The London Free Press: Tenants of two London apartment buildings ‘in shock’ over eviction notices
Posted May 4, 2023
Tenants of two northeast London apartment buildings, nearly all on fixed income or a pension, say they are being pushed out of their homes after receiving so-called “renoviction” notices from the property owner.
About 20 residents at 1270 and 1280 Webster St. received N13 notices last Friday, informing them the owner, Webster Apts Inc., had “no choice” but to terminate their leases by Aug. 31.
The notice, a copy of which was obtained by The Free Press, states the new owner plans “extensive renovation” of the buildings and that the units would no longer be livable because of health and safety concerns.
“While we understand this letter may come as a surprise, we are well within our rights as buildings owners to terminate your tenancy and do the necessary improvements required,” said the letter, signed by building management at Webster Apts Inc.
Tenants were told the work would take between seven and 10 months.
“I’m still in shock,” Melissa Chambers, a 16-year resident of the building, said Wednesday.
“I don’t know where I’m going to go. I’m in a wheelchair and nothing is available in the city,” she said, choking back tears.
Many of the tenants facing eviction are seniors, single parents and families with children who receive assistance through a monthly pension, Ontario Works or the Ontario disability support program (ODSP).
Sherrill Solomon lives in her apartment with her seven-year-old son Sebastian, who is non-verbal and has complex special needs, including severe epilepsy and autism. An ODSP recipient, Solomon fears they will have nowhere to go if the pair is forced to leave.
“If we’re out, we’re out. My son can’t be in a shelter. We’ve never stayed overnight anywhere,” she said.
Moving to a new home would only reverse the progress her son has made, Solomon added. “I’m terrified that if we’re forced to move, even if it’s temporarily, it will regress him.”
Webster Apts Inc. took ownership of the two 66-unit buildings in April. Sarita Mathema, a company representative listed on the eviction notices, declined to comment Wednesday. She said another official would contact The Free Press but a response was not received by press time.
Many of the tenants fear the owner is doing the renovations in bad faith, capitalizing on high rent prices in a city where the average rent for one-bedroom sat at $1,775 in April, according to Rentals.ca, a website used by landlords to advertise their units.
Cases of tenants being forced out of their homes for renovations are becoming increasingly common in Ontario, where landlords stand to make large profits and tenants have fewer affordable housing options, said Jordan Smith, head of the London chapter of ACORN, a national tenants’ group.
“This issue is catching on like wildfire. With the housing market being what it is, landlords are doubly incentivized to evict tenants, especially tenants who are in lower-income housing or who have grandfathered rent. Because the moment they get them onto the street they can double the rent,” he said.
Under Ontario laws, tenants evicted due to renovations have the first right of refusal, meaning they have the right to return to the unit at the same rent they were paying before the work was completed.
But while there are laws to protect tenants, there is nobody at the provincial or federal level to enforce them, Smith said.
“We have very little enforcement, and the investigation aspect of things is entirely placed on tenants, who, in these situations, are so vulnerable.”
Another issue is that Ontario’s landlord tenant board is severely underfunded, with no full-time adjudicators, Smith said.
Several of the tenants met Sunday to discuss the notices and are seeking legal help. A meeting held by ACORN’s London chapter was also scheduled for Wednesday evening.
Article by Calvi Leon for The London Free Press