Campaign Updates: The East Hamilton Rent Strike So Far

Hamilton Tenant: Volume 1, Issue 1

Since May 1, 2018, more than 100 households from the Stoney Creek Towers in East Hamilton have been participating in a rent strike. Tenants have been withholding rent to protest their landlord’s application for an Above Guideline Increase (AGI) in rent and to demand repairs to their units. When combined with the annual guideline rent increases permitted by the Ontario government, the total rent hike would amount to nearly 10% over two years. Tenants understand that this is the first of many AGI applications their landlord is likely to seek, and that if they do not fight back now, they will soon be priced out of their homes.

Supported by HTSN, the Stoney Creek Towers Tenant Committee has been working hard to organize tenants – knocking on their neighbours’ doors, making phone calls, translating information, holding lobby meetings. Tenants have been carefully setting their money aside and are prepared to pay what they owe when the landlord meets their demands. Tenants are supported by lawyers from the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and have raised over $15,000 from community supporters in a Rent Strike Defense Fund to cover the cost of potential Landlord & Tenant Board filing fees. No one on rent strike has been evicted.

Here is a summary of the ways tenants have put pressure on their landlord, InterRent Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), and in-house property management company, CLV Group, over the course of the rent strike campaign. Landlords might have lots of money but tenants are many. We have power when we work together. We can win!

MAY 1, 2018: Rent strike begins!

Tenants celebrated the launch of the rent strike by sharing a potluck meal at the local park, marching through the neighbourhood, making speeches, and dropping a large RENT STRIKE! banner from the top floor of one of the buildings.

MAY 15, 2018: Rent strikers deliver work order forms en masse

Tenants rallied outside the CLV office at 40 Grandville Ave. They delivered a large stack of work order forms, documenting a slew of longstanding maintenance issues in their apartments and demanding that they be addressed. Tenants are angry that they are being asked to foot the $3 million bill for cosmetic upgrades to the buildings (new landscaping, lobby renovations, etc.) through an AGI, while necessary repairs to their units are ignored by the landlord.

JUNE 9, 2018: Rent strikers disrupt landlord’s open house to hold Tenant Open House

Rent striking tenants decided to hold their own open house to share the truth about the conditions of buildings and how the landlord treats its tenants. Tenants set up an information table outside the CLV office, dropped banners from their balconies, gave speeches, and provided tours of their units to the media. CLV staff cancelled the open house planned for the day and continue to have a hard time renting vacant units to new tenants.

JUNE 15, 2018: Rent strikers travel to Toronto to protest CI Financial, top investor in InterRent REIT

Rent strikes travelled to the financial district in Toronto to visit the office of CI Financial, the largest investor in InterRent REIT. As the main group of tenants caused a distraction by rallying on the sidewalk, a second group rode the elevator up to CI Financial’s offices, and demanded to speak with the company president. Tenants demanded that CI Financial withdraw its investments from InterRent REIT.

JUNE 29, 2018: CLV tenants and supporters organize solidarity rallies in cities across Ontario and Quebec Simultaneous visits were made to CLV site offices in Burlington, Guelph, London, and Montreal, as well as the CLV/InterRent head office in Ottawa in support of Stoney Creek tenants. Supporters who visited the head office in Ottawa reported that CEO Mike McGahan refused to meet with them or to accept a letter written by the rent strikers. He hid in his office and sent a staff member to retrieve it on his behalf.

JULY 3, 2018: Rent strikers disrupt Landlord & Tenant Board

Rather than acknowledge the collective nature of the rent strike and negotiate in good faith with the tenants, InterRent wants to pretend that non-payments of rent are individual cases of negligence and bring rent strikers to the LTB. The first group of tenants had hearings on July 3rd. Tenants and their supporters rallied in big numbers and then flooded into the hearing room to occupy the court and halt the proceedings. We chanted and played drums and forced the adjudicator from the room. The majority of cases were not processed and only a handful of tenants were given court orders to pay their rent.

JULY 28, 2018: Rent strikers gather for barbeque and Family Fun Day

Tenants shared a meal and gave speeches. Children had fun with crafts and games. For the final hurrah, they took turns hitting a piñata of Mike McGahan, CLV/InterRent CEO. McGahan has a personal wealth of over $70 million. He is chiefly responsible for InterRent’s strategy to make profits by displacing people from their homes, including families with children.

AUGUST 10, 2018: Rent strikers bring demands to landlord’s doorstep in Ottawa

After months of being ignored by the landlord, tenants decided to hop on a school bus and travel to Ottawa to visit the head office of CLV/InterRent to deliver a letter and request a meeting with CEO Mike McGahan. Since McGahan refused to meet with the tenants at his office (even though he was clearly visible inside), the next day tenants went to his house, a $2.5 million mansion. Tenants also visited the local golf course and yacht club to put up posters reminding McGahan’s rich friends of how he makes his money: by kicking working-class people out of their homes.

Get involved! Join the rent strike!

Are you a tenant at the Stoney Creek Towers living at 11 Grandville Avenue, 40 Grandville Avenue, 50 Violet Drive, or 77 Delawana Drive? Come out the next Stoney Creek Towers Tenant Committee meeting to get involved. Meetings happen every Monday at 7pm in each of the four buildings’ lobbies and once per month as a big group at the Riverdale Community Centre (150 Violet Drive). Talk to your neighbours! Find out who the strike captains in your building are and reach out to them for information. You can also contact the tenant committee by phone at 289-639-9833 or email at SCT [dot] Tenants [at] gmail [dot] com.