A St. Catharines woman who says she has no where to go and no hope of finding an apartment was given two weeks to leave behind the apartment she has called home for the past nine years.
Tabatha Thomas, 55, said the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) informed her adjudicators ruled in favor of her landlord following an Oct. 18 hearing to discuss an N12 form she received from her landlord at the end of February — evicting her from her Queenston Street apartment to allow her landlord to move in.
The notice, received via email Monday afternoon, left Thomas in tears.
“They gave me two weeks,” she said.
The board gave her until Dec. 11 to find an apartment and move out. If she fails to leave by that date, the landlord will then be able to call in the Court Enforcement Office to enforce the eviction.
Thomas, who currently pays $1,015 a month in rent and has not missed a payment, said there’s nowhere else she can afford to live, after months of fruitlessly searching for a suitable apartment.
She receives $1,212 per month from Ontario Disability Support Program.
Thomas said the disabilities she suffers from, chronic anxiety and depression, have also limited her options for suitable apartments. She said she has often faced discrimination from landlords who refuse to rent to her because of her source of income.
St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens, who first discussed Thomas’s plight at Queen’s Park in September, called the board’s decision “unconscionable.”
“For her to bear that over the holidays is not a good thing,” Stevens said.
“It’s unconscionable that we have almost no protection for someone like Tabatha. While rental prices are still rising and people are getting evicted, it’s unbelievable.”
Peter Janowski, a paralegal representing landlord Athanasios Zervas, said his client is “certainly concerned” about Thomas’s welfare.
“Nobody wants someone to end up homeless or be in a position where there’s some sort of health effects or worse.”
However, he said, Thomas has been aware of the landlord’s plans of moving into her apartment “for eight or nine months, and I presume she has made contingency plans.”
Janowski said Zervas has “followed the law and has not done anything wrong.”
He said it’s unfortunate that Thomas’s tenancy has ended, but “that’s a risk any tenant in Ontario takes when they move into a property that’s not owned by a corporation.”
Corporations cannot evict tenants for the personal use of their apartments, he said.
Janowski also stressed his client is not a wealthy profit-focused corporation.
Zervas, he added, recently immigrated to Canada and purchased the property, primarily for his family to live there. Zervas intends to move into the apartment where Thomas resides and allow relatives to move into the apartment where he is now staying.
“They themselves are struggling,” Janowski said. “They’re not wealthy by any means.”
Thomas said her paralegal, Paul Taylor, told her there are several errors in the LTB decision, and they are planning to appeal.
If necessary, she said, they plan to launch a human rights challenge.
Janowski said he expected the LTB decision would be appealed.
And despite the Dec. 11 date for the eviction, he said he expects Thomas will spend Christmas in his current apartment.
“If the matter is not resolved and it’s going to go until next year, and then if she loses a review she still has a Divisional Court appeal,” he said.
He said winning those appeals, however, will require proof that the landlord is acting in bad faith, “and no evidence of that kind has been presented at any point.”
After a decade working as a paralegal specializing in landlord tenant issues, Janowski said he can provide “plenty of examples of how easy it is to find bad-faith evictions.”
But in this case, he said, “there’s not a shred of evidence” to indicate his client was acting in bad faith.
Thomas and her paralegal raised several issues during the hearing — including building maintenance concerns, as well as concerns that the landlord who previously evicted another tenant using an N12 form after purchasing the building on March 25, 2021, did not reside in his current apartment for the required 12 months before issuing the N12 notice to Thomas.
In its decision, the board said it “does not accept that these factors should prevent eviction.”
The board said maintenance issues “predate the current landlord and are not ongoing,” and “extenuating circumstances” after the landlord learned his wife was pregnant led to the decision to issue the N12 notice to Thomas before they lived in their current apartment for the required year.
Although the ruling said the landlord planned to move into the tenant’s unit because it is larger with one more bedroom and an attic, Thomas said both units are the same size. They both have two bedrooms, and although her apartment has an attic, the landlord’s apartment has basement.
She said she made that clear during the hearing, but the information was not included in the orders from the LTB.
“The order is wrong. It’s not factual information,” she said.
Stevens said she is teaming up with NDP housing critic Jessica Bell (MPP for University-Rosedale) to introduce a private member’s bill to protect tenants facing evictions. Stevens hopes to bring Thomas to Queen’s Park with her at that time.
The proposed legislation, she said, would create a registry to track LTB applications, allowing for further investigation to ensure they are valid.
Thomas said she expected to hear from other landlords after previous stories were published about her situation, “hoping they would offer me a unit or something, but no one ever did.”
“I’m a good tenant. I pay my rent,” she said, adding she is concerned landlords are discriminating against her because of her source of income.