On the same day Nova Scotia’s “renovition” ban was lifted earlier this week, a representative from Elly Archer’s new landlord came to her door with a message.
“He said that we are going to be getting evicted,” Archer told CBC News in an interview Wednesday.
A renovition occurs when a landlord forces residents to leave a building so it can be renovated and then rented to new tenants for substantially higher prices.
Archer lives in a house on Murray Hill Drive in Dartmouth, NS, that has been converted into four one-bedroom flats. The same landlord owns another building next door that has also been converted into four flats.
All eight flats received the same warning, said Adele Martell, who lives in the other building.
“He didn’t have anything to present to me, he had no papers,” Martell said. “He just kind of very briefly said, ‘I’m sorry to have to do this to you, but I’m going to have to evict all of the tenants in these apartments.'”
Archer and Martell said the landlord’s agent told them they were being “renovicted,” and they should expect to receive the official paper known as a DR5 shortly. But both said their flats have already received extensive repairs within the last three years.
“There’s actually nothing in here that could be renovated. Everything is new,” Martell said. “I believe this is just an excuse that he’s giving so that he’s able to hike the rent up for as much as possible.”
Nova Scotia banned renovictions as a temporary measure tied to the COVID-19 state of emergency in November 2020. The ban ended with the end of the state of emergency on Monday.
The province has made changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that require tenants to be given at least three months notice before a renoviction. If a tenant does not agree to leave, the landlord must apply for an eviction order.
Property records for the two buildings on Murray Hill Drive show the buildings officially changed hands on March 3. Kwesi Ellis of Toronto purchased the two properties, which are the only ones he owns in Nova Scotia.
CBC News reached out to Ellis by phone. He confirmed that he had recently purchased the buildings, but declined to comment further.
Archer, who is 66 and a pensioner, has lived in the building for 15 years. She pays $676 a month. Martell, who is a single mother of two school-aged boys, has lived in the building for two years and pays $850 a month.
Both said they believe it will be impossible for them to find another apartment for the equivalent price. Neither expected to get word of a renoviction at their building on the day the ban expired.
“I thought that was pretty nasty,” said Archer.
Archer said other tenants in the eight flats include people in their 70s and 80s, some of whom have lived there for as long as 30 or 40 years. Both Archer and Martell said they are not prepared to sign any agreement to the renoviction and are not prepared to move out.
“We are definitely going to fight this,” said Archer. “I just want the landlords out there to realize there are good tenants, loyal tenants, and we are getting treated like dirt right now.”
Claudia Chender, the NDP MLA for Dartmouth South, said since the renoviction ban ended earlier this week, tenants from both Murray Hill Drive buildings and a third building have contacted her to say they’ve received renoviction notices.
“It’s not surprising,” Chender said, adding she expects that the same situation is playing out in other areas. “It’s one of the big reasons that we have continually tried to sound the alarm on this topic.”
Chender called for greater investment in non-market housing, which includes options like public, co-operative and non-profit housing. She also said the NDP caucus wants to see the renoviction ban reinstituted on a temporary basis until more housing can be created.
The provincial minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia, which includes the Residential Tenancies Program, said Thursday the province has not received any applications by landlords since the renoviction ban was lifted on Monday. Colton LeBlanc said there were five applications submitted before Monday but none of them have gone through the hearing process.
“If the landlord has not submitted an application to the tenancy board, gone through a hearing process and been approved, then that tenant should not be renovicted and should be filing an application to the tenancy board,” said LeBlanc, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services.
LeBlanc said compensation is available to tenants who are wrongly evicted. He says his department continues to look at ways to modernize the Residential Tenancies Act and work with other levels of government to create more affordable housing for Nova Scotians.
“It’s various departments that are all hands on deck dealing with this housing crisis our province is facing.”