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Toronto tenants successfully fight illegal charges landlord attempted to impose

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After the tenants of a Toronto apartment building were told by their landlord they would have to start paying for some services that were previously offered free, they were able to successfully fight the proposed charges with the help of their MPP.

Toronto tenant Morris Jacobs said he was initially concerned when he got a notice from his building that proposed charges for some existing services, including $35 per month for lockers and $15 per month to use the bike racks.

"I never signed up for extra charges like that and they weren't included in my lease," Jacobs told CTV News Toronto.

Jacobs reached out to Jill Andrew, the MPP for the riding of Toronto - St. Paul’s, and she sent a letter to the management of Jacob’s building that said “the delivered notice admits that the above-mentioned services were previously accessed by tenants at no charge.”

Andrew’s letter also stated “neither storage locker access nor the bike rack access are a new or additional service, ergo the threatening demand for payment is not permitted under the Residential Tenancies Act.”

“I do know according to my MPP the charges for the bicycle and the storage lockers are illegal because they were provided when the tenants moved in,” Jacobs said.

Upon receipt of the letter, the building management sent a letter to Jacobs and other residents in the building that said “due to an error of understanding the rules of amenities [...] we will not charge the tenants for storage lockers and the bike rack.”

Toronto tenant Morris Jacobs speaks to CTV News Toronto.

Geordie Dent, the Executive Director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association told CTV News Toronto they “get notifications like this all the time. They are just usually not so brazen in terms of the illegality."

Dent said charges for services like parking, storage lockers and additional costs for things like air conditioning cannot be more than rent control guidelines.

He added that all charges must be agreed to in the lease and a landlord can't introduce new charges unless the tenant agrees to them.

"They can’t say this service used to be free and now we are going to charge you for it. You can't have a service that was previously free under your contract and then decide you are going to bill a tenant for that money now,” he said.

Dent said tenants need to know their rights and question any new charges and believes some renters may be paying additional costs they shouldn't be responsible for.

Most Ontario landlords will be able to increase rents two and a half per cent next year, but rent controls don't apply to buildings built after November 2018, so landlords can raise the rent in those units by the amount of their choosing.

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