Laura Bates and her partner Graham Galbraith-Nolan just wanted their landlord to make crucial repairs to their unit, like fixing the heat and a leaking roof, but instead found themselves getting evicted from their two-bedroom unit Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.
“We definitely felt powerless when it happened because we couldn’t do anything about it,” Galbraith-Nolan said.
“Getting kicked out of our home is so upsetting.”
It’s been a nightmare for the couple, who said they were illegally evicted through a loophole housing advocates claim landlords use in bad faith.
As CityNews reported on Wednesday, these landlords are using a loophole to terminate a tenancy based on they themselves or family members moving in.
Bates and Galbraith-Nolan, who had been living in the unit for more than two years, said they believed their landlord acted in bad faith when they received an eviction notice to vacate the premise back in April.
The couple claim they received the notice after the landlord failed to follow through with the repairs.
“We called the Landlord and Tenant Board and they deemed the place to be hazardous,” Bates said.
“They said we’re going to file a notice but said just to let you know this usually creates animosity between landlord and tenant.”
Bates said as soon as the landlord received the notice from the board, she confronted other tenants about conspiring against her and dumped garbage inside one of the units not belonging to the couple.
A couple weeks later the pair received a letter from the landlord’s lawyer.
“She gave us an eviction notice saying she was moving in due to marital separation,” Bates explained.
“We took this to be the real deal eviction notice, at that point there was a couple sleepless nights, taking unpaid days off work, looking for places to live.”
The couple said they agreed to comply with the eviction notice, but wanted to the landlord to complete the paperwork at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
“She seems to have magically changed her mind on divorcing her husband, the moment we asked her to do the proper work,” Bates said.
But it was too late for the couple, who had been paying $1,800 monthly for their unit.
Finding an affordable two-bedroom unit with enough space for both the artists was proving to be extremely difficult, and they decided to part ways.
Bates, a violinist, has paid first and last month’s rent to move into a home with other musicians, while Galbraith-Nolan is still searching for a place.
“We agreed to comply out of fear,” Bates said.
“I need to get out of here for my own mental and physical well being.”
The Huron-Sussex Residents Organization is now helping the pair navigate the Landlord and Tenant Board, but they said it can sometimes be an intimidating task for tenants who aren’t familiar with the process to go up against an experienced landlord.
“When tenants are too afraid to take action, and that happens, people become afraid that their doors are going to be locked or find their stuff vandalized,” Julie Mathien, co-president of the residents’ association, explained.
“When you have a landlord who’s doing things like this or evicting people dishonestly, then the good landlords who are out there, their reputation suffers.”
A number of other viewers also wrote in to CityNews, sharing similar eviction stories.
In 2012, Max Fireman, who had been living in a unit in Little Italy, said he was illegally evicted from his home after ten years of living there.
A new landlord had purchased the building where Fireman and two roommates were living
“She asked us to move out. Her excuse was she wanted to move a family member in,” he said.
“Which was fine, but I found out the landlord renovated but she brought a new tenant that was not her family members.”
Fireman said the three were paying $1,800 a month for the three bedroom unit. After their eviction, the new tenants were paying around $2,200.
Though he said he understands why the landlord wanted to push them out of their home to take advantage of the competitive market, Fireman wanted to fight the illegal eviction and filed a complaint with the Landlord and Tenant Board.
It took nearly one year but the board ruled in his favour and the landlord was forced to compensate him.
“It opened my eyes that landlords in the end can do what they want, as a tenant you don’t have a lot of power,” Fireman said.
“But also as a tenant you could stick up for yourself in the end if you just do some research.”
Advocates say this is sometimes a system that doesn’t always favour renters, and the onus is on tenants to do much of the enforcing.
Last year, the Liberal government introduced new measures to protect tenants, including a $25,000 fine if a landlord is found to have terminated a tenancy in bad faith.
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenant’s Association, said the province should implement a cap on rent increases in between tenants as a deterrence.
“That would put a stop to most of the stuff, unfortunately we don’t have that, so there’s an incentive to turn a lot of our houses and condos into eviction factories,” he said.
“Rent control is huge, the market is out of control.”
Tenants are encouraged to do their own research, and there are resources available online, including from advocacy groups such as the Federation of Metro Tenant’s Association and there is also free legal aid services available at the Landlord and Tenant Board.