Who's behind the south London townhouse evictions?
Records show 4 newly incorporated companies bought units in 4 south London complexes
CBC News has learned new information about a real estate transaction in August that is now forcing scores of south London residents out of their rented condo units.
The first step happened on July 27, 2021, when four holding companies became new Ontario corporations. They also have similar names that appear to combine common first names with places in the United Kingdom:
Clara Sussex Holdings.
Bob Wales Holdings.
David Birmingham Holdings.
Alice Buckingham Holdings.
On Aug. 10, each of these newly formed holding companies purchased multiple rented condo units from Z Group. The three-bedroom townhouse complexes are located at:
126 Belmont Ave. (53 units purchased by David Buckingham Holdings).
135 Belmont Ave. (67 units purchased by Alice Buckingham Holdings).
55 Sandringham Cres. (54 units purchased by Clara Sussex Holdings).
35 Waterman Ave. (53 units bought by Bob Wales Holdings).
Records show all the units were sold for the same price: $278,448.
All four of the holding companies, which bought the blocks of condos, list the same four Toronto businessmen as officers and/or directors of those corporations.
Winer and Silverberg are both in leadership positions at Harbour Equity, described on its website as "a leading capital provider for developers in urban markets throughout Canada." The website says the company has invested over $210 million over 55 joint venture investments in more than 20 Canadian cities.
Klugmann is vice-president of Lindvest, a Toronto developer.
Deal had big impact on tenants
The purchases had an immediate impact on the tenants renting those condos, dozens of whom have been interviewed by CBC News.
Most tell similar stories: That they were approached in recent weeks by Martin Appel, who appears to be working for the purchasing companies but would not clarify his role when contacted by CBC News. Appel is listed as a real estate broker with a Royal LePage branch in Toronto, and the company confirmed Tuesday that he still works for them.
Tenants say they were approached by Appel and told they have to move out in as little as 60 days. Some said they were offered incentives to leave, ranging from one month's free rent to $3,000. However, many said the inducements they've been offered can't compensate them for being forced into a London rental market where three-bedroom units are now renting closer to $2,000 a month. Most tenants in the London townhouses said they're paying rents in the $1,100 range.
Justin Polci lived at 355 Sandringham Cres. for 11 years with his wife and two children, aged 15 and 10. He says he was paying $1,003 a month but was told in September that his unit had been sold and could be sold again to a new buyer. Polci says he was given four weeks to move out. He left at the end of September and says he and his family have been couch surfing with a friend while they look for a new place.
"It's hard to find one," he said. "Right now they're anywhere from $1,800 to $2,500 a month.
"That they can do this after 11 years ... it was a big kick in the ass."
Matthew Danchak lives with his wife and seven-year-old daughter in a rented condo unit at 35 Waterman Ave. He says he was approached and told his unit may be sold as a condo unit soon and that he'd likely have to move out.
"My daughter has grown up in this area. Her entire life, she's gone to the same school," he said. "If we have to move out of the area, she'll lose all of her friends and the contacts she's made. It's really difficult for her. If we can't find a new rental unit in this same district, she'll have to go to a new school and that will be challenging."
Danchak says he's been looking for a new place, but can't find anything close to the $1,050 he's paying.
"Places are almost double what we're paying now," he said.
Appel sent a statement to CBC News on Tuesday.
In it, he said the new owners of the condominium units are "creating affordable family home ownership, something London badly needs."
He said existing tenants will be given the first opportunity to purchase the units "at a discount to market price."
And while some tenants who spoke to CBC News expressed concern the new owners' intention was not to re-sell the units but to re-rent them for more money, Appel said this isn't the case.
"All units are intended to be sold," he said in his statement.
Appel also said the group that purchased the condos in August is "very sensitive to the circumstances of our current renters." The companies that purchased the condo blocks are providing more notice than they're required to by law in cases where a new owner intends to move in to the suite, he said.
"If the owner of a property wishes to live in the unit themselves, they have the right to do so provided the tenant is given two months notice," said Appel. "We thought people might appreciate a heads up earlier than two months, and the time to think about purchasing the unit themselves."
Full statement from Martin Appel
This is the full statement sent to CBC News in response to questions about the concerns of tenants at four London townhouse complexes:
The owners of the condominium units are creating affordable family home ownership, something London badly needs. Over a phased period of time, current rental units will be made available for purchase. These will be affordable ownership family units. We expect many current tenants will be interested in purchasing their home, and we will give them first opportunity to do so and at a discount to market price. All units are intended to be sold.
We are very sensitive to the circumstances of our current renters. That is why we have given them early disclosure of the opportunity and of the unit being sold. The rights of tenants are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act. If the owner of a property wishes to live in the unit themselves, they have the right to do so provided the tenant is given two months notice. We thought people might appreciate a heads up earlier than two months, and the time to think about purchasing the unit themselves.
We look forward to continuing to be a part of solving the shortage of affordable housing in London.