A Toronto condo tenant who was issued a notice by his landlord that his rent will double, increasing his monthly payments to $3,300 in the summer, said he thought the notice was a joke at first.
Tenant Graham Farquhar said on CTV News Channel Tuesday that he received the notice that his rent would increase from $1,650 to $3,300 on April 1. The same landlord is hiking the rent at another condominium unit in a building in Toronto's west end.
"We actually didn't even take it seriously, we thought it was a mistake or a joke at first," Farquhar said. "It wasn't until yesterday when the (landlord) called us and told us that that was the option, that we either pay the $3,300 a month or get out by July 31st, that it became a reality."
Farquhar said a corporation owns the unit.
The increase is a reflection of Toronto's pressurized rental market, where demand has outpaced supply and jacked up rates across the board.
Joeita Gupta, with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, says part of the problem stems from a loophole that was intended to help tenants.
Under a rental law enacted during the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris, landlords who own properties built before Nov. 1, 1991 are subject to controls when raising rent. However, no such limits exist for properties built after that date, Gupta says.
"For landlords, and I hate to say it, it becomes a form of economic eviction," she said. "It is unfortunately a landlord's market."
Gupta says her association is seeing more calls from tenants to their helpline at the end of the month, when rents are typically due, as more become subjected to drastic rent increases.
The issue has politicians and others saying a change may be needed in Ontario's rent control laws.
News of the rental hike prompted Toronto Mayor John Tory to issue a stern warning to landlord over sharp rental hikes.
He said Tuesday that he's encouraging landlords "to consider very carefully how they behave themselves in this marketplace so that there doesn't have to be a reaction that they would find damaging in the end, to the rental housing sector."
He said extreme hikes can "provoke" the kind of legislative and policy reaction that is "very much against the interests of future construction of rental accommodation."
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also weighed in, calling the doubling of rent at the two downtown condo units "particularly egregious, and to my mind, unacceptable."
Recently, the province of Ontario decided Toronto's rental market was reaching a breaking point, and began the process of reforming the Residential Tenancies Act. Currently annual rent increase caps only apply to residential buildings or units constructed before November 1991.
Wynne says the argument against rent control doesn't "hold water" with her, and that, even though developers argue that the 1991 rule was important in order to build more rental units, it hasn't happened.
One possible solution could be to expand provincial legislation that would tie rent increases to the Consumer Price Index. Currently that only applies to rental units that began operating prior to 1991.
Farquhar said he was aware of the lack of rent control for buildings constructed after 1991 but the doubling of rent isn't "something you'd expect."
Farquhar said he looked into fighting it but now he thinks the "best option" is moving out.
"We kind of just want to cut our losses and get out while we can," he said.
With files from CTV Toronto's Colin D'Mello and The Canadian Press