CBC News: Tenants' groups frustrated after Ontario rules no violations at King Edward complex

Posted July 26, 2022

Members of a local advocacy group for tenants say Ontario government rules are failing to protect renters from landlords who are issuing multiple N5 notices in a bid to oust them.

Members of ACORN held a rally on Saturday at an apartment complex on King Edward Avenue in London. Their protest came after the province's Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (RHEU) said in a letter that after interviewing four tenants of the south London housing complex, no fines would be issued against the landlord under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). 

"Based on information collected, it was determined that offences under the RTA had not occurred and therefore that further enforcement steps were not pursued," wrote RHEU manager Jim Torretto in a letter to an ACORN member acting on behalf of tenants. 

In response to a series of stories by CBC News, Housing Minister Steve Clark said in March the RHEU would investigate the King Edward situation.

Claire Wittnebel, who is with ACORN, said the RHEU didn't carry out an active investigation, and chose to only interview four tenants whose contact information was provided to investigators by ACORN. 

"It wasn't a sufficient effort," said Wittnebel. "It was like they didn't try to put anything but the most token of efforts in. We're demanding urgent action by the Ontario Housing Ministry. We expect better out of our government." 

Since early spring, tenants and ACORN members have been speaking out after multiple tenants in the complex began to receive N5 notices after the group of buildings changed hands last year. 

Many tenants told CBC News a similar story: They were told to prepare their suites for bedbug-spraying appointments, then later issued an N5 notice for things like failing to declutter their suites or move furniture away from the walls. 

Although an N5 on its own isn't enough to evict, it often forces tenants to appear in a tribunal before the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). The hearings are carried online, and tenants and their advocates have complained the process is confusing and pits tenants with limited resources against seasoned lawyers and landlords who are well versed in the process. 

John Babcock and his partner, Crystal Masson, lived the King Edward complex for five years before they were issued an N5 after a bug-spraying appointment. The process ended their tenancy in February, and when CBC News spoke to them in April, they were living in a Motel 6. You can read their story here.

Calls and emails to offices of the building's owner, Eagle Apartments Inc., for comment were not returned. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing sent a statement to CBC News in response to calls for comment. 

The province's statement repeated the rules of the N5 process: That ending a tenancy requires a ruling by the LTB, where tenants and landlords can plead their case. 

" A tenant does not need to move out unless and until an eviction order is issued by an adjudicator," it says. 

The statement also says the (RHEU) "was in contact with both the landlord and tenants at this address to ensure that the parties involved would respect the process."

However, ACORN has argued the repeated issuing of N5s and the LTB hearing that follows often amount to an eviction because tenants become exasperated and chose to leave. 

MPP wants changes

London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong has been involved in trying to help King Edward tenants while educating them about the LTB process. Armstrong said part of the problem is that under the current rules, landlords are allowed to issue N5s almost any time they feel a tenant's behaviour is interfering with other tenants' ability to enjoy their living space. 

"What he's doing is not against the law," said Armstrong. "Is it fair? No. It's not really fair."

Armstrong said her office is considering filing an access to information request to find out how many N5s the landlord has issued at the complex. It's an approach to determine if there is a pattern to how N5s are issued. 

"If this is a loophole, where landlords are just filing these things to evict tenants and they're re-renting them at higher rents ... then it needs to be addressed, the pattern in this kind of situation," she said.  "It's an unfair way to move someone out of an affordable unit."

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Article by Andrew Lupton for CBC News London

 

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