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Ontario housing minister will look into King Edward Avenue evictions

Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark said he will have the province's rental housing enforcement unit look into whether dozens of eviction notices issued against tenants on King Edward Avenue were done legally.

Dozens of tenants issued N5 notices at buildings that sold last year

Some residents of this building at 84 King Edward Ave. in London were issued N5 notices, with the landlord alleging they didn't properly prepare their suites for an appointment to spray for cockroaches. The Ontario NDP wants to change the rules to limit rent increases after a tenant moves out. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark says he will have the province's rental housing enforcement unit look into whether dozens of eviction notices issued against tenants on King Edward Avenue were done legally. 

"Terminating a tenancy requires an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board, not just a N5," said a statement from the minister's office. "Under the Residential Tenancies Act, every tenant facing eviction has the right to a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board."

Clark's statement comes in response to inquiries from CBC News regarding complaints from tenants who live in a complex of eight apartment buildings on King Edward Avenue in south London.

The buildings were bought by Eagle Apartment Inc. in February of last year and tenants say they've recently started receiving N5 notices. 

The N5 forms are legal notices indicating a landlord's intention to end the tenancy due to a tenant's actions. The language on the form says tenants can be issued an N5 for "interfering with others, damage or overcrowding."

CBC News interviewed tenants of the complex who showed copies of the N5s they've received. Many of the forms state that tenants failed to properly prepare their rental suites "as required" in preparation for contractors spraying for cockroaches. 

Tenants who spoke to CBC News denied they failed to prepare their apartments for the spraying appointments. 

The tenants advocacy group ACORN and some tenants who spoke to CBC News said the landlord's issues with tenants' preparation for spraying appears to be a red herring to create a false reason to evict. 

Jordan Smith of ACORN said the complex's long-term tenants are being targeted for eviction because their rents are grandfathered in at low rates. Under Ontario legislation, yearly rent increases are limited to a rate the province sets based on inflation. However when a tenant moves out, landlords are free to charge new tenants whatever the market will bear. 

Ontario Housing Minister Steve Clark he has asked the ministry’s Rental Housing Enforcement Unit to look into N5 notices issued to tenants of a rental complex on King Edward Avenue in London. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Smith, whose group has interviewed dozens of residents of the King Edward apartments, said the N5s are being issued for "bogus" reasons.

"This is being done purely and specifically for greed," said Smith. "These landlords are incentivized to push out long-term tenants in favour of new tenants."

Calls for comment from CBC News to the complex's owner and property manager were not returned on Monday and Tuesday.

LTB hearings are daunting

In his statement to CBC News, Clark said every tenant facing eviction can argue their case before the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which adjudicates on disputes between tenants and landlords. 

"A tenant does not need to move out unless, and until, an eviction order is issued by an adjudicator," said Clark. 

Smith said while that's technically true, in practice it's difficult for tenants to navigate the complicated tribunal process. 

"As a tenant, you face a real uphill battle right now," he said. 

LTB tribunals were moved to online video conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Smith says that's made an already overwhelming process more difficult for low-income tenants who may not have Internet access. 

"These are senior citizens, they don't have the resources to fight back," he said. "It's an extremely complex process, and as a tenant you don't have the resources that your landlord does." 

London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong of the NDP says her party wants to change the rules so that limits on annual rent increases remain in place even for vacated units. 

The King Edward complex is in Armstrong's riding, and she's been speaking with tenants who face eviction. 

"I think we need to arm the tenants with tools to help them stay in their homes," she said. 

She said the NDP also wants to see more LTB adjudicators hired.

"These online tribunals aren't helpful for people who don't have a legal background," she said. "They're feeling too rushed. They're being pushed and being intimidated." 

Clark says tenants can contact the province's Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (RHEU) if they believe an offence has been committed under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

They can be reached by telephone toll-free at 1-888-772-9277 or they can visit its website.

Both Armstrong and ACORN said as rents and real estate prices continue to rise, they expect rules around landlord-tenant issues will be an important issue in the June 2 provincial election. 

A town hall is being planned to help answer tenants questions about the N5s and the LTB tribunal process.

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