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Brampton Guardian: Some Brampton tenants fear 'renovictions' - ACORN Canada

Brampton Guardian: Some Brampton tenants fear ‘renovictions’

Posted August 16, 2022

Posted August 16, 2022

Imagine this: your home is about to improve. Problems are about to get fixed. Renovations will make your kitchen and bathroom cleaner, more effective and bring in new fixtures.

However, your landlord uses the renovations as an excuse to increase the rent of your home well beyond the annual rental increase limits property owners are allowed. The unit is different, they say. And your municipality doesn’t have any legislation in place to ensure your landlord must allow you to re-enter the unit after legally removing you for the renovations.

Your home has become better, except for the fact that it isn’t your home anymore.

You’ve been renovicted.

The term is becoming better known among housing advocacy groups, and an increasing fear among tenants already in precarious housing situations.

Many are struggling to pay their rent at today’s rates. So, what would their reality be if a two-bedroom unit went from costing approximately $1,500 a month to $2,500 a month?

“I’d be homeless,” said Dawn Barger.

Barger lives in a two-bedroom unit in Brampton with her son, who is on the autism spectrum. Barger now fears that she is about to get renovicted.

The owner of her six-storey low-rise building, Pulis Investments, has unequivocally said no — that is not going to happen. But what has gone on this summer has Barger feeling nervous. And the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Canada is trying to quell anxiety felt by renters by petitioning the City of Brampton to make changes to its legislation in an effort to protect tenants from actions such as what Barger is afraid of.

Barger said she received news that Pulis wanted to renovate her kitchen. A contractor visited and advised her tenants could not live in the units during renovations. She refused the kitchen update.

“They can’t take out my sink and stove,” she said. “I have an autistic son who needs to eat and have clean dishes. I was then offered a $15,000 buyout, but due to my son’s schooling needs I can’t have my son moved, so I refused that, too.”

It was then that Barger received a N13 notice, or a notice to vacate for renovations to the unit. She said she was told renovations could take 10 to 12 months. She also said that she was advised that tenants in units on the entire floor would need to vacate to allow for renovations. But on speaking with her neighbours, Barger said she was the only one who received the notice.

She has been advised, according to the N13, that she would need to vacate her apartment by the end of August.

“But, I’m not leaving,” she said.

The website for Pulis Investments says the company delivers value with strategic acquisition and renewal of undervalued apartment buildings and townhome complexes in key southern Ontario growth markets. It goes on to say it approaches real estate investment with a business-focused mindset.

“As in any business, we focus on delivering value for our investors through the prudent management of our assets and operations. By increasing revenues, decreasing expenses, and by providing an exceptional rental experience for our tenants.”

And the company insisted in answers supplied to the Brampton Guardian that they value their tenants as much as they do revenues.

“We do not ‘renovict’ tenants and have no history of ‘renovictions,’” a Pulis spokesperson stated in an email. “A ‘renoviction’ is when a landlord issues an N13 notice to a tenant and does not allow them back into the unit at their original rent. Instead, the landlord would renovate the unit and re-lease (it) to a new tenant at a presumably higher rental amount.

“We have not and will never abuse the N13 process in this way. We always follow all the rules and guidelines within the N13 process. Tenants that unfortunately receive a N13 notice from us are always given the opportunity to return at their original rents.”

The company did admit they offered buyouts to tenants but insisted this was a savings opportunity for them and the tenants, and that they do not wish to pressure tenants, who pay lower-than-market rents, to leave.

“Yes, we have offered tenants, who are already considering leaving in the near future, the opportunity to receive compensation by leaving earlier,” the Pulis spokesperson explained. “We receive considerable discounts on construction work if a number of units can be completed simultaneously, so we offer to pass that savings along to tenants. Tenants are never forced or pressured to leave their units; we only offer the opportunity to them when the savings are available to us.”

Tanya Burkhart, a member of Peel ACORN, said governments can end the issue altogether by putting legislation in place to protect tenants from these possibilities.

“The average rent in Peel is about $2,200 or more, so landlords have a huge financial incentive to displace tenants, who have below-market rent,” she said. “ACORN is asking the City of Brampton to develop an anti-renoviction bylaw, with a no displacement policy, and a tenant relocation assistance policy.”

Burkhart said tenants could receive rent top-up payments for units they may have to secure temporarily, and these should be paid by the landlord.

“If the renovation is legitimate and tenants do need to move out, they’re going to be paying significantly higher rent. Top up payments cover the difference. Tenants shouldn’t be forced to pay that difference,” she said. “There also should be a process with the right to return. Right now, it is up to tenants to oversee that process and to ensure that when renovation is done, they can exercise the right to return.”

The City of Brampton said a building permit was issued for the Pulis-owned building, but as far as the municipality introducing legislation to protect tenants, officials said that was a provincial government problem.

“The relationship between landlords and tenants, including rental rates, is governed by the Province of Ontario through the Residential Tenancies Act and adjudicated by the Landlord and Tenant Board,” a city spokesperson said.

“What’s missing in Ontario is real rent control, which includes vacancy control,” said Burkhart. “So, if I’m paying $1,500 for a unit, a landlord can’t turn around and raise the rent $1,000 with nothing to stop them.”

***

Article by Matthew Strader for the Brampton Guardian

 

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