InterRent Harasses Rent Strikers, Builds Wall to Stop Lobby Meetings
Updated: Sep 24, 2018
Over the past two weeks, East Hamilton rent strikers have been facing an extreme escalation by their landlord, InterRent REIT, and property manager, CLV Group, aimed at preventing tenants from holding meetings in the lobbies of their buildings and punishing tenants for organizing with their neighbours.
On Thursday, September 20, 2018, CLV staff constructed a wall in the lobby, blocking off access to the common room areas where tenants have been holding weekly meetings. This was only the latest and most brazen act undertaken within a larger campaign of surveillance, harassment, obstruction, and attempted suppression of tenant organizing. “Harassing, hindering, obstructing or otherwise interfering” with tenants' efforts to organize is a clear violation of the Province of Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act (2006) and carries a fine of up to $100,000.
Tenants gather for weekly meetings on Monday evenings in the lobbies of their buildings. These meetings are a chance for tenants to share information, strategize about the rent strike, and support each other as neighbours. For elderly tenants and tenants with disabilities in particular, the lobby is a convenient and accessible place to meet.
Tenants also go door-knocking in the buildings to check in with neighbours who are on strike and to invite more of their neighbours to join the Stoney Creek Towers Tenant Committee, attend meetings, and consider joining the rent strike.
The landlord claims these actions are violations of their newly instituted ‘No Loitering’ policy. Tenants have been served notices stating that “other than for the purposes of entry or exit, loitering is not permitted in the lobby, stairwells, or other common areas within our building.”
This oh-so-convenient new policy was first unveiled on Monday, September 10, 2018, when landlord staff posted ‘No Loitering’ notices in the lobbies of the four buildings. (Just in case you didn’t catch it the first time, they repeated it a second and third.)
Tenants and members of the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network (HTSN) arrived for the lobby meetings as usual, only to be set upon and harassed by two CLV employees, Oliver Filip (Property Manager, Stoney Creek Towers) and Selim Dedej (Regional Manager of Operations for Southern Ontario), and maintenance workers they’d brought along as muscle. Dedej told tenants that they were not allowed to hold meetings in the buildings’ common areas, claimed HTSN members were trespassing, and demanded that both parties end their meetings immediately and leave. Dedej claimed that lobby meetings posed a “safety issue”, but could not specify what he meant by this when asked repeatedly. Tenants and HTSN members held their ground and continued with the meetings as usual. Dedej told the assembled group that if they tried to use the lobby again for a meeting, he would call the police and have them arrested.
On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, CLV staff posted letters to each tenant’s door, signed by Oliver Filip, dictating that “other than for the purposes of entry or exit, loitering is not permitted in the lobby, stairwells, or other common areas within our building” and that “no resident is permitted to allow entry of unaccompanied non-residents or allow non-residents to loiter in any common area of the building.”
For all of InterRent’s overtures about striving to ensure tenants are provided “safety and security”, “peace of mind”, and “quiet enjoyment of their residence”, this new policy is clearly directed at suppressing tenant organizing, both by Stoney Creek Towers tenants and by members of the HTSN who are supporting them in organizing the rent strike. If InterRent truly cared about tenants’ safety and security, they would repair their elevators properly so that their tenants, including elderly people and young children, would not get trapped inside and need to be rescued by the fire department (which happens on a nearly weekly basis!). If InterRent truly cared about tenants’ safety and security, they would make sure their fire alarm system is working properly, so that alarms and sprinklers go off in the event of fire (a few weeks ago, a fire started in the kitchen of a tenant’s apartment at 77 Delawana Drive and no alarms went off!). If InterRent truly cared about tenants’ “quiet enjoyment of their residence”, they would not schedule balcony renovation work or parking lot construction in the early hours of the morning. If InterRent truly cared about tenants’ “peace of mind”, the property manager would not knock on a rent striker’s door late at night, clearly intoxicated, to demand information about the rent strike. If InterRent truly cared about tenants’ “peace of mind”, they would not be aggressively pursuing a large rent hike that leaves many tenants scared about the future, worried they will be priced out of their homes.
Undeterred, tenants once again convened for lobby meetings the following Monday, September 17, 2018. A group of InterRent/CLV employees, including Oliver Filip and Selim Dedej, returned to once again harass tenants, this time flanked by sheepish looking rent-a-cop security guards.
At the lobby meeting at 77 Delawana, Dedej told tenants that by continuing to hold meetings they were violating the ‘No Loitering’ policy. Dedej stated, on camera, to a video journalist for local CHCH News, “this is a common area but [there can be] no loitering, no meeting unless it’s approved by the owner.” When asked, “Where are tenants allowed to organize and hold meetings?” Dedej responded, “Only in their units.” Dedej served two HTSN organizers with formal trespass notices, banning them indefinitely from InterRent property. He then threatened to call the police and have tenants and their guests arrested if they continued with the meeting, stating three times: “We’ll call police. We’ll call the police. We’ll call the police.”
Unfazed by these idle threats, tenants continued with their meeting, as Dedej stayed to watch and listen. Another CLV employee filmed the entire interaction on his phone and recorded the names of tenants who participated in the meeting. Tenants took the opportunity to speak directly to the landlord about their anger and frustration at having their rights violated. They then ended the meeting by linking up with tenants from 50 Violet and 40 Grandville, marching over to the property management office and posting a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter on the door, chanting “You say rent hike? We say rent strike!” and “No respect? No rent!” on their way.
