Rent Increase in Mississauga show flaws in Provincial Rent Control strategy

Mississauga ACORN

Posted September 25, 2017

ACORN Tenants at 100 Dundas St West are featured in the Mississauga News after their substandard high-rise building was granted a 4.5% above the guideline rent increase. This despite endless calls for repairs from the publically traded Northview Apartment REIT. 
 
ACORN is calling on the province to follow through on their promise to end Above the Guideline Rent increases in substandard apartment buildings. 
 
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Mississauga.com: Mississauga tenants living in grimy apartment complex fight rent hike
 
Tenants of a dingy, rundown apartment complex in Cooksville are fighting what they say is an unjust rent increase.
 
Mould, extensive water damage, holes in the walls and rotting floorboards are just a few of the issues plaguing the 13-storey complex, located on Dundas Street East and Hurontario.
 
“The units are not being maintained," said tenant spokesperson Marcia Powell. "We’ve had tenants who have been dealing with the same problems for three or four years now. It’s ridiculous.”
 
Powell said her unit was overrun with mice for nearly two years. When she asked for assistance from the building landlord, who she knows only by his first name, Bon, she claims he told her to clean up after herself.
 
"He did nothing about it. He just blamed me, said my unit was dirty."
 
And last month, Powell said the building’s power went out twice in two weeks, once for 11 hours. Tenants with chronic lung diseases, reliant on oxygen tanks for survival, were left without a steady flow of power and those on the top-floor were without elevator access.
 
“We were left outside all day and the landlord blamed us for using our appliances,” said Powell. “I swear, they’re trying to frustrate us so we will leave.”
 
The building is owned by Northview Apartment, one of Canada’s largest real estate investment trusts. Northview boasts over 24,000 multi-family suites in 60 markets across the country, with over 1.2 million square feet of commercial real estate.
 
The News attempted to reach out to the landlord, as well as Northview’s head office, but several emails and calls were left unanswered.
 
In July, the company was awarded an above guideline rent increase of 4.4 per cent for the 100 Dundas St. E. property, a number tenants say is entirely unwarranted.
 
“Every year it’s getting worse,” said Les Samborski, who pays $1,500 per month for his penthouse suite. “Nothing’s getting fixed, but our rent just keeps going up.”
 
The province set the guideline for rent increases at 1.5 per cent for 2017, based on the consumer price index.
 
However, if the landlord can justify capital expenditures within the building, they are allowed to appear before the landlord-tenant board to ask for an additional rent increase, no higher than nine per cent distributed over three years.
 
 “It’s a government program that essentially bribes landlords with tenants’ money to do the repair obligations that they are required to do,” said Kenn Hale, director of legal services for Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO).
 
In the case of the Dundas Street complex, Northview claimed they spent $258,000 on a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
 
The capital expenditure is put on the tenants in the form of a rent increase to ensure the landlords make their money back.
 
“In theory, the amount of money they are spending, they’re just going to get right back so they aren’t supposed to be making any money out if it,” noted Hale.
 
“But we don’t think it works that way.”
 
Hale explained that tenants often find another place to live when their apartment complex is in a state of disrepair, or is constantly undergoing noisy, disruptive maintenance work. 
 
When that unit is rented out to a new tenant, the landlord has the right to set the rent at whatever they want, which is often higher than the rate paid by existing tenants.
 
“The rent really can jump between tenants and there’s no regulation to protect against that,” said Hale.
 
Ontario’s Liberal government widened its rent control rules in April with the introduction of the Fair Housing Plan. The legislation expanded rent control to all private units built after 1991 in hopes of strengthening protection for tenants against dramatic rent increases.
 
“The Liberals have made the first step,” said Hale. “But they don’t want to take the next step to regulate rent increases between tenants.”
 
Peel ACORN, an independent advocacy group for low and moderate-income families, is pushing for greater protection for the Dundas Street building tenants.
 
The group has already made some headway in making the building more livable, including upgrades to the laundry facilities.
 
“There’s still a long way to go,” said Powell. “And I’m not leaving here unless they put me in a body bag.”
 
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Article by Rachael Williams for Mississauga.com