Tenants at a Barrie Road apartment building are scrambling to find housing after they were given a letter of intent to evict for the purposes of renovations — what's known as an N-13 form.
The four-plex apartment complex at 201 Barrie Rd. is owned by Palm Tree Investments, which purchased the property just before the COVID-19 pandemic, say the tenants.
“When they first purchased the property a couple of years ago, their first order of business was to send everybody in the building a notice that they were increasing the rent by 5.2 per cent," explained Angela Coley, who has been a resident at the property for five years.
"When they realized they couldn’t do that, they served everybody in the building with N-13s,” said Coley.
According to the Landlord and Tenant Board's (LTB) N-13 form, the landlord must give at least 120 days' notice to terminate a tenancy.
If a tenant disagrees with the information in the landlord's notice, the tenant does not have to move out. However, the landlord can apply to the LTB to evict the tenant, which is what has happened in this case.
The LTB has scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing about this matter.
However, earlier this week, a sheriff showed up, say the tenants.
“The landlord’s agent that represents the building decided that when he was here yesterday with the sheriffs, that they would be back within 72 hours to evict us, even though we have had no due process or time in court," said Coley, who doesn't understand why a sheriff is involved and what their power is.
Coley says the landlords have been unreachable by email or by phone since.
“These people are doing things under the table; they are career investors that know the ins and outs of how to get things moving because once you get a sheriff’s order, it’s hard to stop," she explained.
An 80-year-old woman and a young couple had already moved out of their apartment before the N-13 was voided because of the moratorium on evictions enacted by Premier Doug Ford in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since pandemic restrictions on landlords have been eased, the landlords have decided once again to attempt to evict the remaining tenants.
“They are telling the tribunal that they are evicting us because the renovations they need to do are so extensive that they need us out, but yet, the renovations that are actually happening are just putting up a wall and are so simple that they don’t even need a building permit to do it,” Coley claims.
“They just want us out so they can charge more money."
Coley said the landlords plan to do "minor renovations" and turn two-bedroom units into three-bedroom units so they can charge higher rent.
Coley is in the process of hiring a lawyer to represent her in court as she is unable to take a leave of absence from Trillium Manor, where she is a personal support worker.
“I can’t be there for most things as I work rotation shifts. I am not available to deal with something like this,” she said.
Because of the current housing market and the high costs of rent, Coley said she and her husband are feeling helpless.
“There is no house to buy. There is nowhere to go. I don’t even have family nearby. I’m worried that I am soon going to have nowhere to go with my 15- and 17-year-old children,” she said.
“We would have to pitch a tent in someone’s backyard. We literally don’t have anywhere to go.”
Coley isn’t alone. The other residents of the apartment are also scrambling to find housing before their doors are locked shut.
Lorie Hughes, a personal support worker at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, is another resident who has been slapped with an eviction notice. The only difference for her is she has already been locked out of her apartment.
“You couldn’t even imagine what I’m going through. My lock is in a chain, and I was given three hours to get out what I could,” she said.
“My two cats are still in there. I can’t find a storage unit, and I have to be fully out in 72 hours. On top of that, I have to go back to the hospital because two floors are (in a) potential COVID outbreak. We are in a state of red at the hospital right now.”
Hughes is also having issues getting a hold of the landlords to work on a resolution.
“I don’t even know if I’m allowed back in my unit to try and pack up some of my stuff for the truck coming tomorrow. Nobody is answering. Nobody will get back to me,” she said.
“My head is spinning. I cry a lot. I’m just searching for answers.”
Between working on the front lines of the pandemic, and now being threatened with homelessness, Hughes says she is on the verge of a breakdown.
“I put myself on the front line. I’m in gear from head to toe for 12 hours. We go into COVID outbreak rooms and floors, and this is how we get treated,” she said.
Alan Mackenzie, who is living with his elderly mother, Julia Scharapenko, has resided at the property for nine years.
Mackenzie hopes the landlords will find it in their heart to stop the eviction process.
“We are all busy trying to keep our heads above water with bills ... These people, I’m certain, are aware of the struggles that we face. It’s just not right,” he said.
“I’m flexible and could find a new place, but my mom really can’t, especially a place she could afford."
Mackenzie says frustration has been mounting since Palm Tree Investments purchased the building.
“We are all good people, paying our rent, looking out for the place, and even putting money into it, but there is no one getting the benefit of the doubt," he said. "They won’t negotiate with us on paying a little more. Everything they are doing is really shady.”
Mackenzie has no plan right now for he and his mother and he is unsure how to avoid becoming homeless.
"We have everyone we know looking for places to live, but the prices are astronomical and the availability is non-existent,” he said.
Like the other tenants, Coley said the process has taken a toll.
“We are just hoping they let us stay while they do the renovations until we can find a place to go,” she said.
The situation has been weighing on Coley.
“It’s not been an easy thing to have to deal with. Every day, I'm wondering when the next notice is going to come or when the sheriff is going to come knocking on my door because we weren’t notified of anything,” she said.
Palm Tree Investments could not be reached for comment in time for the publication of this article.
According to its website, Palm Tree Investments are Direct Real Estate Investors.
"With over 200 real estate transactions and more than $60 million in real estate currently under management, we utilize a mix of proven equity creation strategies, like Buy Fix, Rent & Hold, on undervalued properties in optimal locations," says the website.
The company is based in Wasaga Beach.