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NEWS: “Renovicted” tenants left with no recourse (Oct. 2022)

October 19th, 2022 · No Comments

Woes for those who just want back in  


By Fox Oliver

The management company in charge of 11 Walmer Rd. is welcoming new tenants into their building after a renovation, while six former tenants, who were evicted based on work that began in 2019, watch with their hands tied. This situation exposes flaws in legal protection for renters in Ontario, and MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) says these need to be fixed as part of tackling the provincial affordability crisis.

The six tenants in question were confident they would be at the top of the list of potential renters for their old building once the renovations were complete. Cromwell Management, the real estate company that manages the building, gave them an estimated return date of December 2021. The building renovations are now complete, but Cromwell Management has started renting units in the building to new tenants without offering spaces to the former tenants.

When the displaced tenants saw new tenants moving into the newly renovated 11 Walmer Rd., they inquired as to when they could move back into the building too. Cromwell Management informed them that their specific units were not ready yet. However, many units in the newly renovated building are available for rent on Cromwell Management’s website and have been for months. The displaced tenants have even witnessed plenty of new tenants moving into the building while they themselves cannot. The tenants say this leaves them questioning Cromwell Management’s promises to them and whether the management company’s actions are legal.

According to the Government of Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, landlords must give tenants who are evicted due to renovations the “right of first refusal to move back into the unit following the renovation.” This means the evicted tenants must be given the chance to move back into their units without an increase in rent before their units are offered to other renters. However, as Cromwell Management says the displaced tenants’ units aren’t ready yet, and that they have not been offered to new renters, their actions are within the bounds of the law.

Cromwell Management’s actions, while legal, expose flaws in the laws protecting renters in Ontario. When a tenant believes they have been evicted in bad faith, they can submit a T-5 form to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to receive compensation. However, the T-5 form must be submitted within two years of a tenant’s eviction, and due to this renovation lasting at least two years, the evicted tenants did not have reason to submit the form until this window had passed. There is “no recourse now,” says Caitlyn Gowans, one of the displaced tenants.

Bell says that there can be up to a two-year wait for a tenant’s case to be heard by the LTB once a T-5 form is submitted, and even then, the punishments for a landlord who violates tenants’ rights are not strong enough to dissuade the landlord from attempting to do so in the first place.

Bell has been working with the evicted tenants to help ensure they return to their newly renovated units. She says that a landlord’s motivation to replace tenants likely lies in their ability to raise the rent greatly when switching to new tenants. Bell believes that the province and city need “a comprehensive response to tackle the affordability crisis.” Fixing the affordability crisis in the city will lead to more enforceable tenants’ rights, and vice versa, says Bell. 

Bell’s plan to strengthen tenants’ rights includes speeding up LTB hearings and heightening penalties for landlords who violate tenants’ rights. Bell is also pushing for vacancy control which is a set of laws that limit the annual increase of the rental cost of a unit regardless of changes in tenants. 

Vacancy control would prevent drastic rent increases when landlords replace tenants and reduce a landlord’s motivation to evict in bad faith. 

Bell has proposed these changes to Steve Clark, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, and Doug Downey, the attorney general, but they have not been passed or implemented yet.

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