London

Tenants of south London townhouse complex tell MPP they're being pressured to move out

Scores residents who rent in two south London, Ont., housing complexes have contacted their local MPP, concerned after being enticed to move out of their recently sold townhouse condo units. 

Scores of recently purchased rented condos to be sold to third-party buyer

Some residents of the townhouse complex at 135 Belmont Dr. have called MPP Peggy Sattler, saying they're being offered incentives to move out. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)

Scores of residents who rent in two London, Ont., housing complexes have contacted their local MPP, concerned after being approached and told they'll have to move out of their recently sold townhouse condo units. 

The townhouse complexes at 135 and 126 Belmont Dr. are rented condo units that were purchased en masse in August by Alice Buckingham Holdings, Inc. of Toronto. Together both complexes number about 125 units. 

Multiple residents contacted London West MPP Peggy Sattler saying they were approached by a representative of the company and notified that all the units would be re-sold to individual purchasers. Some residents told CBC News they were offered a free month's rent if they agreed to vacate on a specific date.

"We were contacted by a number of residents who were confused, they wanted to know: Do they have to move out right away? They felt pressured to sign specific agreements," said Sattler. 

Among those tenants approached is John Kidd, who's lived with his partner and two high-school aged children in a townhouse at 135 Belmont Dr. for four years. 

Residents say living on Belmont Dr. is safe and close to schools. They worry they won't be able to find alternate housing in the same neighbourhood. (Andrew Lupton/ CBC News)

"They said if I sign and agree to move out on the date I want, then I'll get a free month's rent," he said. "Otherwise they said if the unit is sold, you'll get 60 days to move out."

CBC News spoke to a number of residents of units at 135 Belmont who were verbally given similar offers. Some reported they had an option to purchase their units, and in some cases quoted purchase prices of $450,000 or more. 

Residents who spoke to CBC News all said they pay monthly rent in the $1,000 range, depending on how long they've lived there. 

"A lot of the people in this complex, they're there for a reason," said Kidd. "They can't afford [to purchase]. There's a housing crisis right now in London." 

Kevin Wood has lived at 135 Belmont for four years and has three children ranging in age from two to 13 years old. He's paying $1,050 a month for the three-bedroom townhouse. He's worried he'll be forced out into a rental market where similar units are now going for $2,000 or more. He also doesn't want to move his two oldest children to a new school if they can't find anything in the area near Wharncliffe and Commissioners Roads.

"It's a very nice safe neighbourhood and the kids have their friends in school," said Wood. "Our kids just got back to being with their friends after COVID and we don't want to have to put them into another school around Christmas. One of the only normal things in the pandemic for the kids has been their home and their school. To upend them at this time is tough." 

A representative of Alice Buckingham Holdings was going door-to-door at 135 Belmont Dr. on Friday, notifying tenants of the changes to come. The representative would not agree to an interview and asked CBC News to submit questions in writing. The company had not responded to CBC's e-mailed questions by publication time. 

Landlord 'asking tenants to move out'

After receiving multiple calls from concerned tenants, Sattler sent a letter to residents saying she was told the landlord was "asking tenants to move out." 

Sattler's letter prompted a letter sent to residents from the law firm of Minden Gross acting on behalf of Buckingham Holdings. The letter says tenants have not been asked to move out of their units. However, it goes on to say: "Our client has advised tenants that it intends to sell the units to third party purchasers who may wish to occupy the units for themselves or their families."

Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act does allow landlords to evict tenants if the landlord — or a relative or caregiver of the landlord — intends to move in. But to evict a tenant in this way, they're required to follow a strict set of rules. 

The landlord must give notice, compensate the tenant and sign an affidavit affirming their intention to move in. The tenant can contest the move at a Landlord Tenant Board hearing and there are remedies for the tenant if the landlord doesn't follow through. Also, any agreement between landlord and tenant can't come as the result of coercion. 

To legally start the process of evicting in this way, landlords are required to notify the tenant with an N12 notice. Tenants' advocates groups have said the process can be abused by landlords who sometimes don't intend to move in but are using the process under false pretences to turn the unit over to a new tenant who can pay more.

Town hall planned

Sattler said it's unclear if tenants are being properly notified about their rights under the N12 process.

To clear up the confusion, Sattler is holding a town hall this week where residents can connect with Legal Aid Services to learn about their rights. The time and date of the meeting has yet to be set.

Meanwhile tenants say they're worried that no matter how it unfolds, they'll at the very least face a fight to stay in their homes. 

"If families end up out of their units because of this, that's a lot of people scrambling in this rental market," said Wood.

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