InterRent drags rent strikers to the Landlord & Tenant Board (again)

The East Hamilton rent strike has entered its fourth month going strong, but InterRent and its sock puppet property manager, CLV Group, don’t seem to get it.

On August 7, 2018, CLV pushed through on punitive legal forms for non-payment of rent at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) against several tenants of the Stoney Creek Towers. Tenants and their supporters rallied in response, giving the Landlord Tenant Board but a taste of organized opposition.

Eleven Stoney Creek Towers tenants were on the block yesterday for L1s and L9s. L1s carry the threat of eviction if rent is not payed after the hearing. L9s legally establish that rent is owing and put tenants on the hook for the $190 LTB filing fee. This is one of the reasons HTSN is raising a rent strike defense fund. Tenants were organized and prepared to pay rent. No one was evicted.

Some of the CLV tenants who had hearings were on rent strike, some were just broke and unable to come up with rent some months — a common struggle in this time of high rents and low wages. The vast majority were racialized immigrants with a first language other than English — a sure sign of CLV’s greasy tactics.

Rent strikers Han Toun and May Som were two of eleven Stoney Creek Towers tenants InterRent tried to evict on Tuesday. Both are Cambodian immigrants who fled their home country after being forcibly separated from their families during the Khmer Rouge genocide. They have worked tirelessly to build a new life for their children in Canada. They used to believe that Canada is a place of refuge, safety, and justice, but aren’t so sure any more. As Han said yesterday, “Why does the government let landlords get away with these big rent increases? They know that people will be priced out of their homes. People will become homeless. They will have to sleep on the snow in the winter. Why does the court not listen when I tried to tell them about how the landlord treats me, about why I am withholding rent? The judge told me to stop talking. That this wasn’t ‘relevant.’ This is Canada? This is not right.”

Stoney Creek Towers tenants and about thirty of their supporters (mostly other renters from around the city) began the morning by rallying on King St opposite the LTB building. After the bullhorns and banners, they marched as a group into the LTB and gave CLV execs and their legal staff a rare face-to-face encounter with the working class people they’re exploiting.

Although some tenants were forced to pay up for now, the rent strike rages on. For every tenant who is forced to pay rent at the LTB, a new tenant joins the strike. As of August 1, more than one hundred households are on strike — including many new strikers who withheld rent for the first time this month, inspired by their neighbours. The strike is well known around the city. The crisis of housing affordability is on the tips of everyone’s tongues. And other rent strikes are brewing around the province. InterRent has to decide if they want their brand to be one of the public faces of the housing crisis, or if they want to come to the table and negotiate with the Stoney Creek Towers Tenant Committee.

Word is getting out that InterRent does a crap job of providing housing to renters. With a rental vacancy rate in Hamilton of 1–2%, the Stoney Creek Towers is consistently more than 10% vacant, with around 20% of their occupied units on strike. They’re asking as high as $1,650/month for newly vacated units that are obviously in disrepair despite surface level renovations. In InterRent’s flagship property in one of their “most lucrative markets” for getting rich off displacement, this is starting to look less like a savvy “repositioning” strategy and more like a failure to bullshit working class people.

Still, rent strikers need in-the-flesh support to carry through to victory. Stay tuned for more rallies and hearing dates. Solidarity!