Renoviction; Bracebridge residents allege cash offers and free rent to vacate by new landlord


Al Sinderly shows the N11 Eviction Agreement he was asked to sign.



Jack Martin is 83 years old, he was allegedly offered $5,000 to move out.


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Agatha Farmer


BRACEBRIDGE - Bracebridge tenants at 129 Alice Street say they are facing renovictions.


Renoviction is a new trend which some landlords are using to bypass the residential tenancy act to increase rents.


Two buildings at the above address have been recently sold to a new landlord. Shortly following the sale tenants allege they were approached by their new landlord and offered between $4,000 to $6,000 in cash to move out by April 1. Meanwhile new tenants have moved into the building and are allegedly paying $1,500 rent per month.


The new landlord is Mathew Regan and operates the buildings under Weber Apartments. Muskoka Post reached out to Regan via phone and his business partner Whitney Graham via email and phone. This publication is still waiting for a reply from Regan, however, his partner Graham replied via email. We asked several questions including what type of renovations will be taking place at the property, what is the timeline, have tenants been approached with an offer of money for vacancy and if reno’s are taking place why would new tenants move in.


We received the following email reply;


“None of the tenants were provided with eviction notices. Some tenants entered into discussions with a director of the corporation and agreed to on consent to terminate their tenancy as of April 1, 2020 and signed an N11 (a government form) which is an agreement to terminate. The tenants that signed the N11 volunteered to end their tenancy and thus signed to do so.”



The above is the N11 Form tenants have been asked to sign.


We followed up to ask why tenants were offered to sign the N11 Form and why would they have to terminate their tenancy as of April 1, 2020 - Muskoka Post did not received a reply at the time of publication of this article. Should one be provided we will update the information.


Jack Martin is 83 years old. He has been living in the building for two years. He said he was approached by the new landlord one day while he was taking out the garbage.


“He told me that he would give me $5,000 to get out, and then he told me he would give me $6,000 if I got out within a month,” he said.


“When he made this offer to me he scared me, at least made me feel unsettled because this is a strange thing to do to buy me out.”


Martin was, however, told by the landlord’s business partner that he will not be evicted.


Martin said that even if he took the $5,000 he has no place to go.


“I’d have to pack up all my furniture, then have to make first and last payment to somebody, then moving expenses.”


Martin lives on $1,600 a month, the average 1 bedroom in Muskoka is $1,300 a month.


As it turns out Martin was not the only tenant offered this deal. In fact, it seems most of the tenants were given the same out.


Martin said his apartment is subsidized by the district of Muskoka. His rent is $825, he pays $590 per month and the remainder is subsidized by the district.


However, according to Jackie Mattice, district housing program director, the buildings don’t have district subsidized apartments. We’ll get back to his point further down.


The heartbreaking twist to Martin’s story is that a few months ago he was offered a spot at the McVittie Place and turned it down as he was happy with his apartment.


“I’m an old man but I’m not a push over,” Jack pauses, tears up and continues “my daddy didn’t die in the war for them to kick my ass out of this building.”


There are approximately 15 units per building with about 25 people affected.


On Dec. 5 tenants gathered for a meeting to discuss their situation with Susan Campbell from Lake Country Community Legal Clinic. Campbell is a licensed paralegal and was there to dispense advice and options.



Coun. Don Smith, District Program Director Jackie Mattice, tenants and Susan Campbell, Lake Counry Community Legal Clinic paralegal attend the Dec. 5th meeting.




Prior to the meeting Muskoka Post gathered similar stories to that of Jack Martins.


Al Sinderly has lived in the building for 10 years, he recently also received an eviction offer. The landlord allegedly offered him 4 months free rent. He is looking for another apartment but really doesn’t know what to do at this point. He has also been in touch with the district but understands that there is a wait list for affordable housing.


“There are very few choices for people who are under 65, because McVittie or one of the other retirement homes has a one year wait list,” he said.


Another tenant said that he received a letter and was told he has to move out by April 1.


“He basically put me on the line and said I had to sign,” he said.


He signed, received 4 months of free rent as well as his deposit back, and has another place lined up.


Vicki West was told by the landlord that renovations will be done on the building.


“He told me that what he can do for me today and that the offer would go away by the end of the day, but he we will give me 4 months free rent up to April 1. But there is a person on the second floor who has just moved in and they are paying $1,500 a month,” she said.


