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The Record: Kitchener tenants must wait longer to hear if they will be ‘renovicted’ by landlord - ACORN Canada

The Record: Kitchener tenants must wait longer to hear if they will be ‘renovicted’ by landlord

Posted January 18, 2024

Kitchener tenants fighting a ‘renoviction’ case at 267 Traynor Avenue finally got their hearing Friday at the Landlord and Tenant Board, but the adjudicator wanted to wait to make a decision until the landlord gets a building permit. 

A landlord’s attempt to “renovict” tenants in a Kitchener apartment building has been put on hold by the Landlord and Tenant Board.

Adjudicator Patrick Shea said Friday that the landlord — who wants to renovate the building at 267 Traynor Avenue and also add an additional basement unit — hasn’t yet obtained the building permits needed.

Without those, it isn’t possible to tell if the landlord even needs the units to be vacant before proceeding with renovations.

After two hours of questioning tenants and representatives for landlord and tenants, Shea adjourned the hearing until after the permits are ready.

“There may be an eviction, months from now, but I haven’t made that decision yet,” Shea said.

Tenant leader Maribel Jagorin said she had hoped that Friday’s hearing would come down decisively in favour of the tenants.

Waiting to hear “is very difficult, because it’s a constant threat” of losing your home, she said.

“The insecurity is always there.”

The building is covered by rent control. Long-standing tenants pay less than $1,000 a month for their apartments, which is about half the going rate.

Tenants in the building received eviction notices a year ago. A group led by Jagorin decided to contest the evictions at the Landlord and Tenant Board. They joined together to hire a paralegal to represent them and successfully asked to be heard as a group.

Jagorin’s own eviction notice, issued by Hamilton-based lawyer Glenn Gosling, had said that the landlord needed her unit to be vacant by the end of May 2023 “in order to do repairs or renovations so extensive that I am required to get a building permit and the rental unit must be vacant to do the work.”

However, Friday’s hearing was told that there is no building permit yet. The application for the permit was only submitted this week, nearly a year later.

Ken Bekendam, owner of the architectural design and planning firm that is working for the landlord, said he wasn’t retained until Feb. 7 2023, after the eviction notices had already been sent to tenants.

That surprised Shea. “I thought Mr. Bekendam was going to testify he had been retained long before this,” he said.

There was also conflicting testimony about payments to tenants. By law, landlords who evict tenants because they are renovating have to pay them three months’ rent.

All eight tenants at the hearing said they never received these payments from the landlord. None of the cheques has been cashed.

However, the landlord’s representative, Andrew Choubeta, said he did mail the cheques.

“Renoviction” refers to a situation — becoming increasingly common as land values rise across southern Ontario — in which a landlord buys an older building where tenants are protected by rent control.

The landlord then announces that extensive renovations are going to happen, requiring the tenants to be evicted so that the work can be done in their vacant units. When the job is over, new tenants move into the units at substantially higher rents.

The original tenants have the legal right to return to their renovated apartments at the original rents, but many don’t know their rights. As well, this law is not thoroughly enforced by government, tenants’ rights advocates say. And penalties are minor for landlords who do get caught.

Jagorin now pays less than $1,000 a month for her apartment. To find an equivalent apartment now, she would be paying twice as much.

“There is nowhere else to go” if she and the other tenants lose, she said before the hearing.

She became an activist out of necessity, and is also the co-chair of the local chapter of ACORN, a tenants’ rights union.

The landlord, Mike Beer Investments of Mississauga, has already renovated some of the apartments in the 17-unit building and those units have already been rented to new tenants, Jagorin said.

In October, Beer’s company also applied to the City of Kitchener for permission to make changes to the building.

He wanted approval to add one more unit, to be built in an area that’s now a shared common area. He also asked to reduce the number of parking spaces to 25 from 32.

Tenants opposed Beer’s application to the city’s committee of adjustment, but were unsuccessful.


Article by Waterloo Region Record