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Between 2012 and 2016, the 10 San Romanoway apartment complex in Toronto saw 844 applications for evictions, a staggeringly high number compared with other postal codes in Ontario.

Photography by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

It’s hard to miss 10 San Romanoway.

At 34 storeys, the Y-shaped high-rise looms above the corner of Jane and Finch, in Toronto’s north end, overlooking a sea of strip malls and suburban homes. It’s also instantly forgettable. Adorned with beige brickwork and brutalist slabs of concrete, the tower looks like scores of others on the city’s periphery.

For hundreds of people – many of them immigrants, virtually all scraping by at the lower end of the income scale – 10 San Romanoway offers an affordable place to live in a city with one of the highest rental costs in the country.

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But life here is precarious.

Every few months, Ontario sheriffs sweep through the building, pounding on doors and handing out eviction notices on behalf of the building’s landlord, RPMS Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAPREIT), a publicly traded company and one of the largest landlords in the country.

Jacqueline Reid, a single mother, was first slapped with an eviction notice three years ago, after falling $500 behind on her rent. She has received several more since.

A few floors down, Lisa Balmer nearly lost her apartment last year after coming up short by $288. One of their neighbours was evicted in 2016 after what began as a $39 shortfall.

Between 2012 and 2016, sheriff-executed evictions cleared more than 20 per cent of the 424 units in 10 San Romanoway at least once. And the high eviction rate isn’t unique to that tower.

In Ontario, no one counts the number of eviction notices served by sheriffs on an annual basis or tracks what happens to potential evictees once they begin to wend their way through the province’s housing tribunal system. That gap has left researchers and policy makers in the dark about the true state of the housing market – and the fate of renters who have lost their homes.

The province’s Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) receives more than 70,000 applications a year from landlords, many of which can lead to eviction. While the number of applications has remained relatively steady for the past several years, a Globe and Mail investigation of nearly 500,000 filings to the LTB found certain postal codes with staggeringly high eviction numbers. That includes 10 San Romanoway, which received 844 applications between 2012 and 2016 and has a five-year eviction rate of 21 per cent, and 160 Chalkfarm Drive, a nearby 23-storey high-rise with a 22 per cent rate.

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Ontario’s top postal codes

for eviction applications

Applications received

between 2012 and 2016

1,039

M9V 4C3

981

M6M 5B5

925

M9V 4C4

844

10 San Romanoway

M3N 2Y2

804

M6K 2T8

627

M3J 2Z3

563

M3J 1K6

557

160 Chalkfarm

M3L 2J1

535

M3J 2V7

528

M6K 2T7

516

M3J 2V1

510

M4C 4H1

Only one of

the 20 top

postal codes

is outside

Toronto, in

Brampton.

496

M3J 1V6

483

M4B 2G1

481

M3L 2H9

455

L6W 1V1

452

M3L 2H7

446

M1E 4P8

442

M3N 2Z1

442

M5A 3X1

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

LANDLORD AND TENANT BOARD

Ontario’s top postal codes

for eviction applications

Applications received

between 2012 and 2016

1,039

M9V 4C3

981

M6M 5B5

925

M9V 4C4

844

10 San Romanoway (424 units)

M3N 2Y2

804

M6K 2T8

627

M3J 2Z3

563

M3J 1K6

557

160 Chalkfarm (466)

M3L 2J1

535

M3J 2V7

528

M6K 2T7

516

M3J 2V1

510

M4C 4H1

496

M3J 1V6

483

M4B 2G1

Only one of the 20

top postal codes is

outside Toronto,

in Brampton.

481

M3L 2H9

455

L6W 1V1

452

M3L 2H7

446

M1E 4P8

442

M3N 2Z1

442

M5A 3X1

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LANDLORD AND TENANT BOARD

Ontario’s top postal codes for eviction applications

Applications received between 2012 and 2016

1,039

M9V 4C3

981

M6M 5B5

925

M9V 4C4

844

10 San Romanoway (424 units)

M3N 2Y2

804

M6K 2T8

627

M3J 2Z3

563

M3J 1K6

557

160 Chalkfarm (466 units)

M3L 2J1

535

M3J 2V7

528

M6K 2T7

516

M3J 2V1

510

M4C 4H1

496

M3J 1V6

483

M4B 2G1

Only one of the 20

top postal codes is

outside Toronto,

in Brampton.

