By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Tenants at Gamble Avenue apartment buildings in East York held a rally earlier this month demanding Ranee Management withdraw an above guideline rent increase (AGI) application.
Ranee Management owns both 20 and 72 Gamble Ave. Around 60 tenants from both buildings gathered at 72 Gamble Ave. on April 7 demanding the landlord withdraw the AGI application from the Landlord and Tenant Board and cease evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It follows other demands made by East Toronto tenants to Ranee Management, including tenants who live in Ranee’s Goodwood apartments, all stemming from the impact of COVID-19 on tenants’ abilities to pay rent.
The Goodwood Tenants Union has also received notices of AGI increases from Ranee Management, it said.
The pushback against rent increases during the pandemic have been largely organized by grassroots organization People’s Defence Toronto, which says Ranee is among the top three landlords that has filed eviction applications during the pandemic.
As per Ranee’s AGI application, tenants at the Gamble apartments were informed they will receive a rent increase of three per cent for at least two years.
Late last year, the province passed legislation to freeze rent as part of its pandemic response, AGIs, however, are exempt.
In a media release, People’s Defence Toronto says AGI applications from Toronto landlords have nearly doubled from 49 to 91 in the five months since the rent freeze legislation was passed.
Landlords seek AGI applications when they need to perform capital work or repairs, passing the cost down to the tenant.
Tenants say they’re seeking collective negotiation with Ranee Management, to come to a deal that works for tenants during the pandemic.
“I work in child care, my income is limited,” Elena Loven said.
Loven was joined by another tenant, Tim Marta, as tenant representatives to speak with Ranee’s onsite staff member at 72 Gamble Ave. The tenants say they wanted the staff member to connect them with Ranee Management’s paralegal Ilana Glickman.
“We’re simply asking for an open line to talk to the property manager, to at least wait until after the pandemic,” Marta said.
Shortly after, more than 60 tenants rallied, spoke in megaphones, and shared their stories of trying to pay rent and avoid evictions during COVID-19. Many tenants with precarious work expressed the stress they experienced with job insecurity.
After most tenants had dispersed, the staff member approached Marta telling him that Glickman agreed to speak with him on the phone the following day. While initially hopeful, Marta said the conversation soon became what he expected.
“At first she seemed cooperative, willing to sit down. She made it seem like she understood,” Marta said. “An hour later, I got a generic email response, essentially leaning back to the courts (LTB).”
Ranee Management did not respond to Beach Metro News for a request to comment on this story after initially stating it would.
Marta, who works at a printing and laminating service shop, was temporarily laid off for three months last year. He largely credits his employer for going “above and beyond” to help him regain his employment. His job is now considered essential, as it produces signage used by the province related to the pandemic.
He says he’s lucky to have regained his employment, but the situation isn’t the same for other tenants.
“COVID made so many of my neighbours move,” Loven said. “They could not afford to pay because they lost their jobs so they left.”
Loven believes the rent increases will force more evictions. Frustrated, the tenants said their options are to continue protesting.
“But there’s nowhere to go for us, we can’t afford anything else in the city,” Loven said.
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.