Landlords from Hell

Eye Weekly, January 1, 1999

This is an excerpt of the part of the article relevant to our buildings at 103 and 105 West Lodge Avenue, Toronto, in Parkdale. To see the entire article Click Here

These days, landlords must feel they've simply died and gone to heaven. For starters, Toronto's vacancy rate has fallen to a near record low of 0.8 per cent, meaning just eight vacancies for every 1,000 apartment units. There are heaps of desperate tenants looking for affordable housing: more than 100,000 people are on waiting lists to get into Toronto's public housing units alone.

And, of course, the Harris government is the most landlord-friendly in a generation, having enacted the Tenant Protection Act, which removes rent controls on vacant apartments. The TPA is just the incentive slum landlords need to give tenants the heave-ho, often employing goodfellas-like methods in the process.

The trademarks of the bad landlord are rundown buildings, failure to carry out repairs, evicting outspoken tenants and generally acting like a big jerk. Take a gander at the following landlords and see if they fit this definition.

The sections mentioning other bad landlords have been edited out. Visit the link above if you wish to read the whole article.



22 buildings around Toronto, 3,400 units

Patricia MacDonald is a 56-year-old registered nurse who lives in a tiny one-bedroom apartment at 125 Lawton Blvd., a 118-unit building in mid-town Toronto. So why does Jeffrey Wynn write her voluminous, invective-filled letters?

MacDonald says it's because, in her capacity as president of the tenants' association, she insists that repairs be carried out and tenants' rights respected. "I feel that Jeffrey is trying to use threats to intimidate me," she says. The Wynns accuse MacDonald of being "pathological."

"She hates our guts," says Jeffrey Wynn.

Operators of Wynn Family Properties, the Wynns include Phil and his two sons, Paul, 38, and Jeffrey, 36, who for years have had their name coupled with the term "bad landlord." Paul Wynn acknowledges this reputation, joking that they are often depicted as the "landlord Nazis of Toronto." But he says "almost all of the criticism about my father is 20 years old.... We have a different approach."

Paul and Jeffrey now run the family business, with Jeffrey overseeing the day-to-day operations of their 22 buildings. And there's no question the sons have made strides in shucking the family's poor image. Still, their relations with tenants are not always ideal.

Take what's happened at 103 and 105 West Lodge Ave., a pair of 19-storey apartment towers in Parkdale with 720 units. The Wynns thwarted the dream of West Lodge's tenants of controlling the place themselves. Up until June of 1994, a Montreal company, Zaidan Realty Corp., owned the buildings, although the Wynns held a second mortgage on it. By the time Zaidan walked away, West Lodge was a drug-infested, decaying and litter-strewn slum with more than 600 outstanding work orders against it. "They were unspeakably horrible," recalls City Councilor David Miller.

The Wynns reclaimed West Lodge, but abandoned it a year later. Paul says this was because the city placed impossible demands on them. A receiver took over. Then in 1997 the buildings went up for sale again. This time the tenants cobbled together a bid to buy it and turn West Lodge into a self-managed co-op. But Mark Goldblatt, a co-op consultant hired by the tenants, suggests that the Wynns scuppered the plan. As mortgage holders, the Wynns kept asking for more money. "Every time we got close to the deal they upped the price," says Goldblatt, who says the tenants raised $12.8 million. "We were chasing something we could never get." Instead, the Wynns bought West Lodge for $20 million. Paul Wynn says the tenants simply didn't offer enough money given West Lodge's real value. "Today it's worth $28 million," he says.

So far, the Wynns have carried out court-ordered repairs on West Lodge and conditions have improved considerably. Still, not all is hunky-dory. Last October, Anna Thaker, president of the West Lodge Tenants' Association, and Bob Levitt of the Parkdale Tenants' Association were stopped by a West Lodge security guard while the pair were leafleting the buildings about a meeting.

Levitt says the guard telephoned Jeffrey, who insisted Levitt be arrested. The police were called and Levitt was given a trespass notice barring him from the property. Thaker was also banned from entering one of the West Lodge towers. If true, these actions violate the TPA, which says tenants are allowed to organize free of landlord harassment. Jeffrey says the guard never called him and he only heard about this incident "two months later." He dismisses Thaker as unco-operative and never attending tenant meetings.

To be fair, the Wynns work well with other tenants. Mike Merone, 67, has lived for 30 years in a Wynn-owned building at 1577 Lawrence Ave. W. He says the building used to be in horrible condition and rife with drug dealers. After the Wynns bought the building 12 years ago, its condition improved dramatically. "It's almost as good as it was when I moved in," says Merone, who says they disbanded their tenants' association five years ago because "we had nothing to complain about anymore." {Typists Note: Actually, if you ever visit this building it is the worst condition of all of their buildings, and looks like it could be condemned. I wonder where the Wynn's got Mr. Merone?}

But then there's the case of Brenda Barry, 34, who lives at 870 Millwood Rd. in East York, a 10-unit building owned by Markar Ltd. After Barry fought its efforts to increase tenants' rents above the legal limit, Markar tried to get rid of her and turned to Jeffrey Wynn for help. Wynn recommended a lawyer who works in the Wynns' office. Jeffrey got involved, at one point pressing Barry at a rental tribunal hearing last August to go into mediation. "I was literally harassed by Jeffrey," says Barry. At one hearing, the Wynns' lawyer cross-examined Barry for hours, even though she had no legal counsel of her own at the time.

Patricia MacDonald showed up at the tribunal to lend Barry moral support one day last month. Wynn, who was called to testify at this particular hearing, spotted MacDonald. Soon afterwards he wrote her a five-page, single-spaced letter, concluding it with a threat to have her evicted.

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