When Morad Roohi and his partner decided they needed to find new accommodation last winter, their search turned up very few affordable options.
One of them was Main Square Apartments in Toronto’s east end, a complex of four apartment buildings at the intersection of Main Street and Danforth Avenue.
The international student moved into a unit there in February, but he said as time passed, he has become increasingly disappointed with the conditions in his building.
“They [management] have zero respect for the experience of the tenants,” Roohi said. “It’s suffocating.”
Roohi said he and other tenants experience pests and poor conditions in common areas and garbage disposal rooms, disrespectful interactions with management, and maintenance issues.
He said he and other tenants have raised their concerns to management, but they haven’t received a response yet.
Roohi also said a laundry room in his building was closed for repairs, and he believes he will not be able to use it until March. He said the timeline for these repairs continues to get longer.
Realstar Management, the company that owns the building, did not comment on these reported issues.
Roohi also said his friends in the building have experienced bed bugs in their unit and that on one occasion, pest control had entered their apartment without notifying them, leaving it in disarray.
Roohi learned of Toronto ACORN, a “membership-based community union of low and moderate-income people.” ACORN advocates for many issues on behalf of its members, including safe and affordable housing.
On Nov. 18, Roohi and other building residents, many of whom are ACORN members, gathered in front of Main Square Apartments to protest the alleged rent increases and conditions they said they experienced.
Roohi said security told them soon after that they could not protest there, and that police were eventually called.
Realstar’s senior vice president, Mark Hales, said in an email that a third-party movie scene filming took place in the area that day. Hales said this “shouldn’t be construed as our means to control any demonstrations at Main Square.”
Toronto Police said they were not able to confirm these details.
In May, ACORN members and Main Square residents protested as they said tenants were receiving above-guideline rent increases from their landlord at these buildings, despite the provincial rent freeze that was implemented in October 2020.
Roohi said many tenants were not sure how to fight these alleged increases and had to pay, despite needing affordable rates. The Toronto Observer was not able to verify these claims at time of publish.
A law was passed in October of last year to freeze 2021 rent at 2020 levels as a result of the pandemic. Some landlords were still able to apply for 2021 rent increases for “extraordinary and significant” repairs or security services, according to a document from the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Hales said in an email that “all rent increases at Main Square are governed by what is allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act.”
ACORN’s East-York chapter chair Alejandra Ruiz Vargas said that ACORN organized at the buildings for the past three years. She said that when ACORN recently attempted to deliver a letter to management, they had the door closed on them.
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She hopes that the City of Toronto will respond to the numerous repair requests that ACORN members from Main Square submitted to them. Ruiz Vargas said she thinks that a lot of landlords do cosmetic improvements on entry foyers, and that she believes inspectors are not “actually seeing how people are living.”
Ruiz Vargas also said the province needs to limit Vacancy Decontrol, extend the rent freeze, and ban above-guideline rent increases. Vacancy Decontrol allows a landlord to increase a unit’s rent to market rates once a tenant moves out.
“I don’t know where else people are going to go, because the rent is so expensive,” said Ruiz Vargas.
Christina Barnes, a communication adviser for the City of Toronto, said in an email that bylaw officers evaluate apartment buildings in the city at least once every three years as a part of the RentSafeTO program.
The buildings in Main Square Apartments were evaluated and approved in November of this year, she said.
Coun. Brad Bradford (Ward 19, Beaches East-York) said in an email that he believes any repair requests submitted to the city will be investigated thoroughly, but if requests are not being responded to, his office can help connect tenants with RentSafeTO.
“The vast majority of landlords are good partners with their tenants, a small but impactful minority create the need for strong enforcement,” Bradford said.