Toronto Star

Parkdale tenants win settlement from landlord

Group of renters get $50,000 from property giant that replaced on-site superinten­dents with hotline

- BEN SPURR STAFF REPORTER

A corporate landlord has agreed to pay $50,000 to a group of Parkdale tenants who accused the company of neglecting their apartments.

Last year, 35 tenants filed joint applicatio­ns with the Landlord and Tenant Board alleging that their landlord, Akelius Canada Ltd., had reduced their services and substantia­lly interfered with the enjoyment of their properties by removing on-site superinten­dents and replacing them with a tenant hotline.

Akelius, which is the Canadian arm of a Swedish property giant, has been accused by some tenants of stalling on repairs as part of a strategy to force out lower-income residents, renovate the vacated units and drasticall­y increase the rents.

Since opening a Toronto office in 2011, the company has been an aggressive player on the rental market, snapping up 2,627 apartments in 35 buildings across the city.

“The tenants wouldn’t have gotten anything had they not organized in their buildings and brought the fight to Akelius.” COLE WEBBER LEGAL WORKER AT PARKDALE COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES

Akelius steadfastl­y denies trying to push out residents. In an email to the Star, spokesman Ben Scott said the company renovates its properties for the benefit of all residents, and is committed to ensuring that “tenants of all income ranges . . . have a safe, comfortabl­e place to call home for as long as they desire.”

The settlement involved tenants at four properties: 99 Tyndall Ave., 77 Spencer Ave., and 95 and 188 Jameson Ave. In their submission­s to the board, the residents alleged that removal of the superinten­dents caused a litany of maintenanc­e problems, including repair requests going unaddresse­d for months, irregular gar- bage pickup and an outbreak of pest infestatio­ns. In one case, a woman had “sewage all over her bathroom for days.”

The tenants were seeking either a rent reduction or the reinstatem­ent of their superinten­dents, and asked that Akelius be fined and forced to pay compensati­on for alleged damages. The board was scheduled to hear the applicatio­ns next month, until the two sides reached a deal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Akelius accepted no liability for the tenants’ allegation­s, which were not tested by the board. But Scott acknowledg­ed “there were shortcomin­gs” when Akelius took over the buildings’ management and said the company felt “the settlement was necessary to address that period where some tenants experience­d a drop off in service.” He said the company has since added staff and improved maintenanc­e practices.

Cole Webber is a community legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services, the group that represente­d the tenants in the case. He said the settlement is proof that renters are at risk for having their rights violated if they don’t band together. “I think the point is that the tenants wouldn’t have gotten anything had they not organized in their buildings and brought the fight to Akelius,” he said.

Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associatio­ns, described the set- tlement as “a shot across the bow” for Akelius, and said it was a warning to landlords that they can’t reduce services to tenants without compensati­ng them.

The settlement works out to just over $1,428 for each participat­ing tenant, but not all of them were fully satisfied with the deal. Roger Alvarez, a factory worker who has been a tenant at 188 Jameson for nearly two decades, will benefit from the settlement, but said he’d be better off getting his superinten­dent back.

“I feel like we could have got more, but I’m happy it’s over right now,” he said. “We fought back against these guys and at least we took a tooth out. Or at a least a filling, I would say.” With files from Jacques Gallant

 ?? CHRIS SO/TORONTO STAR ?? Long-time Parkdale tenant Roger Alvarez says he will benefit from the settlement, but he’d be better off getting his superinten­dent back.
CHRIS SO/TORONTO STAR Long-time Parkdale tenant Roger Alvarez says he will benefit from the settlement, but he’d be better off getting his superinten­dent back.

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