Several residents of an Etobicoke apartment building who have lived through more than two years of renovations say their landlord is trying to force out long-time renters in an attempt to make more out of new tenants.

Steve Agalitiotis, who has rented a unit at 240 Markland Drive for 13 years, says the building was a great place to live and home to a thriving community until real estate company Carttera Management Inc. took over the property about three years ago and began renovations.

“They’re not even pretending at this point,” he said. “The on-site property manager here has told me flat out, ‘We don’t want you here. If you don’t like the way we run the building, you’re more than welcome to leave.'”

In addition to feeling forced out, several tenants told CBC Toronto they have raised a number of complaints, including constant noise and dust, garbage left behind by contractors, frequent power, water and elevator outages, and poor accessibility in a building with a large number of seniors.

The tenants said they felt that most of their concerns about the situation had gone unaddressed and they’ve been limited in how they’ve been allowed to communicate with the property management team. But Cartera said residents can communicate with them via a number of channels including in person or by email, text or phone call.

In an email sent to CBC Toronto Tuesday, the company said that “all residents are welcome to discuss their concerns” with management. The statement did not include a direct response to questions of whether the building’s owners want tenants to leave the building.

A Caucasian man with a pony tail and glasses, stands in front of a colorful painting.
Steve Agalitiotis has rented a unit at 240 Markland Dr. for 13 years. He says the building was a great place to live until real estate company Cartera Management Inc. took over the property about three years ago. (Vedran Lesic/CBC)

Ongoing work part of new development: company

lastfall, CBC Toronto reported tenants in the building had to deal with two years of renovations, including in-unit upgrades that were often left unfinished. At the time, Carttera was seeking an above-guideline rent increase to help pay for the renovations, though tenants said that the increase never materialized.

Now, six months on, Agalitiotis and other tenants in the building said the situation had only gotten worse. Some tenants say they now fear interactions with management.

Gerald Strocen and his wife have rented a unit in the building for 10 years. Prior to that, Strocen’s parents lived in the building together, and the couple wanted to be close to his father after his mother died.

“The rent was really good. The building was nice. It was really well maintained. So it was a no-brainer,” he said.

But the past few years have been a nightmare, Strocen said.

A middle-aged couple stands in the lobby of the building, next to a window.
Gerald and Brenda Strocen have rented in the building for 10 years. Brenda says her mental health has been negatively impacted by the ongoing construction projects and the relationship with building management. (Vedran Lesic/CBC)

“There’s still holes in my ceiling from when they did the windows [two years ago] that they said they’re going to come back and fix and they never did,” he said.

On a tour of the building, CBC Toronto saw one unit on the second floor had a number of cracks and holes around windows that tenants said were replaced earlier this year. Another, on the fourth floor, showed a newly-installed HVAC system that had been dry-walled but not painted. In both cases, the tenants said they were told the contractors had finished the job.

According to Cartera’s statement, the renovations and improvement program was completed in October 2022 and any ongoing construction is related to a new development being built next door.

Residents may have a case, advocate says

The residents said they formed a tenants’ association last fall with the hopes of being able to communicate with building management as a collective.

Other tenants said when they have been able to get face-to-face interactions with management, it hasn’t gone well and in some cases, has been hostile.

The landlord’s statement tells a different story, saying “most tenants … are happy their home is finally being properly taken care of.”

“We are proud of the improvements made to the property, and the community we continue to build with residents.”

Three photos are showing that illustrate the holes left by contractors and the unpainted drywall around a newly installed HVAC system.
On a tour of the building on May 1, 2023, tenants at 240 Markland Dr. showed CBC Toronto unfinished in-unit projects that included holes around windows and unpainted drywall. Building management says the renovations and improvement program was completed in October 2022. (Vedran Lesic/CBC)

Benjamin Ries, executive director at South Etobicoke Community Legal Services, said the tenants may have a case to bring to the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The Residential Tenancies Act says tenants have a right “to not only have their home kept in a good state of repair by the landlord, but also a right against substantial interference with reasonable enjoyment and a right against interruptions or interference with vital services,” he said.

However, Ries also said there’s a regulation dictating that if a landlord is doing necessary work, the board should be careful about giving tenants any kind of compensation.

He thinks landlords should be required to compensate for disruptions.

Two photos are shown of modern and sleek looking living spaces in the newly renovated unit.
Photos from Forest Hill Kipling’s website shows the newly renovated suites at 240 Markland Dr. Tenants say the units are rented out at twice the price they pay for their units. (Vedran Lesic/CBC)

“This is how I think most of us think about businesses in any other service context,” he said. “When Rogers or Bell has to take their network down or the network fails, they’re kicking out compensation, they’re giving refunds.”

When it comes to cases brought by groups of tenants, Ries said there are a number of issues, not least of which is the current backlog of cases at the board caused by the pandemic. As well, he says, even if an issue is brought by a group, an adjudicator will likely still want each individual tenant to testify, leading to more backlogs and tenant drop-off over time.

As for the tenants themselves, they’re just hoping to have a more open dialogue with building management.

“It’s the combativeness,” Agalitiotis said. “I’ve never seen a building run like this. I’ve never seen this quality of service. It’s been really bad.”