Tenants in Toronto’s Leslieville fight ‘renoviction’

June 10, 2019
By Joanna Lavoie, Toronto.com

Like scores of tenants across Toronto, those living at 245 Logan Ave. are feeling the squeeze of gentrification.

Back in October, the 20-unit apartment building in Leslieville was sold to 2653526 Ontario Ltd. Since then, the tenants we spoke to allege the new owner offered renters up to $5,000 to leave. The tenants estimate about half of the building’s residents have moved out. Those who remain say they aren’t going anywhere without a fight.

In early April, the tenants who refused to leave were told by a landlord representative they’d be getting a N13 form, a legal notice given to a tenant when a landlord wants to demolish a rental unit, repair it, or convert it to another use. This action is sometimes referred to as a “renoviction.” According to the notice, which tenants received on April 9, occupants have until Aug. 9 to vacate. The form describes plans to remove knob and tube wiring and install new wiring in the building.

Tenant Polina Palazova, who has lived in the red-brick building since 2015 and pays $920 a month, said she had a bad feeling she’d be “renovicted” when the building was sold last fall.

“(The previous owner) assured me I wouldn’t be evicted,” said Palazova, who attends Ryerson University and has two part-time jobs.

“It’s not a fair fight. We’re not leaving until the sheriff comes and removes us.”

Fellow tenant Brad Birnie, who has lived at that address for about a year and pays $940 for a one-bedroom apartment, called the whole thing “disgusting” and “underhanded.”

“People should not speculate on rentals. You can’t speculate with people’s lives,” he said.

“It’s all about money. I’ll fight (tooth and nail) and wait until the wrecking ball comes.”

Resident Shelley Coulas, who also has a one-bedroom unit and pays $920 a month, is also vowing to stay in her home until “the bitter end.”

“It’s intimidating. Unfortunately, this is happening in Toronto all the time,” she said.

“I think low rents in Toronto are incredibly important and we need to maintain that and fight for it as much as possible.”

All three tenants said if they are forced to vacate, they may have to leave the city to find an affordable place to live.

That’s not really an option for seven-year resident Bill Goddard, who is recovering from brain and lymphatic cancer.

His friend Audrey Arnsdorf, who is visiting from New York, said Goddard, 77, works part-time, has no family, and requires medical care.

“It’s such an upsetting time. I’m fearful Bill could be homeless,” she said.

Ward 14 Coun. Paula Fletcher has been helping the tenants of 245 Logan Ave. in their fight to stay in their homes.

“I’m at the beck and call of these tenants to make sure they have everything they need to fight this renoviction,” said Fletcher, who hosted a May 29 community meeting about the situation.

She said what’s happening at 245 Logan Ave. is a “prime example” of why laws need to be strengthened so landlords can’t just kick out tenants to reap the benefits of Toronto’s hot rental market.

“This phenomenon will continue to grow. These folks, these tenants at 245 Logan Ave., are now on the front line. They have the right to live in this community,” said Fletcher, noting “strong, gutsy tenant leaders” are key in this fight.

“There needs to be a very strong case. If somebody’s going to be evicted, it has to be legitimate.”

Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns also attended last week’s meeting and is working with his NDP colleague, MPP Suze Morrison, the party’s housing critic, to reinforce the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act.

“Right now, the name of the game is pushing tenants out of a building (in) any way possible. There’s huge financial incentives,” he said.

“Ultimately, the law has to be changed to protect tenants.”

Lawyer Stewart Cruikshank of East Toronto Community Legal Services is representing the residents of 245 Logan Ave. at the Landlord Tenant Board as they fight their impending eviction. A hearing date has yet to be set.

We made several attempts via both email and phone to solicit comment from Briarlane Rental Property Management Inc., which is managing the property on behalf of the landlord, but did not hear back by our publication deadline. We also attempted to confirm the name of the owner, who is only listed as a numbered company on documentation, so we could reach out directly for comment but were unable to obtain this information.