Clearly, a few landlord bullies and rent-a-cops don’t scare Stoney Creek Towers tenants. What would InterRent do next? InterRent executives, led by CEO Mike McGahan, must have reached a whole new level of insanity and incompetence, as their next move was to BUILD A WALL to block access to the common rooms in the lobbies. On Thursday, September 20, 2018, a group of executives from CLV/InterRent, including Dave Nevins (Major shareholder in InterRent and Chief Operating Officer of CLV Group) and Martin Vervoort (Chief Legal Counsel, CLV Group), travelled all the way from the company’s head office in Ottawa to Stoney Creek to oversee the construction of the walls.
Wall construction at 50 Violet Drive on Thursday, September 20, 2018:
Wall construction at 77 Delawana Drive on Thursday, September 20, 2018:
On the same day, CLV staff served Psy, one of the strike captains from 77 Delawana, with an N5 eviction notice (Notice to End Your Tenancy for Interfering with Others, Damage, or Overcrowding). The notice claimed that he had been “loitering in the common area of the building” and when asked to vacate the space, “became aggressive, engaged in bullying and displayed inappropriate conduct toward a staff member, which left him feeling intimidated.”
In fact, all Psy did was tell Dedej about how the landlord’s authoritarian conduct reminded him of the dictatorship in Laos - a country he fled in the hope of freedom and democracy in Canada. Psy said: “I came to this country forty years ago. I left the communists because of dictatorships like you. In the communist system, you are not allowed to gather in more than five people. If you do, you are taken to jail and beaten, to stop you from speaking. Just the same way you did just now! This lobby is a free space. This is on your application for the AGI. You are trying to make me pay more for it and now you are telling me I can’t use it?”
Stoney Creek Towers tenants see these actions as a rather desperate attempt by their landlord to intimidate them and undermine their efforts to organize collectively and to fight – for their rights, and against a rent hike that would price many of their neighbours out of their homes.
CLV/InterRent’s recent actions constitute clear offences under the Residential Tenancies Act and tenants are prepared to take legal action if need be.
Per the Residential Tenancies Act, tenants and their invited guests (in this case, members of HTSN), have the right to “reasonable enjoyment of a rental unit or the residential complex”, including the common area of the lobby.
“Any landlord or superintendent, agent or employee of the landlord who knowingly harasses a tenant or interferes with a tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of a rental unit or the residential complex in which it is located is guilty of an offence” (RTA S. 235 (1)).
Per the Residential Tenancies Act, tenants have the right to form a tenants’ association and organize as tenants without fear of harassment or eviction.
It is considered an offence if a person “harasses, hinders, obstructs or interferes with a tenant in the exercise of… participating in a tenants’ association or attempting to organize a tenants’ association” (RTA S. 233).
“The [Landlord & Tenant] Board shall refuse to grant the [eviction] application where satisfied that...the reason for the application being brought is that the tenant is a member of a tenants’ association or is attempting to organize such an association” (RTA S. 83 (3)).
Violating either of these rights is considered an offence that can potentially carry steep fines.
“A corporation that is guilty of an offence under this Act is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $100,000” (RTA S. 238 (2)).
“A person, other than a corporation, [an employee like a property manager] who is guilty of an offence under this Act is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $25,000” (RTA S. 238 (1)).
InterRent has applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board to increase tenants’ rent by almost 10% over the next two years through the use of an Above Guideline Increase (AGI). InterRent would like to pass on the cost of $3.3 million worth of renovations to tenants. $1.6 million of this $3.3 million is for “common area renovations” including “interior lighting, painting hallways, and lobby renovation.” This includes a fake LCD fireplace in the lobby of 40 Grandville Ave – a particular point of contention for tenants who were forced to live through the winter with broken heaters and drafty windows, wearing their coats indoors and using their stoves to heat their homes. Tenants are angry that they are being forced to pay a rent increase that they cannot afford for cosmetic renovations to lobbies that they cannot use.
Tenants are also upset that their landlord, through its agent, Selim Dedej, has accused them of harassing other tenants by holding lobby meetings. Participation in the tenant committee and attendance at meetings is entirely voluntary. In fact, it is the landlord who is harassing tenants. The landlord’s staff has: i) repeatedly entered tenants’ apartments without notice, ii) called tenants multiple times to offer them cash incentives to move, iii) visited rent strikers in their homes to demand rent, particularly immigrant tenants who are not confident in their English, telling them they will be evicted and their locks will be changed, iv) targeted tenants who are leaders in the rent strike with bogus legal notices, and v) interfered with tenants’ rights to organize a tenant association and hold meetings by attending meetings, filming meetings, taking down the names of tenants involved in meetings, and threatening to call the police and arrest tenants who persist. Since the new 'No Loitering' policy has been introduced, CLV/InterRent has also hired security guards to patrol the hallways of the buildings, ready to punish any tenant who dares talk to their neighbours.
Join us on Monday, September 24, 2018 at 7pm for a rally (details here)! Tenants will return to protest the construction of the walls. Tenants are demanding that the landlord:
Tear down the walls;
Cancel its 'No Loitering' policy, which clearly violates the law;
Retract the N5 issued to Psy and offer him an apology;
Cancel the trespass notices issued to HTSN members; and
Begin negotiations with the tenant committee.
On Monday, September 24, 2018 all day (9am-5pm), join in a phone zap against CLV / InterRent staff to tell them what you think of landlords who bully tenants (details here).
Hamilton is in the middle of a housing crisis and many Hamiltonians are struggling to find a safe, adequate, affordable home. As Hamilton's rental market heats up, there is a big financial incentive for landlords to push sitting tenants out of their homes and bring new tenants in at higher rents. Landlords use a range of tactics to do this, some legal and some not. It is important that tenants across the city know their rights and resist attempts by landlords to undermine tenants' efforts to stay in their homes and organize for better conditions. Support Stoney Creek Towers tenants and tenants across Hamilton!
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