London

More than 100 London buildings have applied for above-guideline rent hikes since 2017

A local tenant group says above-guideline rent increases circumvent rent control.

Tenant group says above-guideline increases circumvent rent control

Gosse Van Oosten lives on a fixed income and was hit with an above-guideline rent increase to help the property owner pay for upgrades to elevators and the heating system.
Gosse Van Oosten lives on a fixed income and was hit with an above-guideline rent increase to help the property owner pay for upgrades to the heating system and elevators. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

It's a province-wide trend affecting tenants in London, Ont.

There's been a rise in applications by landlords to hike rents above government-set guidelines to cover big-ticket repairs — but some tenants are pushing back, saying their rent should already cover the costs. 

CBC News looked at the number of applications for so-called above-guideline rent increases (AGIs) filed to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). The data was released as part of an access to information request submitted by tenants advocacy group ACORN.

AGIs allow landlords to apply for rent increases above the provincially-set annual maximum rent increase for older buildings. They are intended to cover repairs and upgrades with big capital costs, such as elevators, roofs, window replacements and heating systems.

According to the data released by the province, about a quarter of the AGI applications were filed for properties owned by corporate landlords. 

A total of 112 property owners with London addresses filed for an AGI between January 2017 and August 2022. 

To see which buildings applied for the increase, search "London" or the building's address in the table below.



Gosse Van Oosten lives at 575 Proudfoot Lane and pays $1,160 in rent for his one-bedroom apartment. He received an AGI request from his landlord, Old Oak Properties, in January 2023. His increase, which the landlord said was to cover upgrades to elevators and the heating system, costs him $47 a month on top of his base rent.

"I do have other living expenses that keep going up as well, so it limits other things that you buy," he said, noting he doesn't own a vehicle in order to keep his costs down. 

Van Oosten said the rent he and his neighbours pay should be enough to maintain and update the building. 

"Everything has gone up in value, including the land, the buildings. The allowable increase should be sufficient," he said.

The building is owned by Old Oak Properties. 

In a statement to CBC News, the company said older buildings come with increased costs that can't be covered by rents.

"The AGI in no way covers the full cost of these capital repairs," the statement said. " The landlord's investment in these capital projects is significantly more than any amount charged back to the tenants."

The company also said the upgrades to the building were don't before the company submitted its AGI application. The company also said large upgrades aren't carried out unless they're absolutely necessary and that tenants were given detailed information about the work to be done and the associated costs.

Tenant group calls for end to AGIs

The tenants advocacy group ACORN is calling for the province to end AGIs, saying they give landlords a way to circumvent the annual allowable rent increase.

"Rent is unaffordable across the board and AGIs are just one more burden that are placed upon tenants," said ACORN'S Claire Wittnebel.

She said AGIs are often used by corporate landlords to boost profits instead of improve the quality of the buildings. Also she said the AGIs have strict guidelines about how they're supposed to be applied, but that those rules aren't always followed. For example, AGIs are supposed to be time-limited and removed from the renter's bill when enough money is raised to pay for the upgrade. 

Wittnebel, however, said often those increases simply remain in place. 

"The majority of tenants don't know how the system works," she said. "The burden of protecting their housing is placed on the tenant." 

Landlords' costs have gone up too, says landlord group president

Tony Irwin is president of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario, a group with 2,200 member landlords. 

He said about 80 per cent of Ontario's apartment buildings were built before 1980.

"Leaving these buildings in the state they're in is not realistic," he said. "These are major capital projects, it's significant dollars involved to do this work, and the AGI system allows some of that cost to be passed along to residents."

He said landlords' costs have gone up the last few years, including property taxes, utilities and labour rates. 

Irwin points out that some landlord applications for AGIs are turned down by the LTB. 

"There's a process and landlords have to show the costs are legitimate," he said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.