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Tenants rage over evictions

Toronto Sun - April 18, 1999
by Laura Bobak

Residents of a Kensington Market building held a demonstration yesterday to protest what they call unfair evictions by their new landlord.

The protesters said the new owner of 278-280 Augusta Ave. has bullied or bribed about a dozen of the building's residents -- many of Chinese origin and not fluent in English -- into signing notices that would force them to vacate their one-room units.

The building, which has shared bathrooms and kitchens, is home to about 60 people living in about 48 units, which rent for between $270 and $400 a month.


"f you fail to pay your rent or satisfy otherwise that you have paid your rent and there is someone living in this unit, we will change the locks on the doors Saturday, the 17th of April," said a notice sent by landlord Farhan Abbas to residents on April 14.

Abbas, 23, admitted he wants to clear the $825,000 building of as many short-term tenants as possible so he can renovate the property and increase rents, but denied pressuring or intimidating anyone into giving their notice against their will.

He said he gave tenants incentives to leave, including paying one as much as $660 cash, but said the threat to change locks referred only to vacant units.

"I did not force them," said Abbas, who also owns a roominghouse at 55 Huntley St.

The residents have gathered the support of Councillor Olivia Chow, New Democrat MPP Rosario Marchese, and lawyer Avvy Go of the Toronto Chinese and South Asian Legal Clinic, who has taken up their battle.

"The whole intent is to kick out the tenants so he can bring in new tenants to hike up the rent," said Go, who will help the tenants fight the evictions in court under the Tenant Protection Act.

Abbas said the building is a hostel, or temporary residence, and 64% of residents use the property for short-term housing.

But the housing activists say the building is a permanent home for most tenants, some of whom have lived in the building for up to 12 years.

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