Could eviction changes help fix a broken system or lead to good tenants being unduly turfed? Depends on who you ask


Last year Mark Farquharson and his young family were almost evicted. After helping organize strikes against an above-guideline rent increase at his building in Parkdale, the landlord, Nuspor Investments, served him with eviction notices. He was accused of abusing staff and hindering the safety of other tenants. He denied the accusations, and instead accused the landlord of retaliating.

The case went through the hearing process at the Landlord and Tenant Board, and last November the adjudicator sided with Farquharson and dismissed the landlord’s application. Farquharson, who says his family had been under intense pressure throughout the lengthy process, was relieved but made an ominous prediction about the future of renters.

“With Doug Ford in power, it’s going to be even easier for landlords to force people out and raise the rents,” he said at the time of the decision.

Fast forward to Tuesday this week, the Star reported that the Ford government was already looking for ways to speed up eviction processes in Ontario — notably by reducing the waiting periods for eviction notices and using private bailiffs to remove tenants.

The news, which the province in internal government documents portrayed as an effort to make more rental housing available, has sparked strong reactions from both sides. Tenants are worried about being thrown out into the red-hot and increasingly unaffordable housing market, while landlords welcome the proposal as a step toward fixing a “broken” process.

While Farquharson can see the reasoning behind the proposal — “the more people that get evicted for their wrongdoings, the more available homes and rentals for better tenants,” he said — he’s concerned about the lack of protection for good tenants who could get caught in the “greedy” system as housing prices continue to skyrocket.

Farquharson said he pays about $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment, and knows a similar room could go for around $2,000 in the current market. Generally, it is therefore in a landlord’s interest to try and evict longtime tenants in order to make more money on units, he said.

“It’s in their best interest to put applications out to evict people for very minimal situations,” he said, noting a lot of tenants just give up and leave instead of going to the board to fight the evictions.

“This is a vicious loophole and the tenants are on the losing side big time.”

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Ebony Menzies, a Toronto west-end resident who has been evicted twice, called the proposal to ease the eviction process “unfair and downright cruel.”

She said the practice of “renovictions” — in which a landlords pushes tenants out for housing renovations and increase rent prices afterwards — is already rampant, and the province’s new proposal to speed up the eviction process is only going to make the situation worse for tenants.

“It makes me very upset and angry,” said Menzies, who is also a member of affordable housing advocacy group ACORN Toronto. She said more evictions will send more people into homelessness and cause even more problems for a shelter system that’s operating at full capacity.

“I don’t think anybody is ready for that,” she said. “I think it’s a poorly thought out idea. They should instead invest more in community housing.”

In a statement to the Star, the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) said it welcomes the move and will continue to consult with the province in addressing the housing supply crisis.

“The current Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) process is fundamentally broken and does not work for either landlords or tenants,” said spokesperson Danny Roth.

He said the board often doesn’t meet its timelines to process applications, taking months longer than in other provinces. In places such as Toronto, even enforcing an order after the board has issued it can take an “additional two or three months due to capacity issues,” he said.

Joe Movassaghi, who owns a condo he rents out in downtown Toronto, said he welcomes the proposal and hopes it will help him get out of a situation he’s been stuck in for the past three years.

He said his tenant has been putting the unit on Airbnb, “sometimes to 20 or 30 people,” despite the contract stating subleasing is not allowed. He took the issue to court, but found out that there’s no law against it in Toronto.

“I actually have a lot of stress and anxiety because of it. My hands are totally tied as a landlord,” he said, noting he’s also been given rent cheques that have bounced.

He hopes the proposal can make it fair for him as an investor to have an option to evict a tenant if they misbehave or breach the rental contract.

“I respect the rules around rent control but it has to be fair for me as an investor,” he said. “Otherwise I want out now so I can sleep at night.”

At Queen’s Park, NDP MPP Suze Morrison expressed alarm at the revelations in the Star about the government’s proposal to expedite evictions.

“At a time when the rising cost of housing is making it harder for Ontario families to find a place they can afford, and keep a roof over their heads, Doug Ford’s Conservatives are focused on helping landlords toss tenants out on the street faster,” said Morrison (Toronto Centre).

“Everyday Ontarians need more affordable places to live — not more crackdowns on renters.”

With files from Robert Benzie

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo


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No mass eviction planned for people living under Gardiner, city says


The city has not set a firm deadline to forcibly remove people living in makeshift encampments beneath the Gardiner Expressway but if they do decide to pack up a place will be found for them to stay.

