Tenants looking for new place after $1,660 rent increase

Most people expect their rent to go up each year, but not by 100 per cent. So you can imagine the shock AJ Merrick and Jon Moorhouse experienced when they got a letter from their landlord.

"I thought it was an April Fools joke," said Merrick, a young marketing professional. "There's no way I'd pay that much for this apartment."

But it wasn't a joke.

Their two-bedroom condo located near Liberty Village was going up from $1,660 to $3,320.

The notice outlined two options, either accept the rent increase or agree to vacate the unit by July 1.

Wondering 'what good it would do to fight it'

"I just don't know what good it would do to fight it," Moorhouse said. "Realistically, they're probably trying to kick us out so they can sell the unit for the most profit."

CBC Toronto tried to contact the company in charge of the rental unit, Urbancorp, which is described on its website as the "premier developer of the King West neighbourhood." The company's number is no longer in service and emails to their address listed online bounced. 

The company announced it had to undergo restructuring in April 2016 under the Bankruptcy Act. The lawyers handling that restructuring also didn't answer emails or calls Monday or Tuesday.

A rent increase of 100 per cent is completely legal given the 1991 loophole, known formally as Bill 96.

Buildings built after 1991 'the Wild West'

It was introduced by the province two decades ago and allows landlords of any building constructed after 1991 to increase rent as they see fit.

"This is a very shocking example of how broken the system is," said Coun. Josh Matlow, who chairs the city's tenant issues committee. "Buildings in this province built after 1991 are sort of the Wild West."

Matlow, along with Coun. Ana Bailao, are pushing Ontario to change the Residential Tenancies Act, especially after CBC Toronto's No Fixed Address investigative series revealed that renters across the city were being priced out of their homes.

Ontario is currently reviewing the legislation and Matlow says he'd like to sit down with the province when it's rewriting the rules.

"Big changes need to be made as to how tenants are treated in this province, so that Toronto doesn't just become a playground for the rich. We want Toronto to be affordable and accessible."

Days may be numbered for 1991 rule

On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory weighed in with a similar message.

"The private sector, in carrying out their own activities with respect to the rents they charge, should be very careful about what they do in instances like this because it can provoke the kind of legislative and policy reaction that is something they say would be very much against the interests of future construction of rental accommodation in the city of Toronto," said Tory.

"And that would be a very bad thing for tenants and a very bad thing for the economy. "

On Monday, Matlow and Bailao, who chairs the city's affordable housing committee, held a special joint meeting of their two committees at city hall where they presented eight recommendations to help regulate Toronto's rental market.

Some of the recommendations include expanding rent control to buildings built after 1991, improving the supply of rental units and building homes in the city's laneways.

Premier Kathleen Wynne hinted Tuesday that the days may be numbered for the 1991 rule.

"The reality is, that there hasn't been rental built. There have not been rental buildings built in any comprehensive way and so that argument does not actually hold water with me at this point," Wynne said.

The councillors' recommendations will be presented to the mayor's executive committee and council in the coming weeks.

As for Moorhouse and Merrick, they're going to start looking for a new place to live.