Miroslav Mizikar sits at the kitchen table of his Flemingdon Park apartment unit with his pregnant wife, infant son and friend, discussing plans for a rent strike.
On Aug. 1, he will be one of 200 tenants of 35 St Dennis in North York who will not pay rent to Minto Group, the owner of the building, for a number of reasons.
“We cannot pay $1500 for the broken heaters, electric doesn’t work, sometimes hot water doesn’t work,” said Mizikar, who has been renting his apartment since settling in Toronto just over a year ago.
He came to Canada in search of a better life, but said, “We don’t want to live like animals.”
Mizikar showed Global News his broken heater and pictures from inside neighbouring units which appear to show signs of disrepair.
On top of that, tenants are now facing the prospect of a major rent increase to the tune of 4.8 per cent, significantly higher than the 1.8 per cent provincial guideline.
“The average is about $32 a month for the first year and then it’ll be $50 a month in the second year,” explained Minto spokesperson John Dickie.
Dickie acknowledged the hike is “an above guideline increase that requires approval of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).”
“It, or an amount close to that, will probably be granted by the LTB because of the major work that has been done at the building that includes new roofs, elevator modernization, essentially brand new elevators, corridor renovations and also new heating plant and various electrical and fire safety upgrades,” he added.
While tenants won’t need to pay the increase until it is approved, they are already expressing concern and they are planning to strike.
Their lawyer, Kevin Laforest, noted this is not the first time a group of tenants has taken this step.
“In Parkdale there’s been two rent strikes. The first one ended in a negotiated settlement so that’s confidential but the tenants were quite happy with the result. The second rent strike ended when the landlord withdrew the application entirely and the tenants were therefore only responsible for paying the provincially allowable increase,” Laforest said.
John Dickie said the rent increase amounts to very little, considering “on a per unit basis the landlord has spent $17,000 on major repairs.”
“Most homeowners would absolutely love to be able to save $17,000 on their new roof and their new furnace and their new whatevers,” Dickie added.
But Mizikar, who speaks on behalf of others in the building, sees it differently.
“I mean if they want from our pockets this money, then the building needs to be fixed.”
Mizikar has been spreading the word about the rent strike and says he feels confident this will send a message.
At the very least, Laforest noted, this type of move leads to “a newfound sense of community, people are feeling more safe and protected.”
He added, rent strikes could last months.