A rally for tenants of 250 Frederick Street in Kitchener escalated when the building’s management called police on Wednesday.

The rally was in support of renters who are being evicted as the building’s new owner begins renovations, otherwise known as renovictions.

The meeting was held inside the ground floor common area, and words were exchanged between the organizers and management. Waterloo regional police did arrive, but not much came from it.

The purpose of the rally was to bring tenants together and show they are not going quietly. They also hope to push local governments to do more to protect renters’ rights.

“We saw that it was a N13. So immediately my heart dropped because we knew this was coming,” said Tessa D’Achille, referring to the notice of termination of tenancy. That’s what tenants get when the landlord wants to do significant renovations that require vacant possession of the rental unit, demolish the rental unit or convert it for non-residential use.

For six years, D’Achille and her fiancé Matt Lavrisa have called 250 Frederick Street home.

Their current rent price is $1,100 per month and it has allowed them to plan the next chapter of their lives.

“It’s incredible. It’s letting us save up for a house down payment, which is just so exciting. But now, if we had to move, we’re looking at most doubling what we’re paying,” said Lavrisa.

On Jan. 31, three months after a new owner bought the building they live in, the couple received an eviction notice, as did a number of other longtime residents.

“We’re young, we have incomes. But there are a lot of residents in the building who are on fixed incomes,” said Lavrisa.

Tenant Norm Pettifer, meanwhile, is facing another difficult battle.

“My dad has been diagnosed with severe dementia,” said Pettifer.

As he looks after his ailing father, Pettifer isn’t sure what he’ll do next.

“It’s caused a lot of stress for me to try and figure out what steps to take next. How do I figure this out? Because there’s no way that even the two of us can move somewhere that we can pay for,” said Pettifer.

Ontario’s 2024 renoviction report

Wednesday’s rally was organized by the renters’ rights advocacy group named ACORN.

It coincided with a report from ACORN that looks into renovictions across the province, including Kitchener. The report, which analyzed 22,000 eviction notices obtained through FOIs, says renovictions are on the rise, but it also explains why they are so hard to track.

“It is important to note that the data pertaining to N12s and N13s accessed from the LTB is a gross underestimate of the scale of the renoviction crisis,” the report reads, in part. “Most renovictions never reach the tribunal as landlords harass and intimidate tenants to get a ‘voluntary’ termination of tenancy,” it goes on to say.

An N12 is when the landlord, their family or caregiver wants to move back into the rental unit for at least one year. Or there is an agreement of purchase and the sale of the rental unit and the purchaser’s family or their caregiver wants to move in.

ACORN said corporate landlords often try to push people to accept an eviction notice at face value.

“They assume that means they need to be out by that date. And the reality is they don’t need to actually be out until they’ve had a hearing,” said Acer Bonaparte, chair of Waterloo Region ACORN.

It’s worth noting that Kitchener, in ACORN’s report, cracked the top 10 Ontario cities when it comes to the number of N12s filed between 2017 and 2021. Kitchener is in eighth place with 266.

When it comes to N13s filed between 2017 and 2023, Kitchener was sixth among Ontario cities with 136 filed.

ACORN report

The hope of the rally was to also get the attention of city leaders to put more rental protections in place.

“I think they should really look at what Hamilton passed on. It’s essentially so a landlord must obtain a license within seven days of filing for a renovation with the city. So that proves the renovations are needed,” said Bonaparte. “Know you’re not alone. Know there are people out there willing to fight for you and just don’t give up.”