Toronto looks to follow Hamilton’s lead when it comes to deceitful practice of renovictions

Property owners looking to evict tenants before major renovations may have to acquire proper building permits from the city beforehand. Mark McAllister looks at how Hamilton has set the example.

Earl LeBlanc had been living in his East York apartment for 10 years before he was told in 2019 that he had six weeks to get out. The building owner had plans to refurbish the place and ultimately increase the rent. LeBlanc says it was a stressful, worrisome time for him.

“Big time and I’m an older guy and a senior and so it’s sort of into panic mode,” he tells CityNews.

LeBlanc is among thousands of others in Toronto who are constantly finding themselves fighting against renovictions, a deceitful eviction tactic used by landlords to force tenants into vacating the rental unit and then turn around and charge higher rents to new tenants. While tenants can try and fight the matter before the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board, some city councillors are looking for a way to make sure landlords think twice before utilizing this process.

“There needs to be a step somewhere where we can move in between the Landlord and Tenant Board and that tenant that provides a higher test,” said Coun. Paula Fletcher.

That step could come in the form of a new bylaw, similar to one that was passed last month by the City of Hamilton where a renovation permit will be needed after the eviction notice has been issued. Landlords would also have to accommodate tenants with temporary accommodations or compensation and allow tenants to return to the unit at the same rate they were paying before the renovation work was done. Landlords who fail to comply with the bylaw could be fined $500 per unit per day.

“The proof must be there when you try to kick somebody out that they actually are going to need a building permit,” said Fletcher. “It’s going to be extensive renovations to the point where you can’t be in your apartment anymore.”

A new report released by ACORN Ontario shows the number of N13 filings has increased by 300 per cent across the province, from less than 300 in 2017 to more than 1,000 in 2022. That’s just the number that makes it to the Landlord and Tenant Board. ACORN points out that people are often harassed and intimidated until they choose to vacate the premises not realizing the avenues they might have available.

LeBlanc was among those who did not realize the rights that he had.

“Zero. To be honest I didn’t know anything. I never heard of a renoviction. I was just comfortable in my place,” he said.

The new bylaw is set to be part of a report to be presented to city council in May as part of a larger measure to try and protect tenant’s rights and affordable housing.

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