Cornwall can’t overstep tenancy laws to stop Cumberland Gardens mass eviction

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. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – With no legal avenues, Cornwall City Council will resort to letter writing to try and stop a possible mass eviction of the Cumberland Gardens apartment complex.

“I wasn’t surprised but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t be disappointed by it,” Coun. Todd Bennett said Monday night on a staff report showing the city can’t create a law that supersedes the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act.

The report was based on a legal opinion from the city’s lawyers.

Bennett had wanted to put in municipal controls to limit the number of tenants who can be evicted from larger rental properties at the same time, based on the landlord’s need to do renovations.

He said the laws “clearly have a hole in them.”

“I think this is something we can’t let go,” Bennett said.

Council then agreed to write a letter to Bedford Properties and Estates to – as Coun. Elaine MacDonald put it – “plea” for a piecemeal eviction as opposed to a mass eviction.

Another letter will go to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) explaining the current rental housing situation, asking it to refuse the eviction application and instead create a cap of 10 per cent of tenants evicted at any one time.

Nearly 100 tenants at Cumberland Gardens received eviction notices in February from the landlord to be out by July 1.

The move has received widespread condemnation from both tenants, legal experts and various local politicians.

As of Monday night there had been no notices of any hearing before the LTB, either because eviction proceedings had not been filed or they were still being processed, according to Cornwall Social and Housing Services Administrator Mellissa Morgan.

The city has also not received any building permit application that “matches what they (Bedford) are requesting (for renovations),” Morgan told council.