Toronto homeowners fight to evict tenant ‘taking advantage’ of COVID-19

A Toronto couple says they are growing frustrated after a months-long fight to move back into their townhouse and evict a tenant who stopped paying rent and — they believe — is taking advantage of restrictions around COVID-19.

Edward and Yamile Koch moved back to Toronto from Chicago in January after Edward lost his job.

“We were looking forward to coming back,” he said. “My parents are here. I’ve got two step daughters here.”

They planned to move back into their townhouse, located near the waterfront in Etobicoke, by the end of January. Weeks before the move, they said they heard from a paralegal representing the tenant who said she planned to challenge the eviction.

In February, Ontario’s Landlord & Tenant Board ruled in favour of the Koches with the tenant ordered to move out by March 31.

Around the same time, the tenant deposited a cheque from the couple equivalent to one month’s rent for compensation, a legal requirement when landlords intend to evict in order to move back into a home. She also stopped paying rent and broke off communication, Edward Koch explained.

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“We’ve tried on many occasions via email, via text to find out where things stand, why she’s not paid, when she’s going to pay and we haven’t heard anything,” he said.

Koch said he believes the tenant is capitalizing on the COVID-19 lockdown to not pay rent.

“For them to stop paying rent without any rhyme or reason prior to the impact of COVID just feels like they’re taking advantage of the situation,” he said.

Global News attempted to speak with the tenant but she did not answer her door.

The Ontario government suspended most in-person landlord and tenant hearings and enforcement of evictions in March after issuing an emergency order to contain COVID-19, leaving the Koches little recourse for now.

“I feel really upset,” Yamile Koch said.

“I feel defeated by the system.”

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the board, Sarah Copeland, said in situations like this, if both sides cannot come to an agreement on their own, the landlord “may wish to seek legal advice.”

On the suspension of hearings and enforcement, she said, “We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone and we are appreciative of the patience and cooperation of stakeholders as the situation continues to evolve.”

Meantime, Koch said he and his wife have already spent more than $20,000 on temporary housing and other expenses.

“We appreciate the attempt to safeguard the tenant from homelessness, but you’ve now replaced homelessness of a tenant with homelessness of a landlord or homeowner,” he said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to us.”

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