Apartment residents say they’re being forced out for repairs, offered $5K to leave early

Deborah Barrett said she and 19 other residents received a letter claiming their lease would be terminated by the end of August. supplied by Deborah Barrett

Deborah Barrett is in disbelief after reading a letter from the new property owners at the apartment building she’s lived in for four years in the Huron Heights neighbourhood of London, Ont.

The letter, which she said 19 others in the buildings at 1270 and 1280 Webster Street received Friday, claimed that the tenants’ leases will be terminated as of the end of August in order to facilitate extensive renovations that would leave units uninhabitable for seven to 10 months.

“Please take this seriously as we care about you, your family,” read the letter, which Global News has obtained.

“While we understand this letter may come as a surprise, we are well within our rights as building owners to terminate your tenancy.”

The letter includes an N9 and N13 form it said was issued by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) and offers residents $5,000 if they leave by the end of May.

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Global News has left messages with the company contact listed on the letter on Thursday and again on Friday, but has yet to receive a response. Webster Apts Inc. was incorporated Sept. 30, 2022 with a head office registered in Toronto.

“These N13s that they issued to these residents, that’s just them filing an application,” Jordan Smith with London ACORN, a tenants’ advocacy group, told Global News.

“It’s literally just the first step. And they’re using these letters to really imply and mislead the tenants, to think that they have a lot more legal weight and more authority than they really do.”

The N9 form is for tenants to fill out to notify their landlord that they will be ending their tenancy while the N13 is for landlords to fill out to provide notice of plans to demolish the rental unit, repair it, or convert it to another use.

The N13 form itself states on its second page: “You do not have to move out if you disagree with what the landlord has put in this notice. However, the landlord can apply to the LTB to evict you. The LTB will schedule a hearing where you can explain why you disagree.”

20 residents of 1270 and 1280 Webster Street received similar letters on April 28, 2023. supplied by Deborah Barrett

Smith said it is “terrifyingly common” for landlords to use renovations as an excuse to evict tenants in order to put the unit on the market at a higher rent.

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Currently, Barrett pays $907 a month for a one-bedroom unit.

“A lot of us, like I, myself, am on (Ontario Disability Support Program) and (Canada Pension Plan). I’m on a very fixed income as the rest of these people are, you know, and where do we go?” she said.

“If you look at the going rates for a one bedroom, they’re up to $2,000 a month.”

Some of the tenants who received the letter have lived in the building for 25 years, Barrett said, adding that many don’t have family to turn to.

“One lady was talking about doing the medically assisted in dying, which is terrible.”

The letters were discussed at a meeting held by ACORN London on Wednesday evening, with residents planning next steps.

“We need a little more time to put the details together and figure out exactly what form that’s going to take,” Smith said.

He also questioned whether the units are even in need of such extensive repairs.

“First of all, if it’s even true that the repairs have escalated to the point where it is actually necessary for tenants to move out in order for them to do these full repairs, the tenants have absolute right to move back into their units at their original rental rate when those repairs are done.”

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In an emailed statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark noted that “every tenant facing eviction has the right to a hearing” at the LTB.

“If a landlord gives a tenant notice to end the tenancy, the tenant does not have to move out unless and until an eviction order is issued by an adjudicator,” wrote Victoria Podbielski.

“Additionally, if a tenant is asked to vacate a unit for the purpose of renovations, they have the right of first refusal to return to their unit if requested in writing to their landlord.”

Podbielski added that it is a provincial offense to deny someone the right of first refusal and pointed to the government’s Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants plan.

The plan proposes to require landlords to give tenants proof that the unit must be vacant for renovations, updates on the status of renovations, and a 60-day grace period to move back in after renovations are done.

However, as those proposals have not been made into law, it’s of little help to the tenants of 1270 and 1280 Webster Street. Additionally, the LTB process is a lengthy one.

“The tribunals are swamped. You know, what lawyer’s going to take this on? We’re hoping and we’re praying because us 20 are going to be the precedent and so on for the next people they try to do it to in this building,” Barrett said.

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“If we don’t set the bar high, eventually there’s going to be 123 units with homeless people.”

— With files from Global News’ Marshall Healey 

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