Thursday, July 18, 2024

Tensions rise as hundreds evicted from Ottawa apartment building

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Tensions are rising as furniture piles up outside an Ottawa apartment building on Richmond Road, where tenants are receiving eviction notices to vacate for renovations.

“It’s a shock, it’s like: ‘hello we are the new owner – move out,'” said tenant, Christopher Chitouras.

Chitouras has lived in the 16-floor building with his 72-year-old mother for more than 10 years, paying $1,300 for a two-bedroom unit.

Last month, he found out the building had been sold and says he received an eviction notice, so the new owner can renovate.

“We’re looking at $2,400 for a two bedroom unit, so everything is up in the air,” Chitouras said.

Tenants say their options are to terminate their leases and receive $5,000, or come back and pay hundreds of dollars more for rent.

“That building is in a very convenient spot,” said Ottawa city councillor, Theresa Kavanagh. “It’s going to be in walking distance of a transit station, obviously the property owner figures you can get more rent, that’s the bottom line.”

Richmond Road Management did not respond to CTV’s request for comment on Wednesday.

But in a previous statement it said, “While we sympathize with our residents, the decision to renovate the now 50-year-old apartments is crucial for ensuring the safety of our current and future residents. With most of the kitchens, bathrooms, electrical panels and flooring original from 1973, we must act now.”

A document related to the sale of the building shows the average rents are well below market value.

“We see this happening at a lot of buildings because we are in a housing crisis right now,” said Ottawa West-Nepean MPP, Chandra Pasma. “I’ve spoken to residents who say they can’t eat, they can’t sleep, and they don’t have any idea what they’re going to do.”

Pasma says, for many, it comes down to not knowing their rights, including the right to return to their renovated unit at the same rent price.

“We do actually have fairly strong legislation in terms of the compensation, the rights of tenants that the landlord can’t just evict people without having it approved by the landlord tenant board,” said Pasma. “But what we see, time and time again, is the sort of thing that’s happening here, the tenants don’t actually have the correct information about their rights.”

The city is in the process of exploring a renoviction bylaw that would make it harder to evict tenants in order to charge a higher rent. That report is expected to come to council in September.

But for many like Chitouras and his mother, it’s the unanswered questions keeping them up at night.

“We haven’t met the owner, we have no communication with them, we only have an email address,” Chitouras said.

A meeting is being held for tenants on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at Britannia United Church to address their concerns.

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