A group of tenants in Parkdale say their landlord, Nuspor Investments, has left them no choice but to follow in the footsteps of hundreds of their neighbours and stage a rent strike.
More than 50 residents at 1251 King Street West are hanging onto their rent cheques for February, much as other tenants in Parkdale did in a dispute with property manager MetCap Living Inc. last year.
That strike lasted three months, with MetCap eventually making a number of concessions — including smaller rent increases.
"This is the one way we can actually fight back and come together as a big group," said tenant Mark Farquharson, who moved into the highrise at 1251 King Street West with his wife four years ago this month.
Nuspor Investments has applied to increase rents by 3.4 per cent, and will make its bid Friday at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
The 2018 guideline set by the province is 1.8 per cent.
Lobby renovations cost nearly $297K
The landlord, who was unavailable for an interview, recently finished a renovation to the building's lobby. According to its application to the Landlord and Tenant Board, the work cost $296,935.
All a ploy, a local community legal worker believes, to increase curb appeal and attract tenants with bigger bank accounts.
"This rent increase is part of the landlord's strategy to push tenants out so they can raise the rent without limit," said Cole Webber, with Parkdale Community Legal Services.
"Meanwhile they neglect the in-unit maintenance for longstanding tenants."
Lack of heat, and general repair and maintenance issues are ongoing headaches for long-time tenants that often go unanswered, he told CBC Toronto.
The only time the landlord appears to put any work into a unit, Farquharson and Webber say, is when a tenant moves out.
"They put in a brand new kitchen, brand new bathroom. They rip out a wall or two to make it more open concept. It's really nice, it looks like a condo," Farquharson said.
"This isn't a condo. It's an apartment building in a lower-income area for people that want to be able to work and live in the city. If they start doing all these rent increases, they'll be kicking people out and people will have nowhere else to live."
Nowhere else to live
Roma Rochester, who's lived in the building nearly 30 years, has no idea where else she could go.
"We'll see, I don't know," said Rochester, who turns 73 next week. "They want the people like me, who is paying less than $1,000 a month, out."
Her neighbour, Jennifer Rosser, says her only option may be to leave the city altogether.
"For me, the options include a room in a shared unit [on the outskirts of] Scarborough, Etobicoke, or North York with no amenities nearby that I find acceptable, or relocating to a different city."
Tenants are planning to rally outside the Landlord and Tenant Board hearing Friday morning.
Farquharson, 40, who's expecting his first child in a few months, will be there. Any increase he says will rob him and his growing family of a chance to build their future.
"We want to save up our money and they are tapping into that. If we don't stop this one, they will do this again next year and the following year," he said.
"It will never stop."