Posted December 8, 2020
Karin and Will Newman are retired, living on fixed incomes, and don’t know where they’ll go if evicted from the Rexdale townhouse they’ve called home for 42 years.
The couple are among tenants of 20 townhomes at 2 Torbolton Dr. and 25 Leduc Dr. fighting company 2 Torbolton Ltd.’s eviction effective March 31 of next year to undertake renovations of their homes.
In a Nov. 4 letter, the company gave tenants a “good faith” offer of $5,000 to terminate their leases and leave on or before March 31, noting the Residential Tenancies Act obligates them to offer tenants three months’ rent, equivalent to approximately $3,000.
To date, tenants have received letters from the owner, but not an official eviction order from the Landlord and Tenant Board, which they could appeal at a board hearing. Toronto ACORN, which is working with the tenants, has advised them not to sign any forms to terminate their leases.
“I don’t want the $5,000,” Karin Newman said, adding some neighbours have lived there 30-plus years. “I want to stay in my home. I’m 70 years old. I don’t see moving. We’d like to meet with him. See how he can work with us.”
Renovations are expected to last seven to 10 months, the company said in its letter.
The letter makes no mention that under the Act, tenants are allowed right to first refusal to their townhouses after renovations are completed, provided they provide written notice to the owner of their interest to move back.
Tenants interviewed said they have spoken with Torbolton Ltd. property manager Rahul Brahmbhatt, but they want to speak directly with new owner Michael Klein.
Brahmbhatt said he was not authorized to speak with the media when contacted by a reporter for comment. Brahmbhatt said Klein is out of the country. Calls and emails to 2 Torbolton Ltd. were not returned prior to our publication deadline.
The tenants are members of Toronto ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the largest tenant union in North America. For more than a decade, the organization has advocated for healthy homes, property standards enforcement and affordable housing.
“Renovictions are a huge issue for tenants in Toronto,” Marcia Stone, co-chair of the Weston ACORN chapter, said in a statement. “People are being pressured to sign agreements or offered money to move out. … We always tell people, ‘Don’t sign anything. Call ACORN. We can fight this together.’ ”
“Renoviction” is a term used for landlords who force tenants out of their units for renovations and assume tenants will move to new homes. That allows landlords to charge a rent increase above Ontario’s rent control guideline, 2.2 per cent in 2020, which the Ontario government has frozen for 2021.
Last year, British Columbia ACORN won new protections to stop tenant evictions, Stone said, including a building licensing system, rental top-ups for renovation-displaced tenants and more city oversight.
“ACORN members from across Toronto have been fighting to get this here,” Stone said.
Lisa Doucette wondered where she, her husband Gary Copan and their son Jacob, 10, will move after paying $1,045 a month rent, plus gas and hydro. Townhouses start at $2,300 a month plus utilities, she said.
“This is a tight-knit community. I can’t imagine living on another street,” Doucette said. “I’ve been so distraught. I understand the owner wants to do renovations. But don’t just kick us all out. This is people’s homes. It’s not just all about money.”
Patricia Edwards, 52, an Etobicoke ACORN member, also despairs at her options in Toronto’s expensive rental housing market. She pays $1,189 a month for her townhouse where she lives with her daughter, 23, and three cats.
Edwards is currently job hunting at a time when thousands of people have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ll have to downsize,” Edwards said. “A two-bedroom apartment is $2,100 to $2,300 to $2,600 or we move into a basement. Living here should be like owning your own home. Owners should be responsible for the people living there and they’re not. It’s all about the money.”
Article by Tamara Shephard for Toronto.com