481

M3L 2H9

455

L6W 1V1

452

M3L 2H7

446

M1E 4P8

442

M3N 2Z1

442

M5A 3X1

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: LANDLORD AND TENANT BOARD

Combined with hundreds of documents from Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, the investigation exposes, for the first time, the outcomes of these eviction applications.

The Globe also found 27 cases of “revolving-door evictions,” baffling instances in which a landlord evicts a tenant, rerents them the same unit (at a higher monthly price) and then evicts them again.

The investigation reveals an increasingly corporatized rental housing market that thrives on maximum unit turnover by any means necessary. It’s a system that pushes people already on the fringes of the rental market further into financial hardship, forcing them to take out loans or ignore other bills in a never-ending juggling act. It’s a tension made worse by the dual nature of housing, at once both a basic human need and a commodity traded by investors.

The data also lay bare the machinery of eviction, an arduous and often Kafkaesque system in which tenants are forced to pay the costs of their own evictions, on top of skipping work to wait hours for a 10-minute hearing before the LTB.

Greg Suttor, a housing policy researcher at the Wellesley Institute, believes the lack of data on evictions leaves Ontario’s housing policies one step behind the needs of landlords and tenants. It also slows down development of affordable housing and costs all levels of government both time and money.

“We ought to know this stuff,” he says.


This 23-storey apartment complex on Toronto's Chalkfarm Drive was another of the properties where The Globe and Mail's investigation found a high number of eviction applications.


Jacqueline Reid knows her way around Ontario’s housing tribunal system. Between 2012 and 2016, her landlord, RPMS, evicted her four times, all from the same apartment at 10 San Romanoway.

The first time was on a hot summer morning in August, 2012. Two large men from the sheriff’s office – officers of the court who, in Ontario, are responsible for carrying out eviction orders – banged on her door and told her she was being evicted for not paying her rent. She had to get out immediately.

In tears, she scrambled to collect clothes for herself and her then-seven-year-old son, along with whatever else she could carry. The entire time, a sheriff followed her from room to room. A few frantic minutes later, Ms. Reid and her son were out of the apartment, and the building’s manager had changed the locks behind them. Before walking away from her home, Ms. Reid tore down the eviction notice posted on her door out of embarrassment. One of the sheriffs signed the eviction order, noting the time: 10:40 a.m.

The eviction process had started five months earlier, when Ms. Reid began falling behind on her rent. Eventually, RPMS sent her an N4, formally known as a “notice to end a tenancy early for non-payment of rent.” It’s the first salvo in the eviction process, giving the tenant a set amount of time (generally a minimum of two weeks) to pay up. If they don’t, the landlord’s next step is to file an application asking the LTB to evict the tenant and collect rent owing. The board then schedules a hearing between the landlord and tenant. If the tenant loses their case, doesn’t meet the stipulations set at the hearing or still owes rent after the deadline, the landlord can file to have a sheriff evict the tenant.

That’s what happened to Ms. Reid. For three weeks, while she figured out what to do, she and her son stayed with her older daughter in Hamilton. Her son missed three days of school. Eventually, she had no choice but to take out a loan so she could release her apartment, which still had her possessions locked inside.

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The second time she was evicted, a cheque for the amount owing had been sitting in RPMS’s overnight deposit box, and she was back in her unit the same day. The third time, she borrowed money from a friend of a friend. By her fourth eviction, the sheriffs no longer followed her around. They just waited in the living room.

Ms. Reid, who is 56, has a full-time job making minimum wage, and some months, her paycheques just don’t cover all her expenses. “Do you know how hard it is to live on $14 an hour?” she says. “One paycheque comes in, and that one paycheque is doing a million things."

