Note: if you're a tenant facing 'Renoviction' your first call should be to the free Community Advocate Legal Centre
As many reading this already know, four large apartment buildings in the 400 block of Sidney Street were recently purchased by Bedford Properties. They are a company that, according to the Belleville Intelligencer, "has been making headlines across Ontario for alleged similar practices of buying buildings then evicting tenants".
They began issuing warning letters in March to the first wave of tenants. According to the building superintendent, all 120 units will eventually get the notice. This process is known as "renoviction" and has been a good business model for property management companies that put the concerns of citizens behind profits.
The Sidney Street apartment complex has a lot of economically vulnerable people (ODSP recipients, seniors, the disabled or infirm, and young, single parent families). Our rental market has historically low stock levels and cannot absorb hundreds of new rental seekers.
It's no secret that there's been a slow-burning housing crisis for many years. But this mass eviction event would bring it to a boil, placing immense physical, emotional and mental health stress on the residents of this complex.
The Residential Tenancies Act in specific, and housing & rental policy in general, are within the provincial government's jurisdiction. The Government of Ontario, realizing the weaknesses in the current law, has recently moved to update protections for tenants facing "renovictions". Unfortunately, these new reforms will not be in place for some time and it's not clear that they would stop these sorts of "renovictions".
As the Mayor of Quinte West mentions in the article: Bedford Properties' actions may be legal but they are not moral. Municipalities haven't been able to block corporations from doing mass "renovictions" because they are technically legal, but that doesn't mean the tenants are powerless.
Tenants facing "renovictions" have many rights and protections that they may be unaware of. This site has tried to concentrate information together in a handy way for anyone that may need it.
According to the experts at CALC, these are lengthy processes. Tenants at a building in Brockville began receiving threat letters in early 2022 to scare folks into leaving. Over a year later and no evictions have taken place.
Tenants may choose to organize an advocacy group to make media appeals, set up public demonstrations, create community solidarity and sympathy, and even represent their interests in negotiations with the property owner.
Tenants should not be discouraged. Bedford has not yet pulled building permits with Quinte West and without them, they cannot get eviction orders from the Landlord Tenant Board. Even if they did get permits, the process to get official eviction notices as a landlord often takes many months to get because of the backlog of cases at the LTB. That's why they prefer to intimidate people with the stern letters and buyout offers, because they are much cheaper than going through the actual eviction process. There is strength in numbers. An organized tenant group can galvanize media attention and create an atmosphere of public accountability against companies putting profits over people.
A well coordinated public relations campaign can make property owners change course. They may decide to work with tenants to renovate the units a few at a time, in the least disruptive manner to the community. A few campaigns have even led to the landlord backing down and ceasing to push tenants out.
The letter and document above shown above are not eviction notices but they strike fear because they are formal, intimidating, and could lead to an eviction notice. Only the Landlord Tenant Board can order evictions, not Bedford Properties alone. They are used as intimidation tools. They're hoping to scare some tenants into taking the buyout and leaving even though they don't have to yet.
Bedford is counting on fear and a lack of information to get people to agree to leave. To get eviction orders, Bedford needs to jump through all of the hoops: gets building permits, applies to the LTB for evictions, waits while the cases move through the backlog, proves to the LTB that the renovations will be as major and lengthy as they claim.
Only then can Bedford get a lawful eviction order from the LTB to force you out. Don't sign anything. Call CALC for free, anonymous legal advice for tenants.
Thanks to the work of so many, a Tenants' Group has been formed to formally fight the Renovictions. The group, “Hands off our Homes Quinte West”, can be reached by emailing Kevin McCaig at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group is organizing, informing and communicating with residents, media, and the wider community. Any help, well wishes or support is appreciated.
For media or general inquiries, please email Kevin McCaig at email@example.com