West’s current rent is $850 monthly, she is wondering how its possible that the current tenants have until April 1 to move as renovations will commence but new tenants who have just moved in don’t.


She pays month to month and has lived in the building for a year. When asked where she is going to go she answered “good question.” The maximum she can afford to spend on rent is $1,000 “if even that.” Prior to moving into the building at 129 Alice Street she was looking for housing for 2 years. West works and receives a pension from her late husband.


“I have been looking but there is very little out there,” she said


West had also emailed Mayor Graydon Smith who assured her that he is working with the district and the legal aid clinic.



Vicki West and her neighbour Jenny Palmer.


Yet another tenant said he was offered $5,000 in cash to vacate his apartment, his wife was also offered the same deal.


A senior lady in her 80’s was asked by the landlord to sign an N11 eviction notice. She had asked the landlord if she could keep the papers he presented her with until her son could look at them following the weekend. She said she was told no and signed the form.


Jenny Palmer said she is a senior on a fixed income. Like Jack Martin she also receives a subsidy from the district and has no idea where she would find another apartment.


Asked if the district had spoken with her about the sale of the building and how this will affect her subsidy.


“I had to phone and tell them, they didn’t even know the building had been sold,” she said.


Mattice while attending the meeting talked to Muskoka Post and said “if there are district subsidized apartments we would be informed but these ones are not subsidized.”


When we said that two tenants had informed us of their subsidy Mattice said “hmmm so that would be a good questions because this is not one of our buildings.”


Mattice had asked Muskoka Post to follow up with her via email following the meeting. We did, we were looking to clarify if apartments in the building are in fact subsidized and if the district had notice of the property sale.


We received the following response;


“I apologize for any confusion.  When I responded to your question indicating that the building is not subsidized, I was referring to community or subsidized housing, buildings owned and/or operated by the District.  The District does not own or operate the building at 129 Alice Street.

 

Under the Muskoka Affordable Housing Program (MAHIP), the District provides rent supplements (an average of about $225 per month) to support tenants in market units.  The purpose of the supplement is to assist in making the rent more affordable.


I cannot speak to specific units, but as I noted below, the District provides over 300 rent supplements across Muskoka.  Agreements are between the landlord, tenant and District and units supplemented are not made public.   


In the event that a building is sold where there are supplements in place, the District works with the new owner to try and maintain the supplements.  Participation in the rent supplement program is voluntary and should the new owner agree to participate, the rent supplement is continued.”


It seems that if there are district subsidized units in the buildings, which according to at least two residents who live at the address there are, the district was not notified of the sale and has not yet worked with the new landlord to maintain supplements.


During the Dec. 5 tenant meeting in addition to Mattice and Campbell in attendance was also Coun. Don Smith.


Campbell and the Lake Country Community Legal Clinic was contacted by several of the building tenants. She addressed the group of approximately 20 and noted that in her opinion it sounds as though “many of you have felt pressured into signing an agreement to terminate.”



Susan Campbell, Lake Country Community Legal Clinic paralegal, offers tenants advice on their rights and outlines options.


“I have heard some of the stories which have been told to get you to sign those … the landlord is saying that he is planning extensive renovations and needs you to move out. He also said that he is going to offer you four months free rent as well as last months rent back if you sign the agreement to terminate. But unfortunately you have to sign it right away and you couldn’t speak to legal council as the deal was walking out the door with him if you didn’t sign. There is a real big problem with that,” she said.


According to Campbell the law indicates that if a landlord was in fact doing extensive building renovations, which would require tenants to move out, the reno’s would have to be of a such a nature that it would be impossible for tenants to remain in the buildings.


If such work would need to commence the landlord would have to provide 120 days notice.


“Not only do you get the four months, you also get an option to move back into your unit at no increase in rent at the end of that four months. If you decide that you want to move on then the landlord has to actually give you three months rent on top of that 120 days, so 3 months worth of money back,” Campbell said.


Even if a renovation notice is served to tenants, the tenants can still dispute the application with the tenant and landlord board.


The landlord then has to prove to the board that the property requires extensive renovations. For the landlord to receive the order to evict for renovations the board has to be convinced that extensive work is required. The proof the board looks for is building permits from the town that outline the work which needs to be completed.


According to Mayor Graydon Smith as of Dec. 5 no permits have been applied for at 129 Alice Street.


During the meeting Campbell outlined options for tenants and offered to represent them in this case.


Muskoka Post will continue to follow this story.


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