These seniors face a 20% rent increase — and Ontario rules make it legal

Some tenants of a Russell, Ont., apartment building said they were shocked to receive a notice earlier this year saying their expected monthly rent would jump, in some cases by 25 per cent, and it is perfectly legal.

Some tenants moving out because they can no longer afford the rent

Kim Tanaszczuk sits in her Russell, Ont., apartment that she will soon be leaving. She and other tenants recently received notices of rent increases up to 25 per cent. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Kim Tanaszczuk watches as her daughter helps pack her belongings in the one-bedroom apartment she calls home in Russell, Ont.

She hasn't been here long — Tanaszczuk moved into the seniors building in August 2021 — but said she needs to move out because she can no longer afford to pay the rent.

Rent increases are normal and expected, though they're usually subject to rent control guidelines. Landlords are permitted to raise rents by 2.5 per cent in 2023, a limit set by the province of Ontario.

But Tanaszczuk and other tenants were shocked when they received a notice earlier this year that their expected monthly payments would jump, in some cases by 25 per cent, and even more disturbed to learn it was perfectly legal.

A change introduced by the province in 2018 exempted new rental units first occupied after Nov. 15 of that year from rent control.

"This will help create market‐based incentives for supply growth that will encourage an increase in housing supply to meet the needs of the people of Ontario," reads the Progressive Conservative's 2018 fiscal update.

    Tenant calls it 'greed' and 'extortion'

    "I'm just outraged," said Tanaszczuk, who was asked to pay $100 more in monthly rent starting in December.

    "I think it's greed. I think it's usury. I think it's extortion."

    Tanaszczuk, who wasn't aware of the rule change when she moved into the building, said she now has no choice but to leave.

    "We all grew up with rent control. It would never occur to us that it didn't exist," she said.

    Tanaszczuk still considers herself one of the lucky ones, already having found another, more affordable home to move into — unlike her upstairs neighbour, Cindy McMurray, whose rent will soon be $1,400 a month for her one-bedroom apartment, an increase of more than $200.

    "I wanted to throw up. I cried for a week," she said. "I got frozen, trying to think of how I move forward. What do I do? Where do I go?"

    Cindy McMurray is also looking to move because her rent has increased by more than $200 per month. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

    Tanaszczuk and McMurray are both unable to work, and because they're seniors, they have a fixed income.

    Another tenant, who CBC has agreed not to name because they fear repercussions from the landlord for speaking out, is also facing a monthly rent increase of more than $200.

    "I think it's disgusting. It's absolutely disgusting," she said.

    The tenant is planning to move out, having paid a deposit for another apartment under construction, but it won't be ready until next summer.

    WATCH | Seniors say they can't afford rent hike: 

    Seniors building residents say they can't afford rent hike

    4 months ago
    Duration 2:42
    Kim Tanaszczuk and Cindy McMurray's building is exempt from rent control guidelines. Tanaszczuk, whose rent is going up by $100, called the increase "extortion."

    Landlord partly points to inflation

    None of these women were made aware that their units were exempt from rent control guidelines. All three said they moved into the building, built after the 2018 rule change, because it was advertised as affordable living for seniors, with rents for some units being advertised as low as $997.

    However, in July of this year, residents were informed the building was sold to Hartsford Properties, and just a few weeks later they received notices that rent would rise. 

    Hartsford Properties, the company that owns the apartment building, issued this letter to tenants several months ago. It says rent increases are because of 'inflation, increased expenses and average market rents' in the area. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

    CBC did not receive a response from company officials in time for publication, but in its original letter to tenants, Hartsford said it's aware that increases would be larger than expected, so it was "providing notice well in advance to allow ample time to prepare for this change."

    It cited "inflation, increased expenses and average market rents" in the area as factors that contributed to the increase, adding the "new monthly rent will still remain well below current market rents." 

    The letter asks those who wanted to end their tenancy to provide the company with 60 days' notice.

    Exemption 'paying off,' says province

    Tenants have reached out to the provincial government, as well as to federal and provincial politicians for the area, but say they have received no response.

    CBC also requested an interview with someone from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Instead, it sent a statement.

    "This is paying off for Ontarians," spokesperson Conrad Spezowka said of the exemption.

    Vic Fedeli, at the time Ontario's finance minister, tables the government's fall economic statement in November 2018 in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

    He wrote that the province reached a 30-year record for new rental housing construction last year, "the most units built in a single year since 1991," though the exact amount wasn't specified.

    Rent control guidelines still apply to approximately 1.4 million rental households in the province, the statement read.

    Check before signing a lease, says lawyer

    Dania Majid, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), said tenants are finding themselves in similar situations as new apartments are built.

     "Last week I was consulted about a case where a tenant received a $1,000-a-month rent increase," Majid said.

    These rent increases are creating more "economic evictions" she said, which is why ACTO has been advocating for government to remove the exemption, but there's been no commitment.

    Majid said there's little else tenants of newer units can do to stop this from happening. She recommended that people always check with the landlord whether a building has rent control before signing a lease.

    "These loopholes were created by this government," she said.

    None of the tenants CBC spoke to say they were informed about the lack of rent control before they moved into the apartment building, located on Church Street in Russell. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

    Cutting costs or moving out

    McMurray said she's now trying to cut costs where she can, cancelling services and walking places to save on gas. Even still, it's unclear how long she'll be able to manage. The situation has also had a severe impact on her mental health.

    "All of my health issues have been exasperated. It's hard to sleep. You avoid people because you're just not in a very good space," McMurray said.

    Tanaszczuk said she'll miss the community she's found in her neighbours, though she has no choice but to leave.

    "I think everybody when they moved in, including me, thought that this would be kind of the last place," she said. "Now everybody's having to look."


    Nicole Williams is a journalist for CBC News based in Ottawa. She has also worked in P.E.I. and Toronto. She is part of the team that won a 2021 Canadian Association of Journalists national award for investigative journalism. Write in confidence to

    Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

    A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

    Sign up now


    To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

    By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

    Become a CBC Account Holder

    Join the conversation  Create account

    Already have an account?