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Flemingdon Park tenants on rent strike take protest to landlord’s head office

Click to play video 'Flemingdon Park tenants on rent strike hold protest' Flemingdon Park tenants on rent strike hold protest
WATCH ABOVE: A Flemingdon Park rent strike is into its second month and now tenants are taking their frustration to the offices of their apartment building's owner. Caryn Lieberman reports – Sep 18, 2018

About a dozen tenants gathered outside the head office of Minto Group in North York Tuesday morning holding signs and chanting “forward rent strike!”

They’re part of a larger group of two hundred tenants of a Flemingdon Park apartment building withholding rent for a second straight month since learning their rent could soon increase dramatically.

Landlord Minto Group has applied for a rent increase of 4.8 per cent above the 1.8 per cent guideline set by the province.

Spokesperson John Dickie said the hike would add around $32 a month in rent to each apartment.

“If they’re smart they should be putting it in the bank ahead of time to save up,” he told Global News over the phone.

Tenants participating in the rent strike.
Tenants participating in the rent strike.
Tenants participating in the rent strike.

But the tenants, who took part in a protest both inside Minto’s office and outside at the corner of Yonge Street and York Mills, said they simply cannot afford the rent increase.

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“I’m a student and single mother of three kids. I’m a full time student. I cannot,” Esther Abisai noted.

Her friend and neighbor in the building Isabel Murambiwa has not paid rent in two months and said she will continue to withhold it, despite receiving an eviction notice.

She said the reason is evident in one of her unit’s bedrooms as she pointed to video on her Iphone.

READ MORE: ‘We don’t want to live like animals’: Flemingdon Park tenant plans protest over rent hike

“Friday morning when I woke up there were mushrooms in the apartment, and then Saturday there was another mushroom, Sunday there was another mushroom,” Murambiwa said.

Cole Webber of Parkdale Community Legal Services joined the tenants in their protest.

“Minto is trying to push long term working class tenants out of their homes in order to flip those units and raise rents,” he said.

Webber also supported a recent similar strike in Parkdale which, he said, ended with the landlord withdrawing the above guideline rent increase.

Global News first met Miroslav Mizikar the day before the strike started on Aug. 1.

At the time, he said, “We don’t want to live like animals.”

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READ MORE: Parkdale tenants who launched rent strike say they’ve been given eviction notices

Today, he is feeling more optimistic.

“The people feel more positive we have more tenants who joined our strike,” he said, pointing out that a meeting is scheduled for Friday between tenants and Minto management.

John Dickie, of Minto Group, said it is hard to know just how many of the tenants of 35 St. Dennis Dr. are participating in the strike because “people are usually late” to pay their rent.

He also said it could be a year before the Landlord and Tenant Board approves the application to raise the rent.

As for the concerns inside the units, Dickie said, “Minto has gone in and inspected every unit in the building and is performing a significant amount of in unit work.”

But on the sixth floor, Murambiwa is not convinced.

She referenced a conversation she had with the building manager.

“Did you come and check why it’s so mouldy in the apartment, then she said, ‘oh there is no mould’ and I said ‘yes there’s mould, so why are these mushrooms germinating into my apartment?’”

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A unit in the Flemingdon Park building.
A unit in the Flemingdon Park building.
A unit in the Flemingdon Park building.