Hundreds of tenants at 2 North York buildings join rent strike

Tenants at two North York apartment buildings are preparing to join a rent strike to protest deteriorating conditions and above-guideline rent increases. Melissa Nakhavoly report.

By Melissa Nakhavoly

Deteriorating living conditions and unaffordable rent increases have led more than 100 tenants at two apartment buildings in North York to join other neighbourhood groups in withholding rent from their landlord.

The buildings at 1440 and 1442 Lawrence Avenue West are owned by Barney River Investments. Residents claim the private real estate investment and management company has refused to address serious repairs in the buildings while consistently increasing rent above rent control. Conditions are said to be so bad that even Canada Post has refused to deliver mail to the buildings the last three years.

“Canada post is saying bed bug infestation in your building and they are not going to deliver mail but for the landlord it’s OK for people to live in these conditions,” said Bruno Dobrusin, an organizer with the York South-Weston Tenant Union.

CityNews detected foul smells throughout several floors which appeared to have not been properly cleaned, including garbage chutes that were overflowing.

“There are too much bedbugs, cockroaches all the time. People are complaining. No cleaning, no maintenance,” added Rashid Limbada, who has been a resident at 1440 Lawrence Avenue West for over 30 years. He says making ends meet has been difficult and he wants the provincial government to step in.

“It’s not affordable, it’s too high. One bedroom is $2,200 plus parking and plus hydro, almost $2,400,” he said.

Tenants at both buildings have organized and will be taking part in a rent strike starting October 1st, joining thousands of others including residents at 33 King and 22 John streets in protesting unfair rent hikes.

“We estimate it is more than 600 tenants, we estimate it’s one of the largest rent strikes in Toronto’s history right now. As well as folks at Thorncliffe Park also on rent strike for six months now, so we see a huge movement in Toronto of people standing up and fighting back,” said Dobrusin.

Tenants say they are open to negotiate and will go back to paying rent once the property owner agrees to meet with them – a request that residents say has been ignored.

“We had a petition going on many months before people decided to go on a rent strike, the petition was to say scrap the above guideline rent increases, withdraw them and also repair the units and we never heard back from management,” explained Dobrusin. “Everything we heard from Barney Rivers has been more intimidation.”

CityNews reached out to Barney River Properties for comment but have yet to hear back from them.

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