Premier Kathleen Wynne says that the doubling of rent at two west-end condominium units is “unacceptable” and underscores the need for changes to Ontario’s rent control laws.

A Toronto Star report on Tuesday told the story of two condominium tenants, one at a building on Joe Shuster Way and another at a building on Sudbury Street, who recently received notices that the rent on their two-bedroom units would double should they choose to stay.

In both cases the landlord in question was KSV Advisory, which is a company that restructures insolvent businesses. The proposed rent increases would see the monthly cost for the two-bedroom units go from $1650 to $3,300.

“I know that housing affordability whether rental affordability or home ownership is a huge issue but these particular examples are particularly egregious,” Wynne said on Tuesday. “This is something we need to look at.”

Ontario sets an annual cap on the allowable rent increases on units that were built prior to Oct. 31, 1991 but no such protections are offered to tenants in more recently constructed units.

The idea behind the exemption for units constructed after 1991 was to encourage the construction of new purpose-built rental but on Tuesday Wynne said the lack of new apartments built in Toronto in recent years is proof that it is not accomplishing its intended purpose.

She said that her government will bring “forward some proposals soon” on how to address the problem.

“The reality is that there has not been more rental built so that argument does not actually hold water with me at this point,” she said. “We are looking at all of our options.”

Tenant thought rent hike was April Fool’s joke

One of the tenants who received a letter from KSV Advisory advising him of an increase that would double his rent told CP24 on Tuesday that he initially thought it was an “April Fool’s joke.”

Graham Farquhar, who lives in a building on Sudbury Street, said that he only realized that the increase was real when he got a call from the company on Monday advising him that he will have to vacate his unit by July 1 if he does not agree to the new rent.

Farquhar said he will now be moving, a process that he said would be “super inconvenient” and “difficult” given Toronto’s hot rental market.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “I feel like they are obviously trying to force us out using this loophole in the Toronto system that landlords just skyrocket the rent without having any kind of cap.”

In 2017, the provincial cap on rent increases on units constructed prior to 1991 is 1.5 per cent. On a one-bedroom condo, which rents for an average of $1,776 according to Toronto Real Estate Board data, that translates into an increase of $26.64 a month.

But according to Coun. Josh Matlow, who chairs the tenant issues committee, many renters are encountering “absurd” increases of hundreds of dollars a month that are forcing them to leave the neighbourhoods they have long called home.

“It is the wild west for landlords. They can hike rents wherever they want,” he said.

Matlow said that the recent escalation in housing prices and rent could turn Toronto into a “playground for the rich.” He said that the province needs to introduce a stronger rent control policy that will apply to all dwellings, including condominiums owned by individual investors.

Meanwhile, at an unrelated event earlier in the day Mayor Tory warned companies against pushing through sky-high rent increases simply because they can.

“I just hope that people in the private sector will consider very carefully how they behave themselves in this marketplace so there doesn’t have to be a reaction that may be damaging in the end to the rental housing sector,” he said.

The NDP have previously called for the exemption on properties built after 1991 from rent control guidelines to be eliminated. In a statement issued on Tuesday, NDP MPP Peter Tabuns chided Wynne for refusing to act to this point.

“Will the Premier do the right thing, and close this loophole, as the NDP has proposed?” he said.