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323 Niagara Boulevard: Fighting the Renovictions

Submitted by Christine Whelan

Oct 14th, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 4

Richard McIntyre has been living at 323 Niagara Boulevard in Fort Erie for three years this winter. During the summer months, when the other tenants came forward to be interviewed for the Fort Erie Observer stories about the wave of, what is now a trendy phrase, renovictions, with N13 forms that had started being handed out by the new building owner, Richard was up north. We hadn’t met at that time.

He has now come forward to provide an update.

Richard and I sat down by the river, at a picnic table, the day after Mayor Redekop visited the now almost empty apartment building. It loomed over my left shoulder, across the Niagara Boulevard

“I got a call from the Mayor’s office.” He backed up a bit. “I had called his office a couple of times once the demo crew started working because there are no building permits posted anywhere. I was told there’s a permit pending. I actually spoke with the Mayor once about the situation.

“I asked him, ‘In the paper, it says you want to form a committee. What is a committee going to do for the people living here now?’ I didn’t get much in the way of serious answers then. But this time, he called me.”

According to Richard, the Mayor’s office called him on Monday, September 27 to inform him of a visit. Richard was also informed there would be a few paralegals from the Niagara Legal Clinic accompanying him, including Lisa Ridsdill, who has been involved from the beginning and has connected with several tenants since May.

The following Thursday, September 30th, Mayor Redekop and the small paralegal team came out to the building and met in the front parking lot with almost every remaining tenant.

“He thanked us, as tenants, for putting up a fight, giving us some reassurance. If we don’t put up a fight, he’s got no ammunition,”

Richard continued to explain what he has learned. “In his position, he really can’t do anything directly. It’s a Provincial issue. He can stand behind us.

“He made sure we were on our phones for our Zoom meeting,” Richard explained that each tenant will get a chance to speak at a meeting with the Landlord/Tenant Board. “Council will be there. Council will basically be doing all the speaking. We just each have to be present for our day and time.”

This is how the tenants fight back. “We got notices to appear in front of the Landlord/Tenant Board, just another bully tactic. One of the tenants already had his day. Bedford didn’t show up. So, that’s a wash.”

Richard feels good coming out of the visit from the Mayor, “He has, in my mind, stepped up. Just to be there. And like I said, he called me this time.”

The members of the legal clinic spoke with tenants about their own, individual situations.

The Building Update

Richard has been keeping an eye on the activity in the building. “They’re not doing the work that they said they were doing to get everybody out. They are gutting apartments. Some of the units were brand new, and they are gutting them. But they are doing superficial work. New tiles, New bathtubs. New vinyl floors. For all the things they are doing, they don’t need a permit.

“They haven’t touched anything that was listed in the N13 form, the work that needed the tenants to leave. They haven’t touched the exterior walls. The only thing they’ve done to the exterior walls is to patch little holes.”

Referring back to the N13 notices that all the tenants received in small groups at a time, beginning a couple of weeks after Bedford Properties out of Mississauga bought the building, “Right from the start, with the N13 notice, the owners worded it as if it was an eviction notice and it was not. It was an offer, not an eviction notice. But it scared everybody out. They’ve been playing the scare tactics and bully tactics from day one, the day they took over the building.”

Richard’s Situation

“When I moved into my apartment just under three years ago, the tiles in the bathroom had been redone, new carpeting was in the bedroom, new cupboards were in the kitchen. It was all painted up, cleaned up. It was a really nice apartment. On my N13 form, it says my apartment is in such a bad state of disrepair, it will take seven months for them to renovate it. My hope was to get the Mayor to come and walk into my apartment to show him seven months’ work does not need to be done, but that’s not needed now. We are past that.” After the Mayor’s visit, Richard feels empowered to stand the fight.

The Tenants

When asked how many tenants are left, McIntyre commented, “I’m not sure. There are 20 names on the tenant’s list but some have already been whited out, the ones who are now gone. I know at least three more people left this past weekend. All the people who left took the $4,000 offer.”

The N13 forms every tenant eventually received gave them the option of leaving their homes by a first date provided on the form, accepting an amount equalling three months’ rent or leaving their homes by an earlier, second date, accepting a cheque for the amount of $4,000.

“They’ve got so many people out of the building already,” Richard stated that out of 40 plus apartments in the building, he estimates, there are about 11 tenants left.

Some of those who said they were staying and fighting are still hanging in. A couple has gone. “Part of it is the harassment.” Richard shared some of what’s been shared before regarding the poor treatment by building employees towards the tenants, which has not stopped. On the contrary, it has seemed to have increased. “Ya know, I don’t blame them.”

When asked if the previous articles in the Fort Erie Observer about the renovictions caused any type of change, maybe getting the Mayor involved, Richard replied, “What the articles did was they got us involved,” referring to the tenants of 323 Niagara Boulevard.

McIntyre states he’s not going anywhere. “I’m in for the fight. They’re going to have to carry me out of there kicking and screaming.” He added, “I thought about moving at first, but then they got pushy and I’m not a guy to be pushed.”

Richard waits for his day in front of the Landlord/Tenant Board.

Photos provided by Christine Whelan

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