Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to fix an error with lawyer Robert Coloumbe’s name.
CORNWALL, Ontario – The Roy McMurtry Legal Clinic held an information session for residents of Cumberland Gardens on Wednesday night, March 2 at the Cornwall Legion hosted by lawyer Robert Coloumbe.
The Cumberland Gardens residents had all received eviction notices from their landlord, Bedford Properties and Estates Ltd., over the previous weekend stating that due to the state of disrepair of the property, that they would all be evicted so renovations could be conducted.
The landlord informed him of his intention to break their lease. Bedford offered residents three months worth of their rent, which they are legally required to do so by law but offered an additional $4,000 if the tenants signed an agreement and vacated by April 30.
Coloumbe warned the audience on Wednesday night that signing such an agreement and accepting the money could cost them their rights. A tenant has the right to return to their rental space if they are being evicted for the sake of renovations. The tenant must inform the landlord in writing of their intent to return, and by doing so, the landlord must offer the tenant the first right of refusal when the property is back on the market, at their original rent cost.
Coloumbe also reminded the Cumberland Gardens tenants that the Sherriff is the only one who can evict them from their homes.
He also took the tenants through the next stages of the process. He explained that if they did not leave voluntarily, that the landlord would have to file eviction notices with the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) at a fee of $180 per tenant. The LTB would then hold hearings to see if the renovations that are required necessitate eviction.
Coloumbe told the audience on Wednesday night that he was not yet sure what the LTB would decide, but that his current objective was to prove that the renovations were not so extensive as to require eviction. Many tenants who were in attendance at the meeting noted that no inspections were done of the buildings prior or since they were purchased by Bedford in late 2021.
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MP Eric Duncan was present for the meeting on Wednesday, as were Cornwall City councillors Todd Bennett and Syd Gardiner and representatives from the City’s Social Services department.
“Just because you think you have the right to do something, I also think there is a corporate responsibility to treat people fairly and with respect,” Duncan said.
Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry was unable to attend the meeting but stated his support for the tenants and encouraged them to reach out to the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (RHEU) at 1-888-772-9277.
“Our government is committed to ensuring the well-being of the people of Ontario and making sure both tenants and landlords are treated fairly. We want to encourage a safe and fair system when renting a property so both the tenant and landlord can benefit,” said MPP McDonell in a written statement.
Many tenants were heartbroken when they received the news about the evictions. Some, like Melissa Jennings have literally spent their entire lives at Cumberland Gardens.
Jennings, who is 40 now, was born at Cumberland Gardens. Her parents still live there, as does her sister and both of their children.
She was shocked and distraught when she learned of the eviction notice. She was one of the tenants who noted that some of the rental units were in good shape, including hers that has a brand-new floor.
“I will be fighting this,” she said. “I just think if they want to do repairs there is no reason why they can’t come in and work around people.”
Robert Coloumbe will be available for one-on-one consultations with tenants. He can be reached at (613) 932-2703.