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Tenants in Toronto’s Parkdale say using air conditioner units led to eviction threat

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WATCH ABOVE: Around 40 tenants in a Parkdale highrise apartment building say they received eviction letters after turning on their window air conditioning units. Caryn Lieberman reports – Jun 28, 2022

Around 40 tenants of a Parkdale apartment building claim they are facing eviction for using their window air conditioner units during the heat wave earlier this month.

Cindy Therrien, who has lived in the Jameson Avenue highrise for more than 30 years, suffers from a chronic inflammatory lung disease and said her A/C unit helps her to breathe.

“They don’t want their air conditioners going but I’m sorry my health is more important than them trying to make my health issues worse,” Therrien said.

Without air conditioning, she said, “I’d probably end up being found dead.”

Read more: Online evictions raise alarm in Ontario

Tenants of the building, The Imperial, showed Global News a “notice to terminate a tenancy early” letter they received in their mailboxes, dated June 20.

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“You must move out of the rental unit identified above on or before July 9th, 2022” indicates the letter.

“Where am I moving?” asked Helen Gerardi, a tenant of the building for 43 years. “You know who is going to move me out? The hearse car. I’m not moving anywhere.”

“Anyone who has lived here pre-gentrification of Parkdale doesn’t pay hydro. It wasn’t a part of our lease,” explained Shelly Dunphy, also a longtime resident of the apartment.

“Now that they’ve upped the rents, tripled the rents, the tenants that don’t have to pay hydro, they’re trying any which way they can to get them to pay hydro and put a meter,” she added.

Read more: Evictions on the rise in Montreal’s Cote-des-Neiges-NDG borough

Bhutila Karpoche, NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park, said the issue at 130 Jameson Ave. is especially concerning as Toronto recently experienced unseasonably hot weather and more is forecast this summer.

“Pay more or swelter in the heat. That’s not a choice,” she said.

“We have heard from many tenants who feel very harassed by landlords simply for using their A/Cs. Some have had their A/Cs removed,” Karopoche said. “We have to ensure that the health and safety of tenants are not at risk.”

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She said the provincial government needs to have a policy that ensures the living conditions provided by the landlord pose no heat risks. She said there are currently standards for minimum temperatures but there is no policy for maximum temperatures.

“We know it gets really really hot inside these buildings and also we want to ensure that no tenant will be evicted simply because they were trying to stay cool,” she said.

Read more: Legal clinic asks Toronto’s top doctor to suspend evictions during COVID-19 pandemic

The landlord, Myriad Property Management, said in an email that annual inspections of all the units are conducted and during that time they note “any deviations to what is allowable under that tenant’s lease. This could include air conditioners and other additional appliances not included in the lease agreement.”

“Tenants are then supplied with a warning letter and provided approximately a week to two weeks’ time to remedy the situation including options to pay for hydro directly through submetering (with the required rent reduction) or paying a monthly fee to us,” the email added.

It is then, the email continues, that the units are re-inspected and if tenants continue to use unapproved appliances, the tenants are served with a notice to end their tenancies.

“We are doing nothing that is not proscribed in the (Residential Tenancies Act) and enforced by the (Landlord and Tenant Board),” Myriad said.

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“It was not, has never been and will never be our intent to evict someone without providing them the opportunity to remedy the situation.”

Yet paying more to live in the building is not an option for Gerardi, who pointed out that she is a senior on fixed income and that her air conditioner unit has been in her window for years.

Dunphy called the letter by Myriad a “scare tactic.”

Tuesday evening, she helped arrange a meeting outside the building with representatives from the advocacy group Parkdale Organize.

“What we’re advising is what they’re doing: … talking to your neighbours, figuring out your core demands and then organizing to get those demands to your landlord,” said Emina Gamulin of Parkdale Organize.

The group is circulating a petition, which it will present to Myriad Property Management, calling the eviction threat “unacceptable.”

“What we find is when tenants try to fight these things through the legal route sometimes the protections aren’t there,” Gamulin said. “The fastest and most effective thing for tenants to do is put the pressure on their landlords directly.”

“You need to deal with a bully by standing up and doing it collectively together,” she said. “That’s what’s going to keep tenants safe and strong, comfortable this summer, and in their homes.”

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