‘I don’t see the place I’d transfer to’: Guelph lady to lose downtown condo to ‘renoviction’
A Guelph mother and her six-year-old son may be facing a housing crisis because her landlord wants to renovate her downtown apartment.
“I don’t see where I would move to,” said Shannon Bray.
Bray and her son currently live in a one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a building on Yarmouth Street that contains a combination of residential, retail and office spaces. The renovations her landlord has planned would see her apartment converted to storage space for the rest of the building.
Evictions to renovate — sometimes called “renovictions” — seem to be becoming more common, and Bray wanted to share her story to help shed light on the precarious nature of rental housing.
But her situation is also somewhat unique.
Bray had a fall in May that dislocated her knee and, at the same time, severed a vein and an artery in her leg. After about two months in hospital and six surgical procedures, she needs a wheelchair or crutches to get around. Her prognosis is still uncertain.
Her disability complicates her search for a new apartment, narrowing the options available to her.
“The prospect of finding a rental I can live at with the wheelchair that is not double what I pay now is literally impossible,” she said.
Her rent is $1,265, and is set to go up to $1,296.62 in the new year.
Bray received notice of the rent increase from her landlord, James Kritz, Sept. 30, at the same time she received an N13 form.
If Kritz has his way, the majority of January’s rent will be covered by the last-month’s-rent deposit Bray paid when she took the apartment.
“I am giving you this notice because I want to end your tenancy,” the N13 form reads. It goes on to say he wants her to move out by Jan. 31, 2023.
The form goes on to list details of the work Kritz plans to undertake to convert the apartment to a different use.
“Convert the main floor apartment into individual residential storage units, secure indoor bicycle storage and winter snow removal equipment storage with 24-hour access and video security monitoring,” it says.
Bray suspects that if the units are rented to the building’s other tenants, the space could command more rent than she is currently paying.
But she also thinks she only became a target for eviction when she asked Kritz for some accommodations for her disability.
“I haven’t gone overboard with any requests,” Bray said.
Among her requests, a key one was repairing the door buzzer — which broke in 2021 and was never fixed — so she would not have to make her way all the way to the lobby to allow entry to guests or delivery people.
Currently she passes a key to guests through her window, so they can use it to get into the interior hallway.
“Being able to get to the front door is a big one for me, too,” she said, noting she needs a ramp to navigate a single step she can’t manage with her wheelchair.
In an email response to a Mercury Tribune inquiry, Kritz said he has attempted to work with Bray to put in a ramp for her, but he had chosen not to fix the buzzer system for reasons related to building security.
“I began to phase out the use of remote door buzzers to prevent unauthorized individuals following guests or delivery persons into the building,” Kritz explained.
When mailboxes in the lobby were broken into, Kritz resorted to putting a manual lock on the building’s exterior door that tenants were asked to lock at night and unlock in the morning so mail could still be delivered.
“When the front door is left unlocked, unauthorized people can still get in, but without the buzzers, they are less likely to get into interior hallways,” Kritz said.
Crime in the downtown area is at least partly behind his plans to convert Bray’s apartment into storage.
In his email, Kritz shared how there had once been storage sheds, a bike rack and a picnic table at the rear of the building that was used by residents and employees of the businesses. But due to criminal activity in the downtown, he eventually did away with all these amenities.
“The bike rack became the first casualty of the dysfunction downtown,” he said. “One lock was cut and a bike was stolen. I hoped it wouldn’t happen again but it did, multiple times.”
The next target was the sheds, which were repeatedly broken into until Kritz removed them.
He had the building’s garbage bin removed permanently after a tenant reported people loitering around and going through the dumpster.
To Bray, this was one more that made the building less hospitable to someone with a disability.
She said she and other tenants were told “to take our garbage one street over to the city bins provided for pedestrians,” a more difficult option for someone whose mobility is already challenged.
“He’s just waiting for me to get fed up with the situation,” said Bray.
But Kritz said he needs her unit to replace the storage, which he said is a “need that has been evolving over time.”
While the building has four ground-floor apartments, Bray’s is the most ideal for the purpose, he said.
“It is closest to the front of the building, making it most accessible for carrying and moving items into and out of storage,” he said.
He said he had offered Bray alternative accommodations within the building prior to her injury and even offered to pay her up to $12,000 to help her find other accommodations.
But Bray prefers to stay in the same area — where her son can continue to walk to the same school, where her son’s father lives just a five-minute walk away, and where she has a support network in place.
“That’s the part I feel like I can’t put a price tag on,” Bray said.
She is also going through a time of uncertainty, living on Ontario Disability Support Program payments while attending medical appointments that will help determine whether her foot will function again, if she can get a knee replacement, or whether she faces amputation.
While she wipes tears away at multiple points during the interview, it is not talk of amputation that makes her weep.
“I think I’m more upset by the barriers that I’m facing,” she said.
It’s not a great time to be having to think about moving house.
The good news for her is that she doesn’t have to move just because of the N13 form she received.
“If the landlord wants to evict, they do have to go through the Landlord Tenant Board process,” said Britney Rodgers, a paralegal with the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County.
The clinic provides summary advice to people like Bray, who may not know what to do when served with a form like an N13.
Rodgers said the N13 form is one step in the process, after which a landlord must apply to the LTB to evict. A hearing will then be scheduled to determine whether the tenant should be evicted.
According to the Ontario Tribunal’s website, that process has been delayed by the challenges of the past two years.
“On average, new and adjourned matters are currently being scheduled within seven to eight months from when they were received or adjourned,” the site says.
In the meantime, Bray is investigating whether she has a case for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: When a downtown resident contacted the Mercury Tribune to say she was facing eviction, we wanted to learn more about the situation and find out how precarious rental housing might be.
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