Lisa Balmer knows the feeling. She came close to being evicted last year, also for falling behind on rent. In January, 2018, she was walking into 10 San Romanoway through a side entrance when a heavy exterior door slammed on her hand, fracturing three fingers. Ms. Balmer, who worked at a nearby gym, had to take time off to get X-rays, visit a doctor and see an occupational therapist, all of which meant she came up nearly $300 short on rent. By the time her hearing rolled around, she’d paid back what she owed to the landlord, but was still on the hook for the LTB’s filing fee.

The morning of her hearing, she skipped work to attend the 9 a.m. proceeding. Other tenants from 10 San Romanoway were there as well, all waiting their turn. An hour later, she was finally up.

The whole thing took less than 10 minutes. “All the [adjudicator] asked me was if I agreed to what they were saying – that I owed the money,” she says. “Nobody wanted to hear what I had to say.”

Ms. Balmer was surprised at how aggressive RPMS was during the process. “All they wanted was their money,” she says. At one point, a representative from the company told her, “Your rent is cheap. If someone else was moving into your unit, they’d be paying 1,100 bucks.”

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“That’s kind of messed up,” says Ms. Balmer, whose rent is $1,069.95 a month. “So what if it’s cheap? You should have compassion for the people in this building. You should care.”

To pay the filing fee, she was forced to forgo buying a new asthma inhaler, which costs $190, the same as the LTB fee. “I didn’t get it," she says. “I can’t afford it.”

Ms. Balmer’s case isn’t unusual. According to the LTB’s most recent annual report, from April, 2017, to March, 2018, 65.6 per cent of the 72,511 landlord applications it received were to get rid of tenants who had fallen behind on their rent. It’s a cruel irony, then, that the eviction process leaves the evictees on the hook for court fees, pushing financially strained people even further into debt. Landlords might also try to charge them for the sheriff’s time, which starts at $315. (Ms. Reid, for instance, has likely spent more than $1,800 in filing and sheriff’s fees for her four evictions – nearly two months’ rent.)

In 2013 – a record year for sheriff-led evictions, according to The Globe’s data – RPMS filed 178 eviction orders with the LTB, 47 of which led to sheriff evictions. That means they cleared out out one in nine units in the high-rise. In a building such as San Romanoway, each of those vacated units represents a displaced family, sometimes a multigenerational one, that has to find new housing fast.

David Blackburn spent two decades as an Ontario sheriff and witnessed the rise in evictions first-hand. “When I first started in 1975, maybe one or two days a week we’d be doing evictions – maybe 16 to 20 of them,” Mr. Blackburn says. By the time he retired in 1996, his group had four cars working five days a week, each carrying out six to eight evictions a day. “That was the grim reality,” he says.

Evictions took anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours. “You’d feel for the kids. They were the innocent victims," Mr. Blackburn says. “You’d feel for the tenants. Maybe they lost their job. We couldn’t do anything about it – we had to execute the order.”

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Often, people had no place to go, he says, so the province would give them cab fare to send them to a shelter. “We weren’t big, bad ogres."


Most of the evictions filed by landlords with Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board are for non-payment of rent. If the tenant loses the eviction dispute, they then have to pay court fees that can push them further into debt.


Eviction is often the final step in a slow build-up of financial pressures for tenants.

Ontario’s rent-control rules mean that landlords can only increase rent once every 12 months, and only by a guideline set by the province. (In 2019, that amount was 1.8 per cent.) But landlords can also apply to the LTB for an “above-guideline increase.” These are tied to capital developments – say, renovating the lobby – and can lead to large one-time bumps.

Combined with the yearly guideline increases, some tenants struggle to stay on top of their rent payments as they grow each year. “For people that are on social assistance or on a fixed income, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep their unit,” says Chavenne Jackson, who has lived at 10 San Romanoway since March, 2015, and is one of its community organizers. (Incidentally, a year before Ms. Jackson moved into her unit, a previous tenant was evicted by a sheriff.)

