She complained to CBC Toronto about her living conditions. Now she's facing eviction

April Johnston received a copy of an eviction application on Feb. 23. She says she's terrified of losing her home for speaking out about what she says are deficiencies in the building's upkeep.  (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)
April Johnston received a copy of an eviction application on Feb. 23. She says she's terrified of losing her home for speaking out about what she says are deficiencies in the building's upkeep. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)

A Toronto-area woman is facing an eviction hearing after she aired her concerns about her building's maintenance publicly to CBC Toronto.

Last October, CBC News told the story of April Johnston and the complaints she and several of her neighbours had about their apartment complex on Rathburn Road East in Mississauga, west of Toronto. They spoke about routine repairs that they said were left undone for weeks or months at a time, piles of garbage and pests like mice and roaches.

Just before Christmas, Johnston received a notice from the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) warning that she could be subject to an eviction application because, according to the complex's owners, her accusations were untrue.

The notice said airing the complaints publicly hindered "the landlord's reasonable enjoyment of the residential complex."

Then, on Feb. 23, she received a letter informing her the landlord was applying for an eviction order.

'I'm at my wits' end'

"I'm right now terrified of losing my housing," Johnston said.

"With the way the housing market is right now, to have this threat looming over my head, of being evicted, I'm at my wits' end."

Johnston and other tenants in the low-rise complex, located near Central Parkway East and Highway 403, told CBC Toronto the problems had existed since the beginning of 2020 when a new superintendent and property manager took over.

In the CBC story, several tenants complained about plumbing problems, repairs that hadn't been carried out by the owners, Toronto-based Solmor Builders Ltd., for weeks at a time, as well as ongoing battles with mice and insects.

Google Street View
Google Street View

"The Landlord has reviewed every maintenance request you have submitted and not a single issue has been unanswered or not dealt with within a timely manner; making your accusations with the CBC news report not only untrue but also very hurtful for the Landlord's reputation," paralegal Kelly Hawkes, the landlord's agent, wrote in the letter Johnston received in December.

"You are therefore requested to cease from publicly making false allegations and to, moving forward, bring any maintenance request directly to the landlord and not to the national news for publication."

Hawkes emailed a statement about the ongoing eviction battle in response to questions from CBC Toronto.

"The matter will be in front of the LTB and due to privacy matters, we have no further comment with respect to her tenancy," the email reads.

Some complaints still not resolved, tenant says

No date for a hearing has been set, according to the LTB. Last Tuesday, Johnston said the complaints she and other tenants aired in October were legitimate, and some have still not been resolved.

"They think the claims that I'm making about lack of maintenance, mice, garbage is all baloney, that I'm lying, so now they actually have filed with the board [an application] to start eviction procedures because I am speaking out," she said.

"I'm beyond frustrated," Johnston added.

"Not only are we still dealing with these issues, but when it comes to standing up for my rights, I'm being threatened with eviction."

And, she said, going to the media was a last resort.

"We never wanted to go this route," she said. "Nobody wants to do this, but at the same time, nobody deserves to live like this."

Lauren Pelley/CBC News
Lauren Pelley/CBC News

Johnston also says she's worried about the chilling effect that threats of eviction can have on tenants who might otherwise speak out against landlords who neglect their properties.

"People are scared to talk now," she said.

Geordie Dent, of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, who's not involved in the Johnston case, told CBC Toronto that it's not at all uncommon for landlords to initiate eviction proceedings when tenants speak out, and the practice seems to be on the rise.

He said with such high rents, it's in a landlord's interests to get current tenants out and new ones in, so more rent can be charged.

Mike Smee/CBC
Mike Smee/CBC

Paralegal Barrington Lue Sang, who specializes in landlord-tenant cases, said it's commonplace for tenants to accuse landlords of shoddy maintenance. But it's unlikely a landlord could win an eviction based on those complaints.

"I've seen one or two cases before where landlords have brought this type of application, but in each case I've seen the application has been dismissed," he said.

"We have the Libel and Slander Act that would give a remedy for that, but that's through the court system, not through the tribunal system."

Johnston says she has not been served with a notice of libel.