Dozens of tenants facing eviction from hotel in Summerside
‘We are scared to death,' says tenant Robert Wall. 'What do we do — live in a tent?’
Robert Wall and his wife have been told they and their dog have to leave their home at the Causeway Bay Hotel in Summerside by the end of the month, after living there for five years.
He is one of about 60 people being evicted from the 106-room hotel now that new owners have taken over.
"We just don't know what we are going to do," he said. "We are scared to death. What do we do — live in a tent?"
Wall has been looking for another place to live, but the cheapest apartment he can find in the Summerside area is about $1,200 a month, far out of his budget.
"There is such a housing crisis in Summerside. We have nowhere to go and no options at this time."
The eviction notice came on Aug 29, saying renovations were planned that couldn't be done while people were living in the units.
Tenants were given until Oct. 1 to vacate, though they are supposed to get at least 60 days' notice under existing P.E.I. legislation.
All the tenants CBC News interviewed had the same plan — to file an appeal with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission and hope for the best.
Connor Kelly with the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing said the new owners are not acting in accordance with the provincial moratorium on evictions due to renovations, which will stay in place until the long-awaited new Residential Tenancy Act is brought in.
"They have no legal weight behind what they are saying, but the fear is very real and the pressure behind that fear is very real," Kelly said as he met with tenants outside the Causeway Bay Hotel Wednesday.
"The prospects of finding housing are so scarce you either fight it, on the chance you can win and stay in your home, or you fight it and lose and you have to scramble to find something."
A provision in the province's moratorium does let landlords evict tenants to let renovations take place if they are needed to "protect or preserve the property or to protect the health and safety of persons."
This is the second time in the last year that Carol Larkin and her husband John Larkin have been dealing with an eviction. She said they were previously forced to move from the Summerside Motel.
"It's awful, the stress and anxiety," Carol Larkin said, adding that the couple's mental health has suffered.
"I've always had severe anxiety," she said. "I had to go to the doctor… I can't sleep."
There are people living in their cars in Summerside, there is a tent city in Charlottetown — it's all across the country now. It's like the homeless crisis has gone crazy. We have no rights.— John Larkin
"We're running to our doctor for nerve pills and medication, which we never needed before," said John Larkin.
He now counts himself as being among the Island's homeless population.
"There are people living in their cars in Summerside, there is a tent city in Charlottetown — it's all across the country now. It's like the homeless crisis has gone crazy.
"We have no rights, no basic human rights in this country," he said.
"We see the need and potential for first class hotel space to help the community attract events. As investors we see this property as a strategic hotel asset in the heart of the community, close to all amenities and believe in the outlook of the growing Summerside economy," said Vishal Patel, president of Causeway Bay Hotel in a press release sent to CBC.
"We appreciate that this transition will have some disruption to what has been a forgotten asset
in the community and we intend to do all we can to help in that disruption but look forward to bringing this property back to its intended purpose."
Tina Thorn is also facing eviction after living at the hotel for a little over a year.
"I have nowhere to go at the end of the month," she said. "I am on accessibility support and I am only allowed so much a month for housing.
"Like, I get $733 or something for rent and there is nowhere to go around here for that price."
Can file as a group
Kelly said tenants normally have to file individual appeals with IRAC, but they can file to do it as a group as well.
However, even if they win at the hearing, property owners can just issue another eviction notice right away under the current rules.
"There is no cool-down period between services of notice. The moment a decision comes out, a landlord can serve another notice and they can keep doing that. I have seen that happen, where a landlord keeps serving notice until the people just leave, even though there is no ground to leave."
Kelly said he thinks wrongful eviction rulings should trigger a fine so that eviction notices aren't given as quickly and frequently as they are now.