Tenants who live at MetCap Living Management buildings in Toronto say the landlord is increasing rent at its many apartments in Parkdale in a bid to drive out lower income people.
More than 50 tenants protested the rent increases at the company's head office downtown Thursday.
Cole Webber, a worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services, says the rent increases are all part of the wave of gentrification sweeping the community. MetCap Living owns 19 buildings in Parkdale.
"For people on fixed-income, these rent increases are an eviction by another name," Webber said. "The bigger issue is the displacement of working class and immigrant tenants from Parkdale."
He described MetCap Living as "Parkdale's biggest, most notorious landlord."
Webber has been helping people who live in MetCap Living apartments fight the landlord's rent increases. The property management company is seeking rent increases that are three per cent above the provincial guideline at four of its Parkdale buildings.
Bogus eviction notices common
Many of its tenants are seniors, newcomers on fixed incomes and original tenants from the 1970s who pay a rent capped at around $800 dollars a month. But over the past couple of years, Webber has noticed an exodus of long term tenants.
"Bogus eviction notices are common," he said. "People will get a notice indicating that they are being evicted when the rent is late when they actually have paid. Tenants will make requests and often times the issue is not dealt with and the property managers will blame the tenants for not following the process properly."
Residents at 87 Jameson Ave. went on a rent strike earlier last month because of overdue maintenance requests they had in their units, including pest control complaints.
"All of these issues are giving tenants the sense that MetCap doesn't want them there," Webber said.
When tenants eventually do leave, their units are quickly renovated and listed for much higher.
Out with the old, in with the new
College student Ryan Boon, who moved to an apartment on Tyndall Avenue last August, said he believes some work was done on the unit before he and his girlfriend Belinda Teixeira moved in to enable the landlord to increase the rent substantially.
"It looked like, after the last tenant moved out, they just vacuumed and hiked the rent an arbitrary amount and just posted it," Boon said.
The one-bedroom apartment costs $1,100 a month, plus Hydro and $80 a month for parking. Boon found the listing online advertised as newly renovated and "freshly painted."
Teixeira said they quickly realized what was going on.
"They're trying to make it seem like a nice condo building so people will come in and enjoy the area and not think about all the stuff that's coming with it."
What came with their apartment was a nasty cockroach problem.
As she thumbs through a stack of service requests, she said: "The roaches just keep coming back."
'Where are we gonna go?'
Earl White, a tenant who has lived in a MetCap Living apartment for 15 years, said it has changed dramatically since MetCap Living bought the building in 2014.
"They took over like thieves in the night," he said, as he explained the neighbourhood's changing demographic.
"They're taking advantage of the tenants who are afraid to fight for their rights."
White said a lot of units in his building were "flipped," and some of his new neighbours are now paying as much $1300 a month. Considering how expensive it is to live in Toronto, White said he worries about where the original tenants will go.
"You kick us out of Parkdale. Where are we going to go?"
MetCap denies playing favourites
MetCap Living CEO Brent Merrill said the company rejects the claim that rent increases are just a way to price people out.
"What I want is good people who pay the rent," Merrill told CBC Toronto. "Why would I want to get a 40-year customer out of my building?"
When asked if the company is trying to get rid of older tenants because it can rent its Parkdale units for more than what seniors pay, he said: "I've already got so many buildings that there's natural turnover. I got enough work and enough things to do with the natural turnover."
As for the protest on Thursday, Merrill called it a publicity stunt.
"Any of those residents who feel that way, they can call us and we'll sit down and talk with them. But we're not going to do it in the middle of a protest."