Toronto apartment residents face eviction after refusing to pay rent
More than 55 residents of a Parkdale apartment building aren't backing down in their fight against a landlord they say is trying to push them out. Eviction notices be damned.
The tenants at 1251 King Street West (which was recently rebranded as "Waldorf Tower") have been withholding their rent payments from Nuspor Investments since the beginning of February to protest a proposed rent hike of 3.4 per cent – nearly double what the province recommends.
Community members from far beyond the building's walls have been rallying together in support of their neighbours and, more broadly, against the dwindling levels of affordable housing in Parkdale.
It was looking like things would soon be resolved last week when Nuspor director Michael Lax sent a letter to the building's residents indicating that he was ready to "negotiate in good faith."
But then, just a few days later, he served them all eviction notices without explanation.
"Michael Lax has turned around and started the process to evict people in the middle of winter," says Cole Webber of Parkdale Community Legal Services, noting that residents remain "strong moving forward with the strike."
A post on the Parkdale Organize website reflects this.
"The rent strikers are not intimidated," it reads. "They will continue their rent strike with the support of their neighbours in Parkdale."
Nuspor claims that a 3.4 per cent rent hike is necessary to offset such costs as a roughly $300,000 lobby renovation that nobody asked for.
Tenants, meanwhile, say they can't get general maintenance issues or a lack of heat in their units addressed.
"Under the current system, landlords have financial incentive to get rid of long term tenants," says Webber. "Someone who's been living in the building for a long time might be paying $1,000 a month, for instance. Those same apartments are now being rented for $1,700."
"The landlord is using the above guideline rent increase as part of his strategy to push tenants out and raise the rent."
Webber has been assisting the building's residents throughout this strike, just as he did with roughly 300 MetCap building tenants who went on strike last summer (and emerged victorious.)
He says that, as it stands now, both Nuspor and residents of the building at 1251 King are awaiting a date for their next Landlord and Tenant Board tribunal.
A previous hearing, held on Feb. 2, was adjourned before the board could reach a decision. Of course, if they reach an agreement beforehand, they won't have to to go to the board at all.
"Our message is this," says Webber. "Michael Lax needs to end this rent dispute by withdrawing his application for a rent increase."
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