ParkTales on greedy landlords

The changing face of Parkdale

as ruthless landlords put the squeeze on longtime tenants

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective
Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

Having lived in Parkdale now for 43 years I have seen a lot of changes in my community.

The changes I am now seeing are an uncontrolled grab of apartment buildings by unscrupulous landlords.

These companies come into Parkdale, take over buildings, make cosmetic changes, and raise the rent to unaffordable levels.

The provincial government's rent control that exists now, caps the rate of increase permitted each year. This year it is 2.5%. That is for existing tenants.  But when a tenant moves out the landlord can raise the rent to whatever the market will bear. And they do.

  Looking north on Jameson Avenue in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If the landlord does so-called improvements to the building, in most cases cosmetic, the landlord can raise the rent above the guidelines set by the government.

Since a lot of tenants can't afford to move, these new landlords try every trick to evict  them or intimidate them so much they are forced to leave. Some tenants move because they don't know their rights, are afraid, and therefore don't fight back.

But where will they go?

The intimidation of tenants has no limits. I know tenants who have been late with their rent cheques by only a couple of days and immediately received an eviction notice. Sometimes tenants are late because their support or pay cheques have not arrived in time.

Another form of intimidation is failure by the landlord to fix maintenance problems in the apartments, or deal with pest infestations, hoping the tenant will give up and move, enabling the landlord to double the rent.

But there are tenants who are fighting back and not giving in to these tricks. Tenants are organized and taking these landlords to court.

I have seen some terrible situations.

One senior couple lived for months with no water in their shower. Unable to take a shower or bath. Another tenant lived with a leaking radiator for two months, having to catch the water with a basin and empty every two hours. One tenant had so many cockroaches the roaches were walking on the countertop in broad daylight. Many tenants live with leaks from burst water pipes, leaving holes in the ceiling not fixed for months, if ever. Tenants live without adequate heat because radiators are inadequate or simply not replaced. The list goes on and on.

These landlords have no conscience. Super profits are their only goal, no matter what the human cost.

There is very little affordable housing out there.  And for whatever affordable housing there is there are thousands on the waiting list.

When will governments deal with this growing crisis?

The Parkdale Tenants Association (PTA), a community group, is calling for a freeze on rents until the government brings in Real Meaningful Rent Control.

The PTA wants the  government to bring back the rent registry where you can check what the previous rent was before moving into a unit.

The PTA is asking for the government to license landlords.

To build more affordable housing.

These are some things that can be done immediately.

My Parkdale