Hamilton residents stand up against “renovictions”

A protester’s sign on the lawn of 309 Strathearne Avenue, Hamilton, ON (Camden Driedger/IG:@camdendriedger)

Tenants of 309 Strathearne Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario gathered in front of their home to resist their eviction notice at 11 a.m. on March 31, 2021.

The tenants had received an N13 notice in November 2020 to move out by March 31, 2021. The notice said the landlord will be doing a “complete renovation of the building to increase its value, as well as to ensure the safety of the occupants.”

Evictions like this are often referred as “renovictions”. This means the eviction is being carried out so landlords can renovate or repair a rental unit.

Evicting tenants for the purpose of repairs and renovations is legal in Canada, as long as the landlord gives a minimum 60-day notice. In these cases, landlords must give compensation to evicted tenants.

If the eviction was ordered to repair the unit, landlords must also give tenants the option to return.

However, many have seen rent prices double after renovations are completed, making it difficult for evicted tenants to return to their former homes.

Darlene Wesley (left), in front of 309 Strathearne Avenue (Camden Driedger/IG:@camdendriedger)

Darlene Wesley has lived at 309 Strathearne Avenue for almost 20 years. She pays roughly $665 for a one-bedroom apartment, not including her monthly storage fees. Wesley has a chronic lung condition and lives on a fixed income of $1200 for her disability.

“I’m devastated. I don’t know where I’m going to go,” says Wesley. “I can’t sleep at night, I don’t sleep. It’s hard when you don’t know what the future holds.”

Wesley says that she was offered three months rent as compensation for the eviction. The average rent for a one-bedroom unit in Hamilton today is $1395.

The current tenants are unsure of what landlord Kevin Moniz’s next steps will be now that they’ve made it clear they have no intention of leaving. Some have heard Hamilton’s chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, say a hearing will take place in the near future to decide their fate.

Wesley mentions their landlord has tried to evict them before, in August 2017. He was unable to produce permits to demolish the building and their eviction notices were nullified.

The most recent notice includes claims of “safety issues” in the building the landlord intends to fix after he gains vacant possession. Wesley says what those safety issues are hasn’t been disclosed to the tenants.

Moniz has also asked permission to expand the four-unit building into a six-unit building, but Wesley says there is already a fifth unit in the basement. The fifth unit is also listed as one of the units Moniz plans to renovate “from top to bottom”.

A 2020 report by Hamilton ACORN confirms that “renoviction” rates in Ontario have been on the rise in recent years.

Members of Hamilton ACORN and tenants of 309 Strathearne Avenue, Hamilton, ON (Camden Driedger/IG:@camdendriedger)

The organization, as well as the tenants of 309 Strathearne Avenue, hope with enough support and awareness, the city of Hamilton will introduce a “renoviction” bylaw similar to the one approved by BC’s Supreme Court in 2019.

“The government has to look out for the little guy,” says Wesley. “If they don’t, who will?”