Bill Dennis says Ontario needs to do more to combat the ‘reno-victing’ of tenants — a practice that’s a growing problem in Sarnia-Lambton.
“I saw it happening when I was in real estate and it’s happening now,” the Sarnia city councillor said of ‘renovictions,’ the term used to describe landlords who evict tenants by claiming major renovations are needed.
“They’ll do, say, a fresh coat of paint or change out the countertop… then all of the sudden they jack up the rent. That’s what’s been happening in Sarnia,” said Dennis.
Many landlords fail to follow the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act, including refusing to allow tenants to return post-renovation, he said.
“In many cases, these people don’t know their rights, and quite frankly, they don’t have the financial resources to fight it. They don’t put up any resistance and they move along.
“It’s very upsetting to hearing their stories.”
City council recently endorsed a motion from Dennis urging the Ontario government to take action against ‘renovictions.’ He called it an unscrupulous practice that directly impacts Sarnia’s affordable housing crisis, “as well as inflict damage, both financially and mentally, particularly on our most vulnerable citizens.”
Sarnia is also seeking political support from other municipalities.
“I’m hoping they will add their support and send it off to Queen’s Park, and hopefully we will make a little noise that way.”
Unscrupulous and illegal evictions are indeed impacting the community’s most vulnerable residents, said Andrew Bolter, executive director of Community Legal Assistance Sarnia.
“It’s leaving a lot of low-income folk and working poor in the lurch. Where do they go? There’s not much available,” he said, noting the prohibitively long waitlists for low-income housing locally.
“We need to look at protection for tenants who are in these situations, where they’re often quite vulnerable people who are poor … poor because they can’t for whatever reason work.”
Sarnia drawing attention to the problem is a good start, he added.
“The government needs to step up and provide social housing, so any pressure that can be put on the higher level of governments is good, and anything the local municipalities can do — we really need to push that and promote that.
“The bottom line is, we’ve got hundreds of people living in shelters and in motels around the city, so something has to give somewhere.”