That message was part of a sit-down interview with senior staff from the city division responsible for shelter management on Tuesday, amid escalating public pressure to improve and expand existing services.

“Toronto has invested a lot of funds, resources and staffing to try and manage the current situation,” said Paul Raftis, general manager of the shelter, support and housing administration, speaking broadly about services for people experiencing homelessness. “That doesn’t mean that we couldn’t do more and we are constantly looking at other creative solutions.”

About two weeks ago people who set up tents or makeshift structures, including some under the Gardiner, were handed notices informing them they had 14 days to remove debris and personal goods or face “further enforcement” prompting fears that sweeping evictions were coming.

The city said that is not the case and the notices are handed out to let people know they are violating city rules and their possessions could be moved. He said the city will work to find them an alternate place to stay if they decide to leave.

“There is always a space to come in out of the cold,” he said, adding the division has also overhauled their internal communications to ensure people get faster access to all forms of shelter.

He said the division will conduct an operational review of winter services and plan to present the findings to city council later this year.

The Star’s May Warren spoke to people beneath the expressway to find out why they choose exposure to the elements over other forms of available shelter. Some said they desired privacy and independence. Others were not convinced other options were available.

“We’re pretty tight, pretty good people. We check in on each other, that’s kind of the reason to be here,” said Richard Smith, who lived in a green tent with his dog Pixie. He said he had not received a notice.

Brad Ross, the city’s chief communication officer, said eight people were given notices two weeks ago. The city regularly cleans up makeshift sites for health and safety reasons and the notices are not new and are used to alert people to the fact that the structures are a violation of city rules.

He said people’s possessions can be moved, but those items would be stored rather than tossed out. He added a ninth person was recently given a notice.

The fear of displacement became part of a public conversation around supporting people in need in a city with a severe shortage of affordable and supportive housing, one fuelled by the recent deaths of Crystal Papineau, 35, who was trapped in a clothing donation bin, and Hang Vo, who was run over by a garbage truck in an alley.

On Tuesday, front line workers and advocates, standing with city councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam, Gord Perks and Josh Matlow, held a morning press conference at city hall. They said homelessness must be declared a humanitarian crisis and the city should call on all levels of government to provide immediate support.

Next Monday all city divisions will put forward their budget requests, including the shelter division. Staff have been asked to try to keep their budgets at 2018 levels.

“We don’t have the budget for additional services on top of what we are providing now,” Raftis said. He declined to outline their budget request.

Ross said when it comes to people in encampments the city has the “obligation to give them notice” but there is “a greater obligation” to make sure they are first offered whatever help is available.

Todd Orvitz, director of strategic and policy solutions, said the notices are not handed to people out of the blue.

“Streets to Homes staff are going to be out working with these people for a long period of time before the notices come out,” to determine what kinds of services they might need, he said. “They meet the clients where they are at.” That could include everything from helping them find shelter and transitional housing to reuniting them with family members, he said.

Raftis said some people move on right after a notice is given, others at the 14-day mark, in some cases the police are called and “then there is everything in between” and each case is handled differently.

With files from Francine Kopun

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar


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Man facing eviction from family home on Toronto Islands gets reprieve — for now


Days before Christmas, Don Sampson learned he had been voted off the island — and out of his childhood home on Algonquin Island.

Eviction day was scheduled for Monday. Locks would be changed, forcibly if necessary. Possessions removed. The home at 8 Omaha Ave. would then be sold by the Toronto Islands’ trust, which instructed Sampson to vacate the property in a letter dated Dec. 20.

“The Trust will neither be evicting anyone from 8 Omaha nor changing the locks at that address on January 7, 2019,” Lorraine Filyer, Toronto Islands’ trust board chair, wrote in an email to the Star on Sunday. She did not respond to a followup email asking if the trust would — or would not — evict anyone from that home after Monday.

Sampson, when told of Filyer’s statement, was skeptical.

He said he received another letter from the trust on Friday that suggested “we’re going to carry on” with eviction plans. He added he hasn’t been contacted directly by the trust about dropping the eviction demand.

“I would love to hear that it’s happening,” said Sampson, who hosted a “Save Our Sampsons” rally at his home on Sunday — the letters S.O.S. were drawn on signs filling the front windows.

“I would like to have an email from the trust itself before I can be assured (that he can remain in the home).”

And if a crew shows up to evict him?

