Toronto rent increases, evictions

Paul York (stephen.york@utoronto.ca)
Fri, 12 Feb 1999 20:56:36 PST


TENANTS  GET  RENT  INCREASES
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Tens of thousands of "sittting" tenants
throughout Toronto have received notices
of above guideline increases. Most are
for 7% of which 3% is the legal guideline
allowed by the Ministry of Housing and 4%
is for "capital expenditures" --work the
landlord has done in the building.

Goldplating

Many tenants claim the their landlords
are "gold-plating" -- doing cosmetic repairs,
while continuing to ignore real maintenance
concerns, and asking exhorbitant rent increases.

"Sitting tenants" (those who occupied their
units prior to June 17, 1998) are now
experiencing 7% rent increases, as January
is the traditional month for lease renewal
and rent increases for most tenants.

Rent review

Unless the tenants challenge the increase
in a rent review which now costs $45 to
file and $5 for each additional "joined"
application they will have to live with
the increase.

Tenants can choose to pay only the 3% and
contest the 4%. If they lose the rent review
they will have to pay the 4% retroactively.
If they pay the 4% and successfully challenge
the increase, the landlord will owe them the
4% retroactively.

Records of the charges are available at the
Tribunal (56 Wellesley) for 50 cents per page.
Some of the files are massive, so bring your wallet.

18 month loophole

Many big landlords are taking advantage of
a loophole in the law which allows for increase
for improvements made 18 months prior the
application. Tenants can only file for 12 months.
For example, Greenwin Property Management has
applied for 7% increases for most of its tenants.
Many would call this rent gouging.

Greenwin tenants

150 tenants living in Greenwin apartments on
Davisville met last two weeks ago to discuss
the problem. Councillor Michael Walker and Gord
Stevenson of Flemingdon Legal Services urged
tenants to form tenant associations if they
wanted to fight the increases.

Several Greenwin meetings are occuring through-
out the city.

The complaint of the Greenwin tenants is that
"improvements" to the building are only cosmetic
(new carpets in common areas, mirrors in lobbies),
while basic maintenance continues to be neglected.
Several landlords have charged sitting tenants
for renovations to vacant apartments, which the
tenants say does not benefit them and is unjustified.
Some landlords plan to funnel the increases into
condominium projects.

Tenant meetings

It is not difficult to find out if your
neighbours are interested in challenging a rent
increase: just make a flyer urging them to
come to a tenant meeting in the lobby to explore
legal options. There is a template for those who
are interested and tenant volunteer available
to attend meetings and bring legal information
(in Toronto).

EVICTION  PREVENTIONS

Tenant associations can provide a valuable service
by fighting evictions, to help them act as a liason
for them in matters concerning the Tribual. Tenants
must overcome their fear of being evicted if they
wish to fight poor living conditions, rent increases
and harassment.

The Thorncliffe Tenants Assoc. has intervened in
over a dozen eviction cases in the last two months.
In one case, there was no legal recourse: even the
date for a set-aside had expired and the tenant
had already been locked out by the Sheriff. Brook
Physick of Flemingdon Community Legal Services said
the case was hopeless from a legal standpoint, but
the tenants assoc. managed to get the tenants back
in the apartment through negotiation.

TENANT  PROTEST

In the first six months of its existence the
Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal has processed
over 30,000 applications by landlords to evict
tenants (half in Toronto district offices)at
least a 15% increase due to increases rents
(greater rate of default), the financial incentive
for landlords to gain vacant possession (to raise
rents), the loss of rent subsidies (part of Ontario's
welfare cuts), and the fast-tracking of evictions
under the new law (allowing only 5 days to respond
in writing to a notice of eviction hearing). 97% of
the applications brought to the Tribunal are from
landlords. Legal clinic worker say the system is
stacked against tenants, caseloads have doubled
and tenants are losing more than ever.

No new housing

Once tenants are evicted it is extremely difficult
to find new accommodation in a rental market in
which the vacancy rate continues to hover at 1% per
cent and no new rental units are being built by
the private sector. 

Non-violent demonstration

There will be a demonstration
by Toronto Action for Social Change against this
"eviction factory" outside the Tribunal at 56
Wellesley (Bay & Wellesley)on  February 22,
1999, at 12 noon to call attention to the Tribunal
as the mechanism whereby many thousands of Toronto
residents have become homeless.