Toronto tenants receive eviction notices in dispute over AC units
Dozens of tenants in west Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood have been issued eviction notices for reportedly having air conditioning units in their apartments and refusing to pay extra to cover the costs of running them.
Back on June 20, roughly 30 households at 130 Jameson Ave., just south of King Street West, received a N5 eviction notice that ordered them to either vacate their apartments by July 7, pay a monthly fee to offset the higher hydro costs associated with running the units, or pay for hydro directly through sub-metering.
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All of those affected have lived in the building for at least 15 years, life-long tenant Shelly Dunphy told CP24.
Calling the whole thing a "cash grab," Dunphy said after receiving the document several worried tenants gathered in the building’s lobby to express their concerns and talk about how they can stay in their homes.
One of first things they did was contact their local MPP Bhutila Karpoche. They also reached out to Parkdale Organize, which bills itself as “working class people in Parkdale who organize to build neighbourhood power,” for help.
About 80 residents met with the group and Karpoche in front of the building last Friday. A representative from Parkdale Legal Clinic was also on hand.
They gathered again Tuesday evening to raise awareness about the situation and call on their landlord, The Myriad Group, to withdraw the N5 notices.
“The fact is, these tenants don’t have to move out,” said Karpoche, who created a long Twitter thread about the situation.
“The landlord has created a sense of panic. The tenants, thankfully, are talking to one another and are organizing as a group.”
Karpoche, who represents Parkdale-High Park, said she believes what is happening at 130 Jameson Ave. isn’t about tenants breaking the terms of their lease by installing AC units. She said it’s the result of a loophole in the Residential Tenancies Act, which allows landlords to increase the rent as much as they like for empty units.
“Once those units are vacant the rent will go up very high,” said Karpoche.
In a statement responding to Karpoche’s social media post, The Myriad Group said they want to “move forward together with a beneficial result for the tenants.”
The landlord said every year they inspect all of the units at 130 Jameson Ave. for any “deviations to what is allowable under the tenant’s lease,” including air conditioners or other appliances not included in the agreement.
“Tenants are then supplied with a warning letter and provided approximately a week to two weeks’ time to remedy the situation including options to pay for hydro directly through sub-metering (with the required rent reduction) or paying a monthly fee to us,” they wrote.
“Those tenant’s suites are then re-inspected after the initial warning period and if they continue to use unapproved appliances, we issue the LTB proscribed form N5. Some tenants, upon receiving the warning letter, will sign up for one of the options, at that point we consider the matter closed.”
The landlord went on to say tenants who chose not to “pursue one of the options available to them and have been issued an N5” are the ones who contacted Karpoche.
The Myriad Group underlined that its actions fall within the Residential Tenancies Act, which is enforced by the Landlord Tenant Board. They also said they’ve informed affected tenants of their options and some have agreed to them, while others have not.
“It was not, has never been and will never be our intent to evict someone without providing them the opportunity to remedy the situation in a reasonable manner and amount of time,” the landlord said.
Speaking to CP24 Wednesday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory said people shouldn’t be getting evicted for what he called a lease “technicality,” especially during a time where the city is in a “housing shortage situation.”
“I would just hope that this landlord, you know, could be in a situation where he probably has a lot of very loyal tenants in there who’ve been paying their rent and living there in an orderly fashion for many years and that they could come to some better agreement than even hinting at threatening or carrying out evictions of people who, you know may not have an easy place to go in a time of housing shortage in the city of Toronto,” he said.
“We’re talking about a relatively small amount of money for the cost of the air conditioning. I understand that. I don’t know the lease says. I don’t know all of those facts. But the bottom line is when we’re in a housing shortage situation we cannot have people evicted on that kind of a basis, that’s for sure.”
Emina Gamulin, of Parkdale Organize, said it appears the landlord is “hitting these tenants from all kinds of different levels. … More and more stuff is emerging as we go along,” she charged.
“These aggressive tactics make life uncomfortable and push people to move.”
Gamulin, who is also a long-time renter in Parkdale, said the best thing tenants can do is to understand their rights and take a “collective, direct” approach when faced with pressure from their landlord.
“Divide and conquer is a common landlord tactic,” she said.
“Hopefully (the landlord) realizes these tenants are organized and prepared to fight for their homes.”