“If they come to try and change my locks (Monday), of course I’ll stand here and try to prevent them,” Sampson said.

He said he has support from friends who showed up for an afternoon barbecue he hosted Sunday. Many of them have known the Sampson family for 60 years. Some pledged to form a human chain around the home Monday if an eviction is attempted.

Councillor Mark Grimes (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), another long-time Sampson friend, recalled when they played baseball together on the island in the 1980s.

“It’s a family home and I think it should stay in the family,” said Grimes, standing in the home’s front yard Sunday.

Grimes spent part of the morning reviewing his friend’s documents and said he would reach out to the province to learn more about how the trust operates.

Mayor John Tory said at a Sunday event in Scarborough that he would not interfere in the island dispute.

Sampson’s property battle with the trust surrounds the deed to the family home, which was in the name of his brother, Bruce, who had cancer and died in 2017. Though Don Sampson is named in his brother’s will to inherit 8 Omaha, the house cannot be transferred to him — a quirk of trust rules.

Sampson was informed by the trust that the home must be sold by the trust to someone on its waiting list, which has about 500 hopeful island buyers on it.

The letter Sampson received from a trust lawyer advised he had until Jan. 7 (Monday) to relinquish his house keys. If not, the letter states the “Trust will forcibly enter and change the locks.”

He also was directed to remove all possessions from the home by that date as well, but Sampson, as of Sunday, hadn’t moved a stick of furniture.

Sampson was born in the Algonquin Island home in 1957 and moved away when he was about 30 years old. He had a family, raising three sons — twins Dylan and William, 27, and Dustin, 25 — in a Toronto apartment, and then moved back to the island full-time two years ago to care for his terminally ill brother. Bruce had no spouse and no children.

Sampson said he thought that because he was part of the original island community that fought and won the right for islanders to stay put, the trust would let him stay after his brother passed away. He claims the trust has made exceptions to the rules for others in the past.

Filyer told the Star’s Marco Chown Oved in a Dec. 30 story that privacy concerns prevented her from commenting on an individual and that she was not aware of any exceptions made to the property transfer rule.


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He fought to save Toronto Islanders from eviction. Now, they’re trying to evict him


Thirty years ago, Don Sampson linked arms with fellow residents of the Toronto Islands to block sheriffs who had come to evict them. Now, the trust representing islanders is evicting him from his family home of over 60 years.

“I was on the bridge. I helped defend our homes. I had a role in fighting against our evictions,” Sampson said. “I voted for the trust and now I have to fight against the trust I helped set up.”

“I voted for the trust and now I have to fight against the trust I helped set up,” says Don Sampson, seen in front of his family home on Algonquin Island.
“I voted for the trust and now I have to fight against the trust I helped set up,” says Don Sampson, seen in front of his family home on Algonquin Island.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

At issue is the fact the deed to the family home was in his brother’s name. Sampson’s brother died two years ago and, unlike property in any other part of the city, the house cannot be transferred to him — despite the fact he’s named in his brother’s will — and must instead be sold by the trust to someone else.

On Dec. 20, Sampson, 61, received a letter from a lawyer representing the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust Corporation giving him less than three weeks to turn over the keys to the house he was born and raised in.

“If the keys are not received on or before Jan. 7, 2019, the Trust will forcibly enter and change the locks,” reads the letter from Trust lawyer Bruce Lewis, obtained by the Star.

The letter goes on to inform Sampson that the house must be emptied of all possessions — for Sampson, two generations of furniture and heirlooms — otherwise they will be cleared out for him.

“The costs of the above, including all legal costs and a reasonable allocation of Trust administrative costs, will be deducted from the proceeds of sale,” Lewis states.

Sampson was born in the house on Algonquin Island and lived there until he was 30. He moved back full time two years ago to take care of his dying brother, Bruce, and says he’s being turfed out by a system that was supposed to ensure that people who live on the Toronto Islands can stay there.

“It’s terrible. Everybody knows I’ve been here my entire life. All my friends are here. My roots are here. I grew up here. It’d be heartbreaking for me to move out of my family home after 60 years,” he said.

Don Sampson's family home is on Algonquin Island. His brother took it over but has since died and now the Island Trust is making him sell the home as leases can only go from parent to sibling or spouse to spouse, not sibling to sibling.
Don Sampson’s family home is on Algonquin Island. His brother took it over but has since died and now the Island Trust is making him sell the home as leases can only go from parent to sibling or spouse to spouse, not sibling to sibling.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

The trust rules allow houses on the Islands to be passed from parents to children, or between spouses, but not from one sibling to another.

