These seniors are facing a 20% rent increase – and Ontario rules make it legal | TBEN news

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Kim Tanaszczuk watches as her daughter helps pack her things into the one-bedroom apartment she calls home in Russell, Ontario.

She hasn’t been here very long – Tanaszczuk moved into the senior building in August 2021 – but said she had to move because she could no longer afford the rent.

Rent increases are normal and expected, although they are usually subject to rent control guidelines. Landlords are allowed to increase rents by 2.5 percent in 2023, a limit set by the province of Ontario.

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But Tanaszczuk and other tenants were shocked to receive word earlier this year that their expected monthly payments would increase, in some cases by 25 percent, and even more alarmed to learn it was perfectly legal.

An amendment introduced by the county in 2018 exempted new rental units first occupied after November 15 of that year from rent control.

“This will help create market-based incentives for supply growth that will drive an increase in housing supply to meet the needs of the people of Ontario,” reads the Progressive Conservative’s 2018 fiscal update.

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Tenant calls it ‘greed’ and ‘extortion’

“I’m just outraged,” said Tanaszczuk, who was asked to pay $100 more in monthly rent starting in December.

“I think it’s greed. I think it’s usury. I think it’s extortion.’

Tanaszczuk, who was unaware of the rule change when she moved into the building, said she now has no choice but to leave.

“We all grew up with rent control. It would never occur to us that it didn’t exist,” she said.

Tenant Cindy McMurray also wants to move because her rent has increased by more than $200 a month. (Jean Delisle/TBEN)

Tanaszczuk still considers herself one of the lucky ones, having already found another, more affordable home to move into — unlike her upstairs neighbor Cindy McMurray, whose rent will soon be $1,400 a month for her one-bedroom apartment, an increase of more than $200.

“I wanted to throw up. I cried for a week,” she said. “I got frozen and tried to figure out how to move on. What should I do? Where should I go?”

Tanaszczuk and McMurray are both unable to work and, being seniors, have a steady income.

Another tenant, whom TBEN has agreed not to name because they fear repercussions from the landlord for speaking out, also faces a rent increase of more than $200.

“I think it’s disgusting. It’s absolutely disgusting,” she said.

The tenant plans to move out after making a down payment on another apartment under construction, but it won’t be ready until next summer.

LOOK | Seniors say they can’t afford rent increase:

Residents of senior housing say they cannot afford the rent increase

Kim Tanaszczuk and Cindy McMurray’s building is exempt from rent control guidelines. Tanaszczuk, whose rent is going up by $100, called the increase “extortion”.

Landlord partly points to inflation

None of these women were made aware that their units were exempt from rent control guidelines. All three said they moved into the building, built after the 2018 rule change, because it was advertised as affordable housing for seniors, with rents for some units advertised as low as $997.

However, in July of this year, residents were told that the building had been sold to Hartsford Properties, and just a few weeks later received reports that the rent would increase.

Hartsford Properties, the company that owns the apartment building, sent this letter to tenants several months ago. It says rent increases are due to “inflation, higher costs and average market rents” in the area. (Jean Delisle/TBEN)

TBEN did not receive a response from company officials in time for publication, but in its original letter to the tenants, Hartsford said it was aware that the increases would be greater than expected, so it was “given plenty of advance notice to allow sufficient time to prepare for this change.”

It cited “inflation, higher costs and average market rents” in the area as contributing factors to the increase, adding that “new monthly rents will still remain well below current market rents.”

The letter asks those wishing to terminate their lease to give the company 60 days’ notice.

Exemption ‘pays off’, says province

Tenants have contacted provincial governments, as well as federal and provincial politicians for the area, but say they have not received a response.

TBEN also requested a meeting with someone from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Instead, it sent a statement.

“This is paying off for Ontario residents,” spokesman Conrad Spezowka said of the exemption.

Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Finance, presents the government’s Autumn Economic Statement in Toronto in November 2018. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

He wrote that last year the county hit a 30-year record for new rental housing construction, “the most units built in a single year since 1991,” though the exact amount has not been specified.

Rent control guidelines still apply to about 1.4 million rental households in the county, the statement said.

Check before signing a lease, lawyer says

Dania Majid, an attorney with the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), said tenants are in similar situations as new apartments are built.

“Last week I was consulted on a case where a tenant received a rent increase of $1,000 a month,” said Majid.

These rent increases are driving more “economic evictions,” she said, which is why ACTO has been calling for the government to lift the exemption, but no commitment has been made.

Majid said tenants of newer units can do little else to avoid this. She did advise people to always check with the landlord to see if a building has rent control before signing a lease.

“These loopholes were created by this government,” she said.

None of the tenants TBEN spoke to said they were made aware of the lack of rent control before they moved into the apartment building, located at 480 Church St. in Russell, Ont. (Jean Delisle/TBEN)

Save costs or move

McMurray said she’s now trying to cut costs where she can, canceling services and walking spots to save on gas. Even still, it’s unclear how long she’ll be able to make it. The situation has also had a serious impact on her mental health.

“All my health issues have been exasperating. It’s hard to sleep. You avoid people because you’re just not in a very good space,” McMurray said.

Tanaszczuk said she will miss the community she found in her neighbors, though she has no choice but to leave.

“I think when they moved here, everyone, including me, thought it would be the last place,” she said. “Now everyone has to watch.”

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