Leslieville tenants who have lived in commercial building for years face eviction notices
Tenants claim they were targeted after fighting rent hike at Landlord Tenant Board
City officials say they'll be inspecting a Leslieville building after several residents complained about a major conflict with their landlord.
According to the city, it's possible those people should never have been living in the former factory at 276 Carlaw in the first place. The building is zoned industrial, according to a statement from Toronto Building, and residential uses are not permitted.
However, that's not how the building has been operating.
Several residents who spoke with CBC Toronto say they've lived in the building for years. They signed commercial leases, yes, but say they were told by the landlord when they moved in that it was fine for them to live there.
"That lease says that we wouldn't live here, but our landlord told us, 'Don't worry about that, that's just for me,'" said Rob Kinghorn, who has been living there for some 20 years.
Kinghorn said when he moved in, nearly the entire building was residential. As recently as 2010, online listings for apartments in the building advertised units as live-work spaces. It's unclear how many people are currently living in the building, which also houses a number of businesses.
Despite the rental listings, a lawyer representing the building's landlord, Vipin Jain, said it's been made perfectly clear that people shouldn't be living there.
"Living here in a residential capacity is illegal," said lawyer David Donnelly, whose practice is also located in the building.
"The security isn't here. The tenants don't want pets. The plumbing isn't set up for residential uses. The majority of tenants don't want people living here — it's a commercial building."
Rent hike sparked ongoing problems
Kinghorn said his problems with the landlord began when he was hit with a major rent hike, which he says was only presented to him verbally. In response, he went to the Landlord and Tenant Board to fight it, claiming that his apartment should be considered residential and that the rental increase was above those guidelines.
At least three other tenants did the same.
Kinghorn said the board confirmed his tenancy was residential, something he says was never disputed by the landlord, but then he was hit with an eviction notice in October saying the landlord planned to convert his unit into a commercial space.
"Because I defied the rent increase, he's trying to evict me," Kinghorn said.
Armen Hovsepian, who said he's been living in the building for 13 years, also fought to have his unit declared residential and was also given an eviction notice.
He said others in the building who simply re-signed commercial leases are allowed to stay.
"We are the only residents being evicted," he said, adding he believes the landlord's moves are "retaliatory."
Donnelly said Jain disputes that there are other people living full-time in the building, and says proving that is a "complicated matter."
"What the landlord is doing is perfectly legal," he said.
Kinghorn and Hovsepian are planning to fight their eviction at the board in early January. If they lose, the eviction notices say they'll have to be out of their apartments by February.
Talia Ricci and John Rieti