fine” since Zolo has “screenings for things like that.”
“We would have caught that,” Graham said she was told.
A statement issued on Thursday by Zolo president Mustafa Abbasi says that the firm acted quickly to address the matter.
“In January 2021, Zolo received a complaint from a customer regarding their interaction with an agent. We acted swiftly and in accordance with our zero-tolerance policy, terminating the agent effective immediately, within 24 hours of receiving the complaint,” the statement reads.
However, Graham said that weeks later, the real estate agent contacted her, asking for her to remove her complaint so that he could be reinstated.
Graham refused but agreed to talk to his boss in exchange for compensation for the money paid to cover her hotel expenses.
“We signed a contract for this, which was also sent to his boss, and I spoke with his boss, and they reinstated him.”
She said the agent agreed to pay her $1,500 for those expenses, of which he has only paid $150.
“I’ve contacted him about the payments countless times, which I don’t like doing as this man made me feel very uncomfortable in the past, he’s now claiming he’s not paying me and has blocked my emails and texts,” she said.
But in a follow-up statement, the Zolo boss claimed that the agent was not reinstated after his termination, adding that he is “no longer affiliated with Zolo in any way.”
A relieved Graham was eventually able to find an apartment with a female agent and she’s set to move out of the hotel on March 1. However, she says the horrific experience has had a lasting effect.
“With COVID-19, it’s been hard for everyone, but I’ve had some pretty rough days and he [the real estate agent] knows about those too and he was still giving me the runaround, and I guess, just saw me like a piece of ass.”
“I thought I was talking to someone who was genuinely trying to help me, and it turned out not to be the case whatsoever.”