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Tenants protest loophole in rent rules

Residents facing 15-50% increases want law changed

Toronto Star - August 23, 1999
By Geoff Baker


They keep begging the landlord to get rid of the waterfall above their bathroom sink.

That's why Grazyna Drozdowicz and Marek Wrotkowski can't believe they'll soon pay 38 per cent more to live in their Toronto apartment with the bathroom ceiling that drips smelly water when the neighbour upstairs flushes the toilet.

"It smells like a public toilet," said Wrotkowski, 43, one of 300 demonstrators who rallied at Queen's Park yesterday to protest upcoming rent hikes of 15 to 50 per cent at 13 west-end buildings.

"You can smell the urine in the water leaking down."

The protesters are upset with a loophole in the Ontario government's Tenant Protection Act. It enables landlords to impose retroactive hikes at buildings where rent had been frozen for years pending government-ordered repairs.

Legislation passed by the province in June, 1998, allows landlords to raise rents to the maximum levels allowed if not for the freeze. The hikes can be retroactive to 1985.

Landlords can qualify for the loophole by completing outstanding repairs ordered before the 1998 law change. Tenants can no longer get rents frozen at buildings where new repair requests go unanswered.

The tenants insist their apartments aren't worth such hikes and worry about how they'll afford them. They set up dozens of cardboard boxes and tents sporting messages like "My New Home" to emphasize that point.

"This is just a cruel increase to force on tenants," said Liberal MPP Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park), who spoke at the rally. "When you have a rental vacancy rate of less than 1 per cent, the landlords know these people have no place to go."

Drozdowicz and Wrotkowski showed off the leaky bathroom ceiling at their apartment at 103 West Lodge Avenue. in Parkdale.They say repair requests have gone ignored for a year, but their rent will increase from $494.37 to $683.39 on Nov. 1.

Another tenant showed paint peeling off his walls and a floor dampened by leaks. A mousetrap lay in one corner while knobs on the kitchen cupboards were tied with rubber bands to keep them shut.

His monthly rent will climb 46 per cent from $385.60 to $563.62.

Sukarani Lucknauth, 59, who lives in an adjacent building at 105 West Lodge, pointed to a gaping hole above her shower that left pipes and insulation visible.

"They came last month to fix a leak and had to break the ceiling to get to it," she said, adding that she lacks the means to afford the rent increase.

"But then they never came back."

The two 17-storey towers on West Lodge are owned by Paul and Jeffrey Wynn and are run through a family trust. They say they qualified for the hikes by spending $7 million since 1997 to upgrade a parking garage, put new carpeting in hallways, fix the roof and do paint work.

They could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Jeffrey Wynn told The Star last month, "It's a cumulative increase," in describing the hikes, which are retroactive to 1989.


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