Ms. Jackson had one brush with eviction, back in 2017. She’d just started a new job, and while she waited for her first paycheque to arrive, she fell behind on rent. “I became panicky,” she recalls. “I’ve had my experiences in shelters. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was in a shelter. The idea of not having that stability, having to put my children through something unstable … it was stressful."

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Professional property manager Rachelle Berube used to manage large buildings and has seen the evictions pipeline from the inside. “The primary purpose was to evict people all day long,” she says.

Working for big players burned her out, so these days, she sticks with smaller clients through her property management company, Landlord Rescue Inc. According to Ms. Berube, large property-management companies have a built-in market: the underprivileged. “In a high-vacancy building, we’d take anybody with first, last and a pulse,” she says.

But she also sees the issue from the landlord’s perspective. Because landlords are so aggressive in filing for evictions, tenants have learned to be aggressive themselves: For many, the moment they receive a warning that they could be evicted, they stop paying all together until the matter is settled so they can save up in case they need to move out. "We’re training our tenants to defraud us,” she says.

Even when tenants do make efforts to pay, it might not be enough. According to eviction records from 160 Chalkfarm, in April, 2015, a tenant was served an eviction notice by the building’s landlord, Greenwin Inc., after coming up short by $73.22 that month. By the time of the LTB hearing in June, the tenant had paid Greenwin an additional $1,638.04 – roughly two months’ rent. At the hearing, the tenant was told they needed to pay just an additional $279.36 to keep their tenancy going, an amount that included the LTB’s filing fee, which was then $170. The sheriff evicted the tenant a month later.

Revolving-door evictions aren’t unique, either. Of the 237 sheriff evictions executed at 10 San Romanoway and 160 Chalkfarm and analyzed by The Globe, 27 were revolving-door evictions such as Ms. Reid’s, where the tenant was evicted, rerented the unit and evicted again at a later date.

“We are in the business of renting apartments, and it is never our intention to evict tenants,” Jonathan Fleischer, executive vice-president of operations at CAPREIT, says in a brief e-mailed response. CAPREIT owns RPMS Inc., which manages 10 San Romanoway. “However, we expect rent to be paid, and if it is not, eviction is a natural consequence, having followed all legal procedures.”

Until recently, Trish MacPherson held the same job title at CAPREIT. Before she left, she spoke with The Globe about revolving-door evictions. She acknowledges that the building’s tenants often faced more “financial hardship” than others, but says RPMS did not currently track how many evictions they file. “I’ve never heard of anyone tracking it. It’s not something we like to do, so why would we?" she says. “I’m beginning to think we should."

Danny Roth, a spokesperson for Greenwin, says that the evictions stem in part from how challenging buildings such as 160 Chalkfarm are to manage. “They’re at-risk communities. They bring all kinds of different issues that other buildings may not have in play,” he says. Mr. Roth contests The Globe’s use of a five-year eviction rate, which was calculated at 22 per cent. “A number-based analysis here I don’t think does justice to what’s happening in this community,” he says.

He also provided recent figures for evictions in the building. From October, 2016, to September, 2017, 160 Chalkfarm saw 37 evictions, clearing out 7.9 per cent of its units. From 2017 to 2018, that number was 4.7 per cent, and from 2018 to 2019, that rate decreased further, to 2.8 per cent.

Part of the pressure on tenants – and landlords – comes from the housing market itself. Because of Ontario’s policy of “vacancy decontrol,” new leases don’t follow rent-control rules, which apply to most rentals in the province. The moment a tenant moves out, the unit’s price can be set wherever the landlord chooses. (Once the unit is rented again, rent-control rules kick back in.)

In North York, where rent on an average private apartment grew by 5.7 per cent in 2018, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), prices inevitably fall out of sync with the rest of the market because of the much lower yearly guideline increases. The monthly difference between a tenant’s actual rent and market prices can build to hundreds of dollars within a few years.