“The place has always been half mine, even though it wasn’t on paper,” Sampson said. “My brother always told everyone that it was half mine and he wanted me to take the home so it would pass down to my sons.”

Defenders of the rules say they have kept houses on the Toronto Islands affordable while the real estate market in the city has skyrocketed. Without the trust, the Islands would have become a playground for the super-rich, they say.

Trust board chair Lorraine Filyer told the Star she could not comment on individual situations due to privacy concerns, but said “the Trust is required to sell a house and land lease upon the death of the owner if the property has not been devised to a spouse or child.”

Filyer said she not aware of any exceptions having been made to this rule.

Toronto Island residents spent a generation fighting to keep their homes, starting in the 1950s, when Metropolitan Toronto began bulldozing houses to create parkland. The demolition crews began at the west end, and by the time they made it to Algonquin and Ward’s Islands at the east end in the 1970s, residents had dug in for a struggle that would last more than a decade.

The Supreme Court would eventually rule that Metro had the right to evict the Island dwellers, but a newly elected Ontario government under Bob Rae passed legislation granting them ownership of their houses and 99-year leases on the land.

When the first leases were signed in the early 1990s, fears that speculators would snatch up the idyllic waterfront lots and drive up prices drove the province and the residents to establish a trust to manage the purchase and sale of all Islands property.

That system, which requires those interested in buying houses on the island to win a lottery for a spot on a 500-person wait list, is overseen by the Islands Trust. When a resident wants to sell their home, the trust assesses the value of the house, declares a price and offers it to those on the wait list. There are no bids; wait-listed purchasers can only say yes or no.

“The Trust is mandated to provide stewardship of the Island Residential Community, ensuring that this community is maintained according to the principles which islanders fought hard for in their 30-year effort to retain their homes,” states the Trust’s website.

“One of the core principles of the Trust is to ensure that the sale of island homes and leases, which sit on public land, do not result in windfall profits for the owners … The system of regulated prices for homes and leases, sold only to people on the Purchasers’ List, ensures that this principle is maintained.”

“It’s terrible. Everybody knows I’ve been here my entire life. All my friends are here,” Don Sampson says.
“It’s terrible. Everybody knows I’ve been here my entire life. All my friends are here,” Don Sampson says.

The only exception to the wait-list system is a rule that allows parents to transfer their houses to their kids, or spouses to transfer their houses to one another. Transfers to siblings aren’t allowed.

Sampson’s parents bought the house on Algonquin Island in 1957 and raised Don and his brother Bruce there. They moved out to the countryside in 1976 and transferred the house to their sons. When it came time to sign the 99-year lease in 1993, Don had bad credit and could not get a mortgage for the $46,000 owing to the province, so Bruce took him off title and assumed ownership.

“He didn’t pay me anything for my share of the house. He was just holding it for me,” said Sampson. “I kept helping pay the taxes, I renovated the house, I always had an interest in the place.”

Sampson, who raised his three sons in an apartment in the city, moved back to the island two years ago to care for his brother, who had cancer. When his brother passed away, he thought that because he was part of the original community who fought and won the right for islanders to stay put, the trust would let him stay.

“They’ve made exceptions from the rules for longtime islanders before. I think that’s great. No one wants people to be thrown out on the street,” he said, saying a caregiver and a stepchild have inherited houses after an owner’s death. “Why won’t they make an exception for me?”

Sampson has set up a website, asking for members of the public to urge the trust to reconsider its decision to evict him and sell the house.

“The trust needs a wake up call,” he said.

Marco Chown Oved is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @marcooved


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Kelowna seniors surprised by eviction notices, say they paid rent


An Okanagan senior who says she’s never missed a month of rent in her life received an eviction notice this holiday season.

“I got a 10-day eviction notice,” said Edna Pichler, who has been calling the apartment building on Kelowna’s Lawrence Avenue her home for the last seven years.

“I’ve been on my own since I was 17. I’ve never missed rent. I can go without food, I can go without car insurance, but I can’t go without rent,” Pichler said.

Pichler isn’t the only resident of Legacy Tower who might have to move. Multiple seniors in Legacy Towers are being threatened with eviction notices, warning they have to be out of their apartments by December 12th.

WATCH BELOW: A seven-foot gator, three pythons and other animals were removed from a home in Kansas City in November after a sheriff’s deputy came across the bunch while serving an eviction notice.

