Building owner advertised condo units as 'luxury rentals' but is now selling them
Tenants in North York condo building say the company reassured them it wouldn't sell the units
Tenants in a building in North York say they're shocked to find their homes will be going up for sale.
While 3443 Bathurst St. was always zoned as a condo building, residents say the 23 units were never advertised as such. Instead, signage read "luxury rentals." As some tenants moved out, others wondered why no one was moving into the units that were vacated.
"At no point did they give any indication they're going to be selling," said Irvin Goldman. "We were reassured from the property manager, and others were, too, they weren't going to be selling them."
But on June 6, the tenants received a letter from Centurion Property Associates Inc.
The company offered them a two-week period to decide if they would like to buy the units at a two per cent discount. But the letter also warned, "New purchasers may elect to have vacant possession which we will have to provide...."
The letter shocked 87-year-old Alex Eisen, a holocaust survivor from Austria who came to Canada in 1952. For decades, he designed electronics. Three years ago, he moved into the apartment with his wife, where they thought they would live out the rest of their lives.
"I thought we would die here," he said. "I'm at this age. How do I run around the city trying to find a place to go?"
His wife died a year ago and he had a stroke two weeks later. "I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "And not only trying to find a place. Moving all the items. It's just a disaster for me."
Centurion president Greg Romundt told CBC Toronto in an email the company has "not made any representations that the units wouldn't be sold" and "up to this point, there had been no intention to do so ... so it's possible that someone misinterpreted our message."
But, Benjamin Ries, a tenant advocate and lawyer at Downtown Legal Services in Toronto, says parts of Centurion's letter may be a bit misleading to the average tenant.
"I'm not aware of a provision in the Residential Tenancies Act that requires vacant possession of a unit just because [the potential buyers] want it," he said. "The Landlord and Tenant Board at least considers if they should be given more time to move or whether they need to move at all."
Nothing technically wrong
Goldman and Eisen both say they're being priced out of the units, some of which are listed between $500,000 and $800,000.
"I feel betrayed and lied to," said Goldman. "I think it's extremely unethical. Corporations that are large and powerful —this is what they do. They can stamp and stomp on you."
Real estate lawyer Gerry Miller told CBC Toronto there is nothing technically wrong with Centurion's decision to sell, though it's "unfortunate you're dealing with elderly people, people on fixed incomes, people with health issues."
'Neurosis in the market'
Miller has a possible explanation for the sale.
"When you see that neurosis in the market and you see an opportunity to cash out, why not?"
He added it's rare for companies to sell, though it's extremely common among private owners. In his experience, the owners of downtown condos decide to sell every three to five years.
Romundt said the company decided to sell because it accomplished its goal of turning around a failed development and the property is smaller than what it would normally hold on a long-term basis.
"We don't anticipate our sale of the units will ... be more disruptive than what occurs tens of thousands of times per year," wrote Romundt, who clarified only vacant units were currently listed.
Meanwhile, Eisen has already started packing his belongings into boxes. "I can't sleep. My health is not good," he said.