Residents at 87 Jameson Ave. are refusing to shoulder the cost of balcony improvements, because they allege that more critical issues about the building's condition have gone unanswered.
Landlords in Ontario can apply to increase rent by up to three per cent rent above the provincial regulation, which stands at 1.5 per cent this year.
The apartment's landlord, MetCap Living, wants to max out the rent to offset the $1.5 million it spent on replacing the balconies, roof and the building's boilers, the firm told CBC Toronto.
But one of the leaders of a residents' committee questioned why the building has prioritized the balcony repairs when she alleges that there's a lack of pest control.
The water also goes off about every two weeks, said Aliza Kassam, whose committee plans to protest the rent increase outside the Landlord and Tenant Board hearing on Wednesday.
"How can they let their buildings depreciate and then charge us for the capital expenditures with a percentage increase?" she asked. "It's a flaw and it gives landlords too much power."
Landlord: 'I never get a call from any of these people'
MetCap's president and CEO denies the building has widespread maintenance issues.
"I never get a call from any of these people," Brent Merrill said. "And the property manager who fixes their units, he's never got a call, I don't understand it."
In response to an alleged pest control complaints regarding bed bugs, cockroaches and mice, Merrill said there is currently one "bed bug unit" and one "mice unit". All the other units were being checked this week for pests proactively, Merrill said.
"As a landlord I don't know what else I can do."
Merrill was at the building Tuesday morning and pointed to a bulletin board that lists the number residents can call any day of the week to request a repair or report a complaints.
Out with the old tenants, in with the new
To protest the proposed increase, some residents have refused to pay February's rent. Merrill doesn't recognize it as a rent strike because MetCap doesn't have the data yet for all the tenants' payments for the month.
Cole Webber Parkdale Community Legal Services said that landlords in the area have been trying to make aesthetic changes to the building to attract new tenants as the area begins to gentrify.
"It's another way of pushing out the old tenants and every time they obtain a unit, they renovate it and charge $1300 or more," Webber said, who is helping the committee in advance of the hearing.
That's something Joyce Cousley, 82, has witnessed on her floor.
"This is my home and they're trying to get us out," she said.
Cousley pays $800 a month for her second-floor unit in which she has lived for almost 40 years.
"If I leave now, they will renovate, put new things — they'll rent it out for 1300 a month. I've seen it."
Meanwhile, Cousley said she's experienced spotty heating, and has gone without water on certain days.
The gentrification of the neighbourhood means more than just the addition of boutique storefronts and new condos popping up, but also changes in terms of who can afford to live there, Azzam said.
"Our buildings are becoming less diverse and that is changing the neighbourhood's identity," she said. "We have to hold onto it."