Bayview buildings cleared for renos

[attach]7018[/attach]The landlord-tenant dispute at Leaside’s historic Talbot Apartments ended on Aug. 13, when its last three residents agreed to move out.

The buildings, heritage low-rises on 1325, 1351 and 1365 Bayview Ave., escaped demolition in 2010 when the city forbade their destruction. The decision had followed a lengthy battle between the owners, Manitoba-based Kelvingrove Investment Corp., and the Kelvingrove/Glen-Leven Tenants’ Association.

But tenants received eviction notices this year, with the owners claiming an 18-month renovation project would render the apartments “unlivable”. The repairs are necessary to replace the 75-year-old buildings’ insulation, windows, hot water heating system and wiring, among other structural elements, said the owners’ Ontario-based representative, High Peak in a statement e-mailed to the Town Crier.

“The apartments will be unlivable during the renovations,” the statement said. “We sympathize with our tenants and realize that the relocation has and will have significant impact on them and their families.”

High Peak declined to comment further. Tenants’ association president Jade Jenkins, however, said tenants had remained wary after winning the demolition battle, because units still needed repairs and whenever someone moved out that unit stayed empty. Sixty-six tenants remained — many of them seniors who lived at the apartments for some 20 years — when the landlord sent eviction notices in April.

High Peak told residents they would need to move by Aug. 31 because of the renovation project, which is now scheduled to begin in the second week of October. The tenants’ association challenged the eviction notices in July at the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board, asking for extended time, on the grounds that High Peak didn’t have the necessary building permits.

According to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations’ executive director, Geordie Dent, the board postponed the hearing until Aug. 13, and refused to enforce High Peak’s eviction notices because it tried issuing them before having a building permit.

While settlement terms for the last three tenants, including moving dates, are protected by confidentiality agreements, it is known some residents who agreed to move out earlier received deals that included an extra month of residency and compensation above the three months’ rent required by law.

While most of the 66 former tenants will be invited to return when the renovations are complete, a statement from High Peak president Luc Corneli in May implied their current monthly rent could be guaranteed for only a short time.

“If you choose to return after the renovation has been completed, your rent will initially be at the same rate as when you vacated,” the statement said. “However the apartment may subsequently be subject to a rental increase significantly higher than the Provincial guideline.”

Ann-Boyd Skinner had lived in the Talbot apartments for 21 years when she received her eviction notice. On Sept. 16 she plans to move to nearby Garden Court, where she’ll pay what she calls “significantly” higher rent (she wouldn’t specify how much) while downsizing from a two-bedroom apartment to one.

“It’s very sad, because this is destroying the community,” Skinner said. “You’re given a chance to return if you want … but the same people will not be here, and it will not be the same place.”

Gail Malcolm, one of the last three tenants to settle, said she had requested an extension to the move-out date until the end of October.

“I’m a landscaper, and this is not a good time for me to be packing up 25 years of stuff,” she said. “I had to settle because it was happening. We had no choice.”