Tenants of a North York apartment building are calling on their landlord to rescind all temporary eviction notices issued to people who live on the first floor.
The notices, known as N13 forms, have been issued to about a dozen tenants of 1570 Lawrence Ave. W., a six-storey building with 87 units. The evictions will allow workers to complete major renovations while the tenants are out of their units.
On Sunday, about 20 people protested the notices by putting up flyers on poles near the Greater Toronto Area home of the landlord, Kyle Pulis, president of Pulis Investments. The tenants also handed out flyers to his neighbours.
"We are aware that extreme work needs to be done on that floor but until you can make a proper plan that has the livelihoods of the tenants as the priority, withdrawal is necessary," the tenants said in a posting on Instagram.
According to Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board, an N13 form is a type of eviction notice issued to end a tenancy when a landlord would like to demolish, repair or convert a rental unit for another use.
The Pulis Investment Team, a real estate investment company, said in an email on Sunday it has been in "constant communication" with the tenants at the building in the last few months. It said it has communicated with tenants who received the N13 forms by letter, phone, email and in person to discuss the situation.
The company said tenants on the first floor have to leave their units for the renovations to be completed.
"There is no possible way for the required work to be completed safely while tenants occupy the units," the company said. "This has been communicated to the tenants numerous times. No one is being asked to permanently leave, the N13 allows for all tenants to return to their units at their original rents once the repairs have been completed."
The company said it believes that the protest outside the home of its president on Sunday was an inappropriate way to convey concerns.
"There is no justification for the sort of intimidation and bullying displayed by the tenants and RenovictionsTO today. There are appropriate channels of communication and this was certainly not one of them," the company said.
In a letter to tenants, the company said: "Contrary to the practise of 'reno-victions,' we follow the guidelines set forth in the N13, and have no history of abusing its process."
'I don't think it's fair,' tenant says
Sandeep Sarin, a tenant who is expected to leave by the end of the month because he received an N13 form, said he is worried about the future. He has lived in the building for the past 14 years. He said the first floor tenants could be moved to upper floors while the renovations are being done.
Sarin said the landlord, as soon as it acquired ownership recently, sent a letter telling all tenants they can leave with 30 days notice instead of 60 days because it is planning major renovations.
"I have no plan," he said. "I don't think it's fair. I don't think the renovations are necessary."
The landlord has assured him that he will be able to return to his unit at the current rent after the work, but the N13 notice still has him distressed.
Celeste Brown, another tenant, said the company is only interested in making money. Her family has lived in the building for more than 10 years.
"Nobody has a plan," she said. "I just see no morals. Their main priority is profit."
Meanwhile, in a document given to shareholders, Pulis Investments said it would like to rent to a "new demographic" of tenants. It has since apologized to existing tenants for using this language.
Housing as investment impacts tenants, lawyer says
Caryma Sa'd, a lawyer, said it's very common for landlords in Toronto to try to increase the value of their properties through renovations. She noted that, under existing law, when tenants leave their accommodations, the landlord has the right to increase the rent. This is known as vacancy decontrol.
"Fundamentally, the issue is that housing is treated as a form of investment, separate from its utility as a necessary commodity for life," she said.
"When you have a situation where people who have capital are able to buy up housing and then rent it out and make a profit on that, it's unsustainable in the long run. Certainly, that's reflected in the current rental market, where people are paying far beyond what is a reasonable proportion of their monthly income just to survive, just to have somewhere to live, and those numbers aren't going down."