Toronto

High Park residents are told they're evicted, that their units are actually in a 'tourist home'

Some tenants in the west end have been told they have to vacate their homes by Oct. 14 because their rooming-house-style building is actually a "tourist home" and therefore not subject to the same rules as apartments.

Many landlords try 'every trick in the book' to evict people,' Coun. Gord Perks says

Zoltan Torok doesn't want to leave his room on Roncesvalles Avenue and plans to fight it through the courts. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

Some tenants in the west end have been told they have to vacate their homes by Oct. 14 because their rooming-house-style building is actually a "tourist home" and therefore not subject to the same rules as apartments.

Zoltan Torok, 68, has lived there since May, after he responded to a newspaper advertisement offering a room at 320 Roncesvalles Ave. near High Park for $180 a week.

"They advertise room for rent," said Torok, who immigrated from Hungary decades ago. "They don't say tourist home."

Torok said the building's manager told him a few weeks ago that he and all the others living there, in rooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms, had to leave. 

"I'm not going to go," Torok said, adding he's never received any written notice.

"If it's no paper, no signature, no stamp on it, I don't care. I go to the court."

Residents of 320 Roncesvalles Ave. have been told they have to leave their units by Oct. 14. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

The community legal clinic working to organize residents and the local city councillor see this as just the latest example of a landlord trying to skirt the rules in an effort to evict tenants, then renovate and rent the units for more money.

Property records show the building, Windsor House, is owned by a numbered company, which bought the building in 1985.

Landlord argues the rules for evicting tenants don't apply 

Its representative Samuel Lewkowicz responded to CBC Toronto via email, with multiple words underlined.

"Windsor House is a tourist home," the email reads. "Tourist homes operate like hotels. People who check-in to tourist homes, like people who check-in to hotels are guests, they are not tenants."

Given that, Lewkowicz writes, the property does not fall under the Residential Tenancies Act, which does not permit evictions under these circumstances.

According to the city, 320 Roncesvalles Ave., which is an apartment building, is zoned as residential, and while tourist homes are allowed under the residential category, that's only the case in a detached house, semi-detached house or townhouse. In all cases, tourist homes can only have a maximum of two bed-sitting rooms, spokesperson Alex Burke told CBC News.

A former city bylaw also allowed tourist homes in detached, semi-detached or rowhouses. 

Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and tourist homes are among the types of temporary accommodations exempted from the provincial act under Section 5(a) of the act.

Burke added that the city inspected 320 Roncesvalles Ave. in August 2019.  As a result, he said, seven charges were issued, including for non-compliance with RentSafeTO apartment building registration guidelines. The building has since been registered as rental apartment building and has paid the associated 2019 fees.

The local city councillor, Gord Perks, isn't convinced this building falls under one of those categories, saying as far as he knows it's a residential building.

"I've heard of landlords trying every trick in the book to try to evict people," said Perks.

He'd like the provincial act tightened, to do more to protect renters.

"The province's system gives landlords the incentive to invent flimsy excuses ... to pick on low-income tenants, bully them and get them to leave their units."

Parkdale Community Legal Services is working to organize residents at the building, but it, too, is coming up against challenges from the landlord.

Staff member Cole Webber even received a trespass notice after meeting with Torok in his unit to discuss the situation.

It tells Webber he's now banned from the premises. He argues the notice is invalid.

Webber also disputes the classification of Windsor House as a tourist home.

"When you pay rent to a landlord to live somewhere, you are in a landlord-tenant relationship, which is protected under the Residential Tenancies Act," he said, noting some residents have lived there for many years.

Community legal clinic tells residents not to move 

Webber has some advice for people living in the building.

"You don't have to move out. Stay where you are and organize yourselves with your neighbours."

Torok hopes he will be able to stay.

He said he has multiple health issues, including a hernia and problems with his hip and while his pension cheque covers his rent, he doesn't think he can afford to move.

"I don't know what to do," he said. "First and last month, I cannot do it."

About the Author

Lorenda Reddekopp

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Lorenda Reddekopp is a reporter for CBC Toronto.

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