The property on Osgoode Avenue
One of the units on Osgoode Avenue. Image: Bridget Coady/Fulcrum.
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Eight tenants remain at Osgoode Avenue properties pass Oct. 31 eviction

University of Ottawa professor David Wiseman’s Access to Justice and Alternative Business Structures Project is continuing its fight to protect a small number of tenants facing N13 renovation eviction notices in units sprawling from 146 to 170 Osgoode Avenue in Sandy Hill.

Since September, in partnership with lawyer Daniel Tucker-Simmons, Wiseman’s class of 13 students has been investigating facts and evidence in tenant eviction cases around Ottawa.

David Wiseman’s Access to Justice and Alternative Business Structures Project class. Photo: Karli Zschogner/Fulcrum.

On Sept. 27, the Fulcrum reported that Smart Living Properties had served an eviction notice for Oct. 31 to a total of 50 tenants at its Osgoode Avenue strip of properties. The motive for eviction was to improve and renovate all of the properties in question. 

“Our aim is to perform necessary improvements to the building which had fallen into serious disrepair in the past. In fact, the building is almost unlivable, and it’s not possible to complete the renovations while tenants are there,” said CEO Tamer Abaza in a news release on Sept. 13.

“We recognize that moving is a major upheaval to anyone’s life, so it is important to help and support the tenants in finding a new home,” said Abaza. The press release continued to also state that more than 80 per cent of the tenants were already in new accommodations.

When the article was published, 16 tenants remained in the units on Osgoode Avenue. 

In an email received by the Fulcrum on Nov. 6, Abaza confirmed that seven tenants were in the process of being relocated while eight tenants had not yet accepted one of the two relocation packages that Smart Living Properties offered them earlier this fall.

The tenants who remain are looking into the legal implications and legalities of the eviction notice with Lawyer Ryan Deacon, Tucker-Simmons as well as Wiseman and his students.

“What’s happening at Osgoode or Manor Park is symptomatic of a larger problem. Our economy is sick,” said Tucker-Simmons. 

Tucker-Simons and the Access to Justice and Alternative Business Structures Project are also challenging a mass eviction at the Nepean Manor Village. The City of Ottawa has decided to demolish the Manor Village to make room for the Stage 3 expansion of the LRT. 

The team submitted a four-page recommendation report asking the committee and council to defer consideration of any recommendations on this project pending a human rights assessment of its impact.

“These are not isolated problems. It’s not a matter of a ‘few bad apples,’ ” he said. “We get so focused on these individual stories of injustice and fail to connect it to the larger problem, that there is a housing crisis.”

In January, Ottawa’s city council voted unanimously to declare an affordable housing and homelessness emergency, making Ottawa the first Canadian city to do so.

“We are all deeply concerned about the state of homelessness in our nation’s capital,” said Mayor Jim Watson at the time.

In both situations, there is a real fear that many of the current tenants could end up homeless. 

“A real fear of homelessness, I think is what exists for the tenants, and that’s because of the shame, the reality is that we do not have affordable housing in the city,” said third-year U of O common law student Meaghan Coker who is a student in Wiseman’s class. 

“Housing is a human right,” Coker said referring to its recognition from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and Canada’s 2019 National Housing Strategy Act.

One of the Osgoode tenants Yugesh Jaypal is a visually-impaired mature graduate student who has taken courses at the University of Ottawa. He has relied on Osgoode Avenue’s central location and its lower cost affordability. With his disabilities and multiple health conditions moving is not evident for him. 

At $570 a month, his one-bedroom rent is considerably lower than what is available in Ottawa’s rental market. According to the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Ottawa is $1,600.

“It’s stressful, not knowing,” he said, explaining that he has been dealing with the lack of communication with his landlord due to inadequate heat. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the eviction, he said he remains grateful and hopeful with the support for the Osgoode tenant coalition advocates and offered legal support.

Lawyer Ryan Deacon who has been supporting tenants individually in preparation for their Landlord Tenant Board hearings, expressed his concerns concerning legal misconceptions tenants and landlords have about initial N13 notices.

“One of the largest misconceptions for tenants and landlords is that initial Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) notices [the N13 renovation eviction notices] are just initial requests where the landlord has no authority to kick tenants out as only the LTB has [the authority to take] such decision after cases are presented,” wrote Deacon in an email to the Fulcrum.

“There’s only three ways to end an RTA tenancy: 1. Tenant moves out. 2. Board orders eviction. 3. Tenant dies. The notices to end tenancy are a step in getting the LTB order, but they’re the very first step and carry no obligation for the tenant to move out.”

Smart Living Properties said the renovations in Sandy Hill are a two-year project scheduled to start later this year. They confirmed that they will not be able to maintain the same low rental cost following the renovations. Abaza said there is no date set for a hearing in front of the LTB.