Mass eviction notices served at Cornwall’s Cumberland Gardens

One of the multi-unit buildings at Cumberland Gardens at the corner of Yates Avenue and Fifth Street West in Cornwall, Ont. on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The building's landlord has sent out mass eviction notices for up to 100 tenants citing renovations that need to be done. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Up to 100 Cornwall families have been told they need to be out of the Cumberland Gardens apartment complex within four months.

The owner of the properties – Bedford Properties and Estates Ltd. of Mississauga – served tenants with notices to terminate their leases under the Residential Tenancies Act this weekend.

Cumberland Gardens is a mix of multi-unit buildings and town houses between Yates Avenue/Fifth Street West and Cumberland Street, north of Fourth Street West. There are five, 12-unit buildings plus 40 townhouses.

In one of the lease termination letters shared with Cornwall Newswatch, operations and administration manager Neville Dias says the buildings have to undergo renovations that are expected to take seven months.

Another notice shared on social media cites a new kitchen plus repair or renovation of flooring, doors, bathrooms, plumbing and electrical as the work to be completed.

“You may be aware that the building has been in disrepair for many years,” Dias writes in the covering letter.

The notice has two forms attached – an N13 to end a tenancy because the landlord wants to demolish, repair or convert the unit and an N9 tenant’s notice to end the tenancy.

The N9 form is presumably under the proviso that the tenant will take the company’s “good faith” offer of a $4,000 lump sum payment instead of three month’s rent if they leave with 60 days notice. In the notice shared with CNW, that three months would be $2,814.

Tenants may not be aware that accepting the offer would void some of their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act.

For renovations and repairs, if a tenant gives written notice before they leave their rental unit, they can choose to return once renovations are complete. “The rent must be the same as the rent before the tenancy was terminated,” states a notice from Landlord and Tenant Board. “Before the tenant moves out, the tenant must inform the landlord in writing of their intent to re-occupy the rental unit.” The landlord can not refuse to allow the tenant to move back in, the LTB states.

The landlord’s notice shared with Cornwall Newswatch makes no mention of this rule saying that “we are only obligated to offer a maximum of 3 month’s rent.”

It’s not clear whether the landlord has made an application for a hearing or the status of any hearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board. A phone call to Bedford Properties and Estates Ltd. requesting comment was not immediately returned.

The company does have a repeated history of these so-called “renovictions” at properties it owns in Fort Erie, St. Catharines and Oshawa. In a December 2019 Durham Radio News report, Durham New Democrat MPP Jennifer French called on Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark to explain what the government was doing about the perceived loophole.

The situation will undoubtedly put pressure on a Cornwall rental market that is already lacking affordable housing options and with housing prices that are rapidly increasing.

As of January, the average home price in the Cornwall area was $397,103 – up 10 per cent from January last year.

The Ontario government had paused residential evictions during the pandemic in January 2021 as part of its emergency orders but that expired on June 2, 2021 with the expiry of the stay-at-home order.