Associated Property Management manages the building but did not respond to request for comment.

“They’re saying I owe two months’ rent, and I don’t,” Pichler said, adding that she has the paperwork showing her cashed rent cheques from the last 12 months.

Pichler said she received the eviction notice via registered mail.

“And you have five days from the date of that being delivered to you, or you going and retrieving it, to come up with the amount of money they’re saying you owe them.”

Pichler said her immediate reaction was anger.

“When you’ve never had an eviction notice and all of a sudden you get one at 65, it’s not a happy time. And especially [at] Christmas,” she said.

“I don’t know where they’re coming up with this idea that I owe them money, and they won’t answer. They say I owe for [this past] January and November,” she added.

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Picher said her rent is $623 a month but Associated Property Management is asking for $948.

“That’s not adding up,” she said.

Pichler said November’s rent was in the company’s hands on October 28th. Her cheque wasn’t cashed until November 30th, yet she received an eviction notice on November 27th, she said.

“Something shady is going on,” Pichler said. “I’m not happy.”

Possibly being evicted during the holiday season is stressful, she added.

“I’m not sleeping, not eating. Migraines, my eczema has kicked up, my blood pressure is up . . . it’s not good.”

Bernie Gautron, who is closing in on eight years in his apartment, said he’s in limbo. He brought his eviction notice to the property manager, but was told not to worry about it.

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“The first thing was [being] curious,” Gautron said of receiving an eviction notice. “And after that, I got all uptight because where am I going to be? Where am I going to go? And so I had four days of being uptight like hell.”

Gautron said he showed the property manager his rent receipts, and the response was “it’s all being taken care of. That was the whole conversation. I don’t know [if I have to move out in a few days]. I know nothing.”

Tenant Dennis Branson has not received an eviction notice but said he’s been flooded with worries from his neighbours.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Parkdale tenants granted stay of eviction by Landlord and Tenant Board


Vulnerable Parkdale seniors facing eviction from the property they’ve resided at for years won’t have to move out by the end of the month after all.

The Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) has agreed to grant requests filed on behalf of Cesar Bonilla and Melissa Bourque to stay their voluntary eviction notices, which the tenants say they signed without fully understanding the implications of doing so. A hearing for the matter will ultimately determine if there are grounds to evict the tenants.

Melissa Bourque and Cesar Bonilla (foreground), residents of 1336 King St. W., confront landlord Marina Grmusa (centre, in doorway) at her residence in Mississauga on Wednesday, Sept. 19, about the eviction notices that they recently received.
Melissa Bourque and Cesar Bonilla (foreground), residents of 1336 King St. W., confront landlord Marina Grmusa (centre, in doorway) at her residence in Mississauga on Wednesday, Sept. 19, about the eviction notices that they recently received.  (Rahul Gupta / Metroland)

The decision comes following the publication of the story about the evictions last week detailing the tenants’ anxieties over facing eviction from the units they’ve inhabited in some cases for over two decades. In her stay request Bourque, who is undergoing treatment for terminal cancer, fears she will be homeless if eviction is granted.

But the intervention by the LTB means the tenants, including Bonilla’s roommate Marko Mejia, can stay in their units at 1336 King St. W. beyond Oct. 1, which was the date they were legally required to move out as per the eviction notice.

The hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 9:30 a.m. for the LTB to hear the tenants’ appeal for the evictions. Until then at least, the tenants can remain in their homes.

Last week, Bonilla and Bourque, supported by members of the tenant advocacy group Parkdale Organize, travelled to landlord Marina Grmusa’s suburban residence in Mississauga to discuss the evictions and get her to accept their rent cheques for October, which were returned last week.

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This reporter accompanied the tenants to observe the interaction between Grmusa and the tenants.

Standing in her doorway face-to-face with the two tenants, Grmusa and her husband repeatedly insisted under questioning by a member of Parkdale Organize she couldn’t halt the eviction proceedings since the property, which is owned by her elderly mother Anka Cetkovic, has been sold to a buyer upon the condition the house is vacant when possession by the new owner is taken.

They also said they had been advised by their lawyer not to accept the tenants’ rent cheques pending a resolution of the matter.

“There’s got to be other apartments out there,” said Grmusa. “Maybe not in Parkdale, but other apartments are available.”

Grmusa expressed sympathy for the tenants, but took offence to the claim she was pressuring them to leave.

“I have a lot of respect for my tenants and I’m sorry this happened,” she said.


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