As It Happens

Toronto tenants fight back after new landlord buys 1% stake in house and evicts them

Devon McKenzie is one of seven tenants who are being evicted from a house in the city's east end so their new landlord can move in. 

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord is someone who owns all — or part of — a property

Devon McKenzie, 24, is one of seven tenants who are being evicted from a house, pictured on the right, in the city's east end. (Submitted by Devon McKenzie)

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Devon McKenzie and her roommates are refusing to vacate their Toronto home. 

McKenzie is one of seven tenants being evicted from a house in the city's east end so the new landlord can move in. 

That new landlord is Jacky Bai Jun Liu, a 20-year-old university student who recently purchased a one per cent stake in the property for $9,000 from George Chiang and Harriet Ho-Yin Chun, who own the other 99 per cent, the Toronto Star's Emily Mathieu reports

McKenzie says Liu told her his parents made the purchase on his behalf. Both the Star and As It Happens reached out to the landlords for comment. 

It is legal under the Residential Tenancies Act for a landlord to evict tenants for personal use. A landlord is defined as someone who owns all, or part, of a property. 

The three people in the home's upstairs unit have decided to move. But McKenzie and her four roommates are fighting the eviction from their four-bedroom apartment, where they pay a combined rent of $1,900. A hearing is scheduled at the Landlord and Tenant Board for Sept. 18.

McKenzie spoke to As It Happens guest host Rosemary Barton about why she's fighting to stay put. Here is part of their conversation. 

When you got that form, the eviction notice ... what struck you about it?

The 2 ½ years previous that I'd been here, I'd only ever seen one name on any documents that I had received — on the lease, on anything.

But when I received the N12 [eviction notice], there was a name on there that I had never seen before.

And what did you learn about that new name that appeared on the form?

Through speaking with the property manager — and actually eventually speaking with him himself, the gentleman that owns a portion of the house — that he was intending to move in.

There shouldn't need to be any more excuses for landlords to just kick people out. It's hard enough finding a place as it is.- Devon McKenzie, Toronto renter 

So why did the people who originally owned the house not ask you to leave so that he could just take over?

You can only serve the N12 in the case of immediate family, or a caregiver for immediate family, or yourself. So since he is none of those, it would be an illegal eviction.

Then why do you think they sold him the one per cent?

Because it's kind of a grey area. By him owning that one per cent, it allows him to be, in a sense, a partial owner of the house.

Whether or not that one per cent really, truly does give him the right to kick out both units, that remains to be seen once I go through with the Tenant Board.

So it's legal?

It technically is legal. 

Obviously, you don't think it's fair. So you decided to take it to the Landlord and Tenant Board to fight it. Has anyone ever run into this problem before? What do you think your chances are there?

If somebody says, you know, "The landlord wants you out," typically nobody really questions it if it seems to be in legal standing.

Through speaking with lawyers and everybody that I've been in contact with ... nobody really knows what to do. But everybody seems to think that I do have a decent standing and could have a chance of winning this and not have to leave.

You're 24. I imagine you've got other things going on in your life. Why bother? Why not just go find somewhere else to live?

Obviously, if I live in a house with three other people, then I can't afford to be on my own or really be anywhere else. I'm 24 and trying to figure my life out, and the more I pay everywhere else slows down the kind of track that I want to be on in saving and things like that.

The housing market is absolutely insane in Toronto. If I were to leave here, I'm paying at least double for probably about half the amount of space that I currently have. It's just — it's not logical.

It seems shady from the beginning.

And it's just — why should I have to leave? Why should I have to give up my home?

Are you also trying to make a point?

In a sense, it is a point.

With the housing law going back into review in the fall, I think it's more important now than ever to make sure that the government is aware of these tiny loopholes and these issues with the housing market being as insane as it is.

There shouldn't need to be any more excuses for landlords to just kick people out. It's hard enough finding a place as it is.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.