That, combined with an extremely tight market – North York’s apartment vacancy rate in 2018 sat at 0.8 per cent, according to the CMHC – means that, in Ontario, corporate landlords have honed their businesses to maximize unit turnover, including through evictions.

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Martine August, a professor at the University of Waterloo’s school of planning, has researched corporate landlords for years, and she has noticed a shift in how they operate. According to Prof. August, corporate landlords have gone from being family-run companies to what she calls “financialized landlords.” Some, such as CAPREIT, are even publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. “Real estate investment trusts (REITs), private equity funds, asset management companies, and these large finance-backed players are consolidating ownership of Canadian purpose-built multifamily rental housing,” she says. According to her research, in the past two decades, REITs have gone from owning zero to roughly 10 per cent of these kinds of homes.

For companies such as CAPREIT, which counted 41,587 suites across the country in 2018 and a market capitalization of $9.1-billion as of mid-December, housing is seen as a commodity, Prof. August says. “These companies really aggressively manage buildings to make them more profitable for their shareholders,” she says. Some even use property-management software to automatically file eviction notices.

Mr. Suttor thinks there’s an inherent incentive to evict. “The economic situation is favourable to them acting in a way that favours maximizing their revenues," he says, “rather than accommodating arrears or difficult tenancies.”


North York apartment complexes like this one exist in an extremely tight rental market. In 2018, North York's apartment vacancy rate was 0.8 per cent, while average private rents went up by 5.7 per cent in the same year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

More data around evictions, both voluntary and involuntary (when a tenant moves out of their own accord, rather than being forced out by a sheriff), are considered the holy grail of Ontario’s housing policy community. But the LTB doesn’t track this information. However, since sheriffs’ orders are public record, The Globe was able to acquire them from the Superior Court of Justice’s downtown Toronto office.

Emily Paradis, a housing and homelessness researcher, says collecting these kind of data is essential to making broad planning decisions. “The city doesn’t have a clear sense of, ‘Where’s the affordable stock? What is the rent level in that stock? And how have those rents changed, and how are they changing in real time?’ ”

According to Ms. Paradis, reducing evictions would likely save all levels of government money in the long run. “If you can keep someone housed, you’re always saving money,” she says. Between reducing the workload at the LTB and for sheriffs, and relieving pressure on the shelter system, eviction prevention is far cheaper for both tenants and the system than homelessness, she says.

As for collecting the data and reducing the incentive to evict, “it starts with the agency that actually should be collecting this data, and that’s absolutely the LTB,” Ms. Paradis says. But some of the best tools might actually lie at the municipal level. For one, cities could choose to collect rent rolls – registers of all tenants, their addresses, landlords and rents – as many in the United States do. It’s not a new solution, either: Ontario used to collect this information, but stopped in 1998.

Ms. Paradis also suggests tying rent increases on vacant units to objective measures, such as whether the landlord has kept the unit in good repair and respected tenants’ rights. In New York, certain buildings’ redevelopment applications aren’t approved unless the landlord obtains a “certification of no harassment” from the city, demonstrating they’ve operated in good faith for the past five years.

For Ms. Reid, being short on rent has never been about exploiting her landlord. It’s often about something simpler, such as treating her son to a dinner at McDonald’s at the end of a long week.

It’s about dignity.

When her son asks, “ ‘Mommy, can I have so-and-so?’ How many times am I going to say no?” she asks.

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Ms. Reid knows that when she falls behind on her rent, she’s the one in the wrong, not the landlord. But she also wishes they’d work with her more. “They got rid of two people who used to talk to us,” she says, “They would say, ‘Okay, Jackie. This month, try to pay $600.’ ”

In 2017, a year after her fourth eviction, Ms. Reid once again found herself at the LTB. This time was different. The adjudicator asked why she hadn’t applied for housing assistance. She didn’t know it was an option. Since then, she’s supplemented her income.

Finding a sheriff at her door is still a looming fear, however. "When you love your place, and you’re fighting to keep it, and on the other hand the owner wants to kick your ass out … it’s very frustrating.”

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