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More than 100 Hamilton tenants face eviction as landlord puts townhomes up for sale

More than 100 Hamilton tenants face eviction as landlord puts townhomes up for sale
More than 100 Hamilton tenants face eviction as landlord puts townhomes up for sale

The ‘for sale’ sign in front of Heather Mulryan’s Hamilton home is causing constant fear.

The 41-year-old single mother of two boys has been renting her home on Hamilton’s Mountain for 14 years, but she says she received a surprise letter from her landlord, DiCenzo Management, in April.

The letter, which was sent to all tenants, stated that the landlord was selling the 36 units on Anna Capri Drive, and Mulryan’s was one of the first to put them on the market.

Mulryan also learned for the first time that the townhouses, built in 1981, are actually apartment complexes, she said. DiCenzo Management said that’s why it’s allowed to sell each unit to individual buyers, rather than the complex as a whole to a landlord.

“After 40 years, we have decided it is time to move forward with the sale of individual homes on a unit-by-unit basis,” reads the letter, signed by President Anthony DiCenzo.

“Rest assured, should your unit be sold, you will receive at least 60 days notice that you must vacate your unit.”

Two days later, the “for sale” sign appeared on her front lawn, Mulryan said.

Her home is currently listed online for $584,900.

Mulryan’s apartment is listed online for $584,900. (Broker.ca)

“It’s hard to think that at any moment I’m going to get a message that someone wants to buy my house and it’s over for me,” Mulryan said. “It’s devastating.”

Mulryan says she currently pays just over $1,000 a month for the three-bedroom rental and knows that amount won’t go far given the current affordable housing crisis.

Even a one-bedroom apartment is out of her budget by an average of $1,600, according to a rental listings website Somper.

Her neighbors, many of whom also have children, are facing similar financial constraints, Mulryan said. She fears that not only her family but many other tenants will be left homeless.

“Most of us don’t stay here because we love it,” she said. “We stay here because it’s all we can afford.”

Approximately 100 units are sold

DiCenzo Management, which is affiliated with local developer DiCenzo Homes, owns and leases townhomes in two other studies, on Upper Ottawa Street and Woodman Drive North. Both are also condominiums.

The landlord said in a statement to CBC Hamilton that it plans to sell more than 100 homes in the three areas it surveyed, some of which have starting prices below $500,000.

“We hope that these homes will make a valuable and much-needed contribution to the supply of affordable homes for sale,” the statement said.

“We hope that people who would otherwise not be able to buy a house in the city will now be able to afford these homes.”

The decision to sell comes due to “a lack of demand for new home products,” which DiCenzo Homes specializes in, the statement said.

Anthony DiCenzo said in an email that one unit from the Anna Capri study has been sold so far.

Potentially risky for buyers: lawyer

Real estate attorney Slonee Malhotra, based in Waterloo Region, says evicting tenants may not be as simple as DiCenzo Management suggests.

If the landlord has not informed his tenants that their property is an apartment when signing the lease, this could pose a problem for the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

Mulryan has not yet received a formal eviction notice, but the letter from the landlord states that this will happen. This means that the procedure via the LTB will continue.

Mulryan said she was never told her unit was actually a condominium. And a neighbour’s lease, signed two years ago and seen by CBC Hamilton, has a section stating that the unit is not a condominium.

“It could be that the landlord is entering into a lease in bad faith,” Malhotra said. “The LTB looks at that and all the circumstances.”

DiCenzo responded by saying that property records showing the homes are condominiums are public and that DiCenzo management has never been “secretive” or intentionally withheld information.

“There are nearly 100 tenants in these units, some of whom have been there for many years, if not decades,” DiCenzo said. “Therefore, it is impossible for us to say what conversations were had with each tenant when they signed their leases.”

There’s also a requirement not in DiCenzo Management’s April letter: tenants have the right of first refusal, Malhotra noted. That means that when an offer is made on their unit, tenants must first be given the chance to buy it at the same price.

The townhouse on Anna Capri Drive in Hamilton has 36 residential units, all of which are currently rented. (Samantha Beattie/CBC)

According to Malhotra, there are other rules in the Residential Tenancies Act that tenants can use to try to avoid eviction during an LTB hearing.

Potential buyers would be taking a risk by purchasing the units, she said. They may have to offer tenants a cash payment in exchange for possession (known as “cash for keys”) or go through a lengthy hearing process with the LTB.

DiCenzo said potential buyers are being made aware of “all requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act” and that purchase agreements are being made contingent on the completion of the eviction process.

Buyers must also sign a statement stating that they or their immediate family members intend to live there, he said.

Mulryan and several other tenants are willing to stay in their apartments unless the LTB orders them to leave after a hearing, she said.

“Given the current state of the housing situation, it’s just nonsense that they’re allowed to just (evict) people,” Mulryan said. “I just don’t understand how they’re allowed to do it on such a large scale.”