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Linda Habibi rallies her supporters ahead of a Landlord and Tenant Board hearing in downtown Hamilton Friday morning. Habibi, an organizer with the Stoney Creek Towers rent strikers, managed to stave off an application to evict her. - Teviah Moro , The Hamilton Spectator
Rent striker says eviction threat not just about her but all Hamilton tenants
Fellow residents of Stoney Creek Towers back Linda Habibi at Landlord and Tenant Board
News Mar 29, 2019 by Teviah Moro The Hamilton Spectator
A principal organizer of a rent strike in east Hamilton has staved off her landlord's attempt to evict her.
But Linda Habibi says Friday's Landlord and Tenant Board decision is not just about her.
Had she been ordered to leave her apartment at Stoney Creek Towers, the blow could have discouraged other tenants who are fighting for their rights, she says.
"This would have given the landlords a lot of power."
In February, CLV issued Habibi an eviction notice alleging she had "seriously interfered with the landlord's lawful and legal interest."
CLV accuses her of telling a prospective tenant not to listen to a rental agent who showed her and someone else a unit unless "they wanted live with bugs and poor management."
When the agent followed up, the prospective tenants said they had decided not to apply for a unit at 77 Delawana Dr., one of the four highrises that make up the complex just east of Centennial Parkway.
A CLV legal representative declined to speak to The Spectator at the hearing but a spokesperson sent an emailed statement:
"In response to your inquires, we always put the safety and security of our residents first, and we are obligated to ensure that all of our residents are provided with peace of mind and the quiet enjoyment of their residence," Roseanne MacDonald-Holtman wrote.
She added CLV won't discuss details of the case out of respect for tenant privacy.
Habibi disputes how her landlord characterizes the Jan. 29 encounter, denying that she physically stopped the would-be tenants in the lobby and disparaged management.
VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoJnV1V ... e=youtu.be
She acknowledges speaking to the pair, but only to advise them not to let CLV charge them for parking and that there are cockroaches.
Before Friday's hearing, fellow rent striker Stan Parker told a rally on King Street West the matter boils down to human rights.
"There's no reason why Linda should get evicted for freedom of speech."
As strike captains, Parker and Habibi have knocked on doors to encourage tenants to join the campaign and helped organize rallies.
During the hearing, duty counsel Stephanie Cox told the tribunal her client believes the landlord's application is "reprisal" for her participation in the tenants' organization.
Moreover, Cox argued the allegations are "completely connected" to a separate application several tenants have filed against their landlord over their ability to congregate in lobbies.
In arguing against an adjournment, CLV legal representative Daniel Abraham said the two applications ought to be heard separately.
"I think what we're talking about is one specific incident," he said, referring to Jan. 29.
Tribunal adjudicator Petar Guzina, however, sided with Cox and adjourned Habibi's case until further notice.
In September, tensions boiled over when several tenants gathered in the lobby to challenge a newly instituted no-loitering policy and walls that had diminished the space.
After the rally, some tenants, including Habibi, were issued N5 notices, warning they could face eviction if they didn't change their behaviour.
"A whole pile of us got them," Habibi said, explaining how her second N5 has put her in the hot seat.
CLV has previously said the anti-loitering policy is to "ensure" tenants' "peace of mind and the quiet enjoyment of their residence," while the tenants describe it as a way to stifle their organizing.
The rent strikers have been a thorn in the side of Ottawa-based CLV and affiliated property owner InterRent, a real estate investment trust, since the campaign started in May.
That's when several tenants started withholding rent, with more than 100 participating at one point, to protest proposed hikes to their rent and lack of repairs in their units.
In February, Landlord and Tenant Board vice chair Guy Savoie heard arguments for and against the landlord's 5.39 per cent above-guideline increase (AGI) before reserving judgment. He hasn't delivered a decision yet.
If approved, the overall hike would amount to at least nine per cent over two years when factoring in the province's annual "guideline" increases. This year, it's 1.8 per cent.
InterRent has told The Spectator it has put millions of dollars into the complex, saying when it bought the buildings for $51 million in 2015, they were rundown.
"We believe everyone deserves a clean and safe home that provides a good quality of life," MacDonald-Holtman said in a previous email.
The Stoney Creek Towers are in Riverdale, which has been called Hamilton's "Arrival City," for its high immigrant population. The neighbourhood has been a bastion of affordability for decades, but rents have rapidly escalated in recent years.
Rates for longtime tenants of the towers can hover around $750 for a one-bedroom, while renovated units go for more than $1,000.
Habibi, who's a newer tenant at 77 Delawana Dr., is not personally affected by the proposed rent hike but says she joined the strike to support those who are.
Her unit has been renovated with new tiles, stainless steel appliances including a fridge that beeps if the door isn't closed, while long-term tenants don't enjoy the same perks, she says.
"How is it possible that I live in this, and they don't, and they've lived here for 35 years? ... For me, it's immoral, maybe that's the word."
https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9247 ... n-tenants/
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Landlords should be aware that tenants will be passionate because we do not want to lose our homes.
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