CBC News: ‘Completely misleading’ landlord letters threaten tenants with eviction
Posted May 4, 2023
Letters say leases will be ‘cancelled’ for renovations, offer $5,000 if tenants go quickly
Heights neighbourhood are facing threats of having their leases cancelled in landlord letters that a tenants’ advocacy group calls “completely misleading.”
A handful of tenants of two seven-storey apartment buildings at 1270 and 1280 Webster St., near Huron Street and Highbury Avenue, received letters just weeks after the two buildings were sold on March 30.
Property records show the buildings were bought for $2.3 million by a Toronto-based company registered as Webster Apartments Inc. Together, the two buildings have about 140 rental units.
CBC News has viewed a copy of the letter sent to a tenant at 1280 Webster St. Neighbours say a handful of tenants in both buildings, though not all tenants, have received similar letters. The letter says the building “has been in disrepair for many years” and requires an “extensive renovation.”
The letter says the renovations will take seven to 10 months to complete.
“Therefore we have no choice but to terminate your lease effective Aug. 31, 2023,” the letter says.
The letter goes on to say: “While we understand this letter may come as a surprise, we are well within our rights as building owners to terminate your tenancy and do the necessary improvements as required.”
CBC News reached out for comment to Sarita Mathema, the company representative listed on the letter, but did not receive a reply by publication time.
Jordan Smith of the tenants rights’ group ACORN said the letter is “extremely misleading and intimidating.”
“Getting a letter like this is frankly frightening if you’re a tenant,” said Smith. “It’s threatening in nature.”
Smith said the letter has many inaccuracies about tenants’ rights under Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act in cases where a landlord wants a tenant to leave for renovations.
Tenants have a right to return
Smith points out that tenants can contest a landlord’s request to leave and only have to vacate in response to a ruling from the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB), a provincial tribunal that adjudicates over landlord-tenant issues. Also, Smith said tenants who leave for renovations have a legal right of first refusal to return to the same unit once the repairs are completed.
“To say their leases are terminated is leaving out a really big piece of the puzzle,” said Smith.
The letter sent to some tenants cites N13 and N9 forms, which it claims are “issued by the Landlord and Tenant Board.”
However Smith said this is another inaccurate statement, as neither form is issued by the LTB. The N13 is used by landlords to provide legal notice to a tenant of their intention to repair or demolish a unit.
An N9 form allows a tenant to provide a landlord legal notice of their intention to end the tenancy.
The letter viewed by CBC News said the landlord was “only obligated” to offer tenants three months rent ($3,000) in compensation if they leave. But the offer was sweetened to $5,000 if they leave by the end of May.
Smith said dangling incentives like this leaves tenants confused about whether it’s better to stay and fight or take the money and go.
“It’s a tactic we’re seeing more and more in London,” he said.
Tenants fearful they’ll have to leave
Michelle Jollymore has lived at 1280 Webster St. for eight years. She received a letter and sees it as a tactic to remove and replace long-term tenants paying rents below the current market value.
“It’s a money grab,” said Jollymore, who lives on disability payments and provides support for a grown son who has a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. She said her suite doesn’t need extensive repairs.
“It’s completely unnecessary for me to move,” she said. “I feel like they’re taking advantage of people on ODSP [the Ontario Disability Support Program].”
Julie Gallagher is a 72-year-old widower who’s lived at 1280 Webster St. for 20 years. She likes the neighbourhood because she no longer drives and can walk to nearby stores. She’s also has a community of friends in her building. She said she can’t afford current market rates for a similar one-bedroom apartment, which would likely be almost double the $913 she currently pays.
“There’s no place for us seniors to go,” said Gallagher. “I can’t afford $2,000 a month, we’re going to be homeless.”
Gallagher hasn’t yet received a letter but says all tenants of the two buildings believe they’re coming.
Article by Andrew Lupton for CBC News