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'I can't afford $1,800 a month': London, Ont. woman evicted on her 83rd birthday

A London, Ont., woman was given an eviction notice on her 83rd birthday and now Christel Barrett worries she has no place to go.

Barrett and her daughter Deborah Barrett were two of 20 tenants of 1270 and 1280 Webster St. who received eviction notices by their landlord.

“I’m a nervous wreck, I don’t know where to go,” said Christel.

Deborah said they had just returned home from a trip to the grocery store when they found letters at their front door late last week.

“I opened it up and I was like, ‘Oh my god it's an eviction notice,’” said Deborah from the couch at her mother’s apartment. “She [Christel] started crying, came down here, and there was one at her door.”

Christel worries where she will live after four years in her current apartment. She currently pays $900 per month in rent.

“I can’t afford $1,800 a month,” she said, holding back tears. “I live on a fixed income, just like so many other people who live here. I don’t know what to do.”

In the eviction letter obtained by CTV News London it states “the building has been in disrepair for many years.”

Deborah Barrett (left) and her mother Christel Barrett of London, Ont. have both received eviction notices from their landlord. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

It also reads that “new owners will be undergoing extensive renovations which will be a serious health and safety matter,” and “the unit will not be reasonably fit for habitation.”

ACORN London, an advocacy group for low income tenants, said these types of incidents are becoming commonplace across Canada.

“The housing market is going out of control, and there is no one guarding the gates as far as protecting tenants’ rights,” said Jordan Smith, a leader with ACORN London.

ACORN said the term they use in these instances is "reno-viction.”

“It is using renovations as an excuse for eviction,” said Smith. "What they will do is neglect regular maintenance for a period of time until these problems get exaggerated to the point where they feel they can justify kicking people out and doing a total renovation.”

Smith said it allows the landlords to double the rent of the new apartment, and with government tax rebates and tax breaks for investing in housing, corporations are incentivized to “use this tactic.”

CTV News London has received a copy of an eviction notice given to tenants of 1270 and 1280 Webster St. in London, Ont. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“The reality is these renovations don’t require evictions, they require the landlords to be accountable for the basic maintenance and renovations, which by law they should have done in the first place,” he said.

The tenants at the Webster Street apartments said they don’t know who their landlord is and where their cheques are going.

Smith added that 89 per cent of Londoners are renting from corporate landlords.

In the eviction letter handed out by Webster Apts. Inc., it states renovations will take seven to 10 months, and leases will be terminated by Aug. 31, 2023.

It added that under the Residential Tenancies Act, they are obligated to offer a maximum of three months rent in compensation totaling $2,355. If residents are willing to vacate and terminate the lease by May 31, 2023, Webster Inc. “in good faith” will provide a lump sum payment of $5,000.

Twenty tenants of 1270 and 1280 Webster St. in London, Ont. say they have received eviction notices from their landlord (Brent Lale/CTV News London)"I could see they could evict me if I didn't pay my rent, but I have never missed a month's rent,” said Christel.

CTV News spoke by phone to the person listed on the Webster Apts. Inc. eviction notice and was told they would pass our interview request on, but have yet to hear a response.

The residents said they are in the process of figuring out the next steps to fight the eviction.

“Everyone has to stand together as a community from both buildings so it doesn’t happen to the next 20 tenants,” said Deborah.

Smith said ACORN is organizing a chapter in the Stoneybrook/Carling area, which are “some of the hardest hit areas for this tactic.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Smith. “It’s happening in neighbourhoods with low and moderate income families, so it’s desperately important that we organize and stand up for communities.” Top Stories

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