A dozen families living in Keel Street are once again struggling to maintain their homes as they face renovations.
This is the new landlord’s second attempt to evict tenants and then re-list the building. People who have lived here for a few decades are not giving up, but the owner says their strategy is going too far.
“We have no choice but to fight this because we don’t have anywhere else to go,” said one of the tenant organizers, Flynn Dunt.
Granthshala first reported on the condition of the building five months ago, just as the third wave of the pandemic was gathering steam. Everyone in the building had received N13 notices from landlord Riley Real Estate Ventures to terminate their tenancy, giving them four months to leave.
“The whole COVID thing going on, many of us have lost our jobs or are on leave. It’s very stressful, very stressful,” Andrea, a tenant, told Granthshala in March.
Tenants fought against the real estate investment company, taking their fight to social media. He pasted posters outside the company’s office and took his protest to the CEO’s doorstep.
Shortly after, the company removed the eviction notice. In the summer, the building moved back to the market. NS The listing described it as A “significant value-added opportunity”, adding rents was 50 percent of the market value. But the building never sold – and then last week some tenants were issued second round of eviction notices.
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“It has been like a rollercoaster ride – very stressful,” said Aines Gakutan, another tenant. The notices again give the tenants four months to leave.
On its website, the real estate development firm is open about its business model, with low-end properties being flipped after being renovated for maximum value. The company says its specialty is low-rise buildings and finished projects attract above-average rents.
After a few attempts to reach CEO Brendan Riley, Granthshala was able to contact him via email. In a statement to Granthshala, Riley says that after the cancellation of the first notice, the company tried to work with the tenants
“We told all tenants about our plans to add one to two more floors to the building, but we agreed that we would temporarily put our plans on hold due to the pandemic and with this understanding they would meet us so that we could let them know. “We wanted the chance to get to know them all personally and look forward to working closely with them on the project,” he wrote to Granthshala.
Instead, they claimed that they became unresponsive and uncooperative. He also said that he stifled the sale of the building by refusing to allow potential buyers into his units.
“My partners on this building and I have been extremely considerate of all tenants by canceling the N13 and doing our best to keep the communication lines open,” Riley wrote. “We both know that there are many other developers/property owners who would have handled this with very little empathy and understanding and a willingness to cooperate with their tenants. We choose not to conduct ourselves that way.”
He said the tenants went too far by publicly defaming him and his company and calling the protest outside his home illegal. Still, he says he is ready to work on a proposal with her.
Dante said the protest outside Riley’s home was peaceful and necessary.
“We have kids and elderly people in the building, and we don’t know where they’ll go if they’re kicked out and they’re trying to get us out,” Dante said.
Riley says tenants are being offered three months’ rent and the unit will be given back to them once the repairs are complete, but at an “increased amount in the indexed rent.”
Ontario landlord tenant rules need to change: councilor
All these works are legal and compliant with the Residential Tenancy Act. A city councilor doing repair work in his ward says it needs to be replaced.
“With the pressure of real estate in the market, people are engaged in speculative buying practices, trying to turn properties and increase profits. Of course, the people who are on the other side of it are being squeezed,” Cowney said. Brad Bradford (Beach – East York). Bradford also sits on the city’s housing committee.
“Provincially there are rules and regulations but they are very difficult to enforce, and it also puts a burden on the tenants,” he explained. “It’s a complicated system the landlord-tenant board is backed by forever.”
Every tenant facing an eviction order has the right to a board hearing, a spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing told Granthshala.
“A tenant need not move out unless an eviction order has been issued by an adjudicator,” spokesman Matt Carter wrote in a statement. He said that under Ontario law, a landlord cannot charge a tenant more rent than they would have been paying if they had not moved out.
Last year, the province increased fines for landlords and rental companies that don’t follow the rules. In addition to other rule changes, owners who file for eviction now also have to tell the Landlord Tenant Board if this isn’t the first time they’ve applied to vacate a certain unit.
Toronto also has bylaws to protect rental buildings with six or more units from being demolished. Bradford says it’s one way the city can help stand-up for tenants.
“When I hear about renovations in my office I immediately flag them to see permits for Toronto Building Department employees,” Bradford said. “I follow up by contacting the landlord and letting them know that we know exactly what is going on here, the tenant arrived and we are getting into these issues. It is important for landlords engaged in these practices That it’s just not going to fly under the radar.”
For tenants in the Keele Street building, a second notice gives them until January to find another home.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business,” Riley wrote. “We all have families and we have to put bread on the table.”