'It doesn't surprise me:' Numbers show more landlords applying to jack up rent
The trend seems to be expanding to neighbourhoods across the GTA, said tenants advocate Cole Webber of Parkdale Community Legal Services.
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The number of Toronto landlords applying to increase rent above provincial standards has doubled over the past five years.
The Landlord and Tenant Board says it received a total of 599 applications last year from landlords looking to increase rent above the 1.8 per cent limit set by the province. In 2012, the board received 292 applications.
The numbers confirm what tenant advocates have been saying for a long time: Owners and landlords are trying harder than ever to jack up rent.
"It doesn't surprise me at all that those numbers are going up," said tenants advocate Cole Webber of Parkdale Community Legal Services. The trend seems to be expanding to neighbourhoods across the GTA, he said.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords can apply to increase rent above the province's annual guidelines in order to cover capital repair costs. But advocates say the rule should limit the acceptable list of repairs to ones that clearly benefit current tenants, such as heating system replacements, and only sparingly apply to cosmetic changes, such as lobby improvements.
Webber is currently assisting dozens of tenants at 1251 King St. W., who are on a rent strike in opposition to a 3.4 rent increase application by landlord Nupsor Investment and building owner Michael Lax. The tenants say such a steep increase is unfair when it's based on renovations in the lobby and outside the building.
Webber says above-guideline rent increases are part of an intentional strategy to get rid of long-term tenants. Landlords can set rent at whatever they like once a unit is vacant.
Last week a coalition of tenant advocacy groups headed to Queen's Park to push for changes in the act. City council has also asked the province to review the rent guidelines.
"For many people in Toronto, moving out to go somewhere else is no longer an option," said Kenneth Hale of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.
Hale said the trend is partly to blame for the current pressure on the city's shelter system.
"We're seeing middle-class people moving into what used to be low-income housing, then those with low income have nowhere to go and they end up in shelters."
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