London Free Press: Property manager denies tenants being evicted to raise rents
Posted March 22, 2022
Posted March 22, 2022
Sparks are flying over the eviction of tenants at a London housing complex where an advocacy group is fighting new owners it says are only interested in driving up rents.
It’s late or missing rent payments and pest problems to blame, the property manager contends, with major efforts underway to clean and renovate the buildings after taking over a year ago.
Debbie Blatchford lives in the complex in London’s southeast, where there are more than 100 units spread across eight buildings at 80 and 84-96 King Edward Ave. She’s been in multiple units during the last decade and has lived in her most recent, a one-bedroom, for four years.
This year, Blatchford and her partner started getting eviction notices.
“I kind of got a little scared. What are they going to do to have me get out? I like it here, because it’s quiet and I know a lot of people out here,” she said.
She’s on disability payments and can’t afford more than the $956 she’s paying now for rent.
Still, the couple is looking for new housing options.
“We’re trying, but it’s so expensive,” Blatchford said.
She’s just one among the tenants grappling with next steps after receiving N5s, a warning notice that can lay the groundwork for an eviction order from the Landlord and Tenant Board.
The first N5, which is a notice to end tenancy because of damage, overcrowding or actions interfering with other tenants’ “reasonable enjoyment of the residential complex,” came in February.
A second N5 can be delivered, if the behaviour initially outlined, isn’t fixed, and allows the landlord to apply to the Landlord Tenant Board to kick out the tenant.
Those notices were handed out “like candy” at the King Edward complex, pushing people out of dozens of units, tenants say.
Property manager Suki Bedi refuted allegations of widespread evictions.
“There’s a few. There’s 150 tenants there, so I don’t think it’s significant,” he said. “I don’t know how many tenants are in the proceedings right now, maybe five.”
He said the evictions are the result of late or nonexistent rent payments and failing to prepare for repeated spraying for cockroaches, a persistent problem in the highrise at 80 King Edward Ave. and the three-storey walkups at 84-96 King Edward Ave.
“Every complex has evictions going on and whatnot. This complex has been plagued with cockroaches for 10 years,” Bedi said.
Universal Property Management, which operates the buildings, is treating for cockroaches repeatedly with a pest control company, returning every three or four weeks to eradicate the problem, he said. That requires tenants to move furniture, clear out belongings in some areas, and go through other preparation in order for the spray to be effective.
Other tenants are happy with the process, Bedi said.
“We can spray as much as we want, but if they aren’t preparing the unit properly for the spray, we can’t get rid of them,” he said.
“We’re trying to clean that place up. There are tenants that don’t want to live with cockroaches. They’d gladly do what needs to be done to get it done. They shouldn’t have to live with it.”
Some tenants argue it’s a tactic to push people out and turn over the unit in order to rent it at a much higher rate. The property management website lists the one-bedroom units starting at $1,195, two bedrooms starting at $1,295 and three-bedrooms at $1,495.
Carol Jackson said she knows of multiple tenants evicted from their units, and others who left because of the threat or annoyance of repeated N5 notices. Most people in the complex are on fixed incomes, she said.
“He is leaving people homeless,” she charged.
Jackson and other tenants are working with the London chapter of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which bills itself as a union fighting for low- and moderate-income people.
It’s demanding the landlord meet with tenants and work to resolve concerns at the King Edward complex.
The group also organized a protest outside the complex last week to demand tighter rent controls, including landlords’ ability to raise rents as much as they like when tenants move out. Reducing that power has been urged by some advocates and promised by the NDP in Ontario. Both London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong and London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan showed up to ACORN’s protest.
Jackson said more provincial protections are needed to keep tenants across the city from being evicted in order to jack up rents.
Bedi acknowledged units are being renovated and listed at higher prices after people move out, but defended the practice.
“We’re under tight control of the Landlord and Tenant Board, we’re giving these documents (provided by LTB). We’re not unlawfully doing anything. People want to have a nice, clean place to live. People don’t like roaches.”
Article by Megan Stacey for London Free Press