Is “Renoviction” A Bad Word?


8 minute read

December 5, 2022

My daughter knows all the “bad words.”

She told me she does.

Strangely, I have never heard her use one.  Not once.

My son, on the other hand, loves to get a reaction.  He’s not using swear words, but as most 3-years-old boys do, he loves naming body parts just to witness the shock value on full display.  My Dad says, “Dave, one day he’s gonna do that in public, and people are gonna look at you as the reason.”

To be fair, his sister is the reason.  Those of you with children know what it’s like when the older one, who is seemingly perfect, acts out through her younger brother.  She doesn’t want to get in trouble for anything, so she has him do her bidding.

She taught him those words, no doubt about it.

And while she might use them from time to time, I’ve never heard her actually use a “swear word.”

She’s heard me though.  I’m embarrassed to admit how many times.

When I say the “f-word,” as she labels it, she tells me, “Daddy, that’s a bad word.  You shouldn’t say that.”

She’s right.

And she’s six.

I know better, but I do it anyways.  Those with children will also know it’s impossible not to.  Once your kids are born, there’s just this genetic psychological metamorphosis that forces you to use those words in the presence of your children at least nine times per day, and any attempt to resist the urge is useless.

Every night, I lay on my daughter’s bed before she falls asleep and we chat.  This is her time for deep reflection.

“Daddy, is Mommy’s gramma gonna die?” She asked me the other night.  She’s six, in case you missed that.  How in the world do thoughts like this enter her mind?

“Mommy’s gramma is like a hundred.  That’s old,” she told me, before she added, “And she’s nice to me, so I don’t want her to die.”

Again, I ask: where do they come up with this?

“Daddy, how come cars have four wheels, but not six, or eight, or ten,” she asked me last week.  I was proud that she was working forward in pairs of even numbers.

“Daddy, where did the English language come from?  Who made it, and what did people have before it?”  I told her that’s a question for her Grampa, and that she should write all of these down.

And then the other night, Maya asked me, “Daddy, what makes the f-word and the s-word ‘bad’ words?  How come they’re bad, and who said they’re bad?”  It was a very good question.

I had to think about for a while, and eventually, I said, “Certain words are just bad because of their context, meaning, connotation, or intent.”

She said, “Oh, okay,” but I suspect she had no clue what I meant.

She then added, “So a bad word is a bad word…………because it’s bad?”

And I agreed.  Partially because I wanted her to go to sleep, and partially because I didn’t have a better explanation.

What does make a word bad?

Some are dirty, but that often is debateable, and different cultures have different ideas on what’s dirty and what’s not.

Some are based on taboo subjects, but again, see above.

As I explained to my daughter, it often depends on the context.

Some words are blasphemous.

Some words are meant to insult, so despite the actual origin or meaning of the word, it’s the intent to insult that makes them bad.

And then there’s words that make others overly-emotional as a result.

So with all this said, what do you make of the word: RENOVICTION?

When you read today’s blog title and you saw the word “renoviction,” what did you feel?

What did you think?  What was your immediate response?  What emotion did you feel?

The fact that I asked, “Is Renoviction A Bad Word?” likely made more people feel a negative response, but certainly some felt disgust, frustration, or anger based on the fact that renoviction could be seen as a bad word, rather than feeling disgust, frustration, or anger based on the concept of a renoviction, right?

Not everybody thinks “renoviction” is a bad word, right?

And not everybody thinks that a renoviction is a bad thing, right?

Wiktionary defines a renoviction as:

The eviction of all of a building’s tenants on the grounds that a large-scale renovation is planned.

Well, we knew that.

So let’s look at the actual Ontario Residential Tenancies Act.

Under “Notice By Landlord At End Of Period Or Term,” we find Section 50 and the following:

Notice, demolition, conversion or repairs

50 (1) A landlord may give notice of termination of a tenancy if the landlord requires possession of the rental unit in order to,

(a) demolish it;

(b) convert it to use for a purpose other than residential premises; or

(c) do repairs or renovations to it that are so extensive that they require a building permit and vacant possession of the rental unit.  2006, c. 17, s. 50 (1).

So this is law.

This is a provincial Act from 2006 that allows a landlord the right to evict tenants to demolish a building, or convert the building to another purpose, or to undergo an extensive renovation.

I think that, despite our differences, we can all agree that these laws make sense at face value, right?

If a small 6-unit building can be demolished, per section (a), to construct a 60-unit building, that makes sense, right?

And if a residential building is going to be converted to an office, per section (b), then this is the owner’s right, agreed?

But where does section (c) fit into all of this?

If somebody wants to evict a sitting tenant to “renovate,” is this where we get the word renoviction from?

And as a result, are all renovictions therefore bad?

It certainly seems that way if public opinion is the judge and jury.

I searched “renoviction” in Google at the onset of this blog just to see what articles would pop up, and there’s nothing neutral, let alone positive.

Simply put, “renoviction” is a bad word, and I don’t know if that’s fair.

There is a property available off-market right now that is a downright steal.  It was last listed for $1,300,000, and probably “worth” about $1,400,000 in February at the peak.  The agent for the owner, who we’ve been in talks with, says that the owner is still motivated to sell, but isn’t going to re-list until next year.

What’s he looking for?

A mere $1,000,000.

The property is a 2 1/2 storey semi-detached house two units.  One unit is vacant and the other unit is tenanted for $1,200 per month.

The unit currently tenanted for $1,200 per month is probably “worth” $1,600 in this market, but that’s missing the larger point.

If this house was renovated, each of those units could command $3,000 each.

We have shown this property to two different sets of investors and both gave us the same reason why they’re not interested:

“I don’t like the word renoviction.”

Both buyers know that they’re well within their rights to buy the house, evict the tenant, put $250,000 into the home, and then lease each unit out for $3,000, but neither likes the stigma attached to doing so.

“I don’t want to be on the front cover of the Toronto Star as a big, evil, renovictor,” one client told us.  I wonder how long until “renovictor” is actually a word…

So at this juncture, I need to ask the readers: is it unfair to evict this particular tenant for the purposes of renovating the house?

I suspect that 80% of the TRB readers will say, “Yes, fair game,” but if I asked this question to a thousand Torontonians, I’d be looking at a 50/50 split at best.

Don’t forget, there’s a growing opinion in society that housing shouldn’t be used as a commodity.  Many people believe that the occupant of the property should have more rights than the person that actually owns it; that the person’s home trumps that for whom the property is merely a house.

As with everything we discuss on TRB, there are always bad actors and good ones.

But many choose not to differentiate at all.

Recall the discussions earlier this year about a city bureaucrat who put forth the idea of tying rents to the unit, and not the tenant.

Here’s an article from the summer:

“Canada’s Biggest City Challenged To Confront Its ‘Renoviction’ Problem”
Financial Post
July 25, 2022

From the article:

The leaders of Canada’s biggest city are being challenged to confront a surge in “renovictions,” a phenomenon that has already caused tensions between landlords, tenants, and politicians in other big municipalities, including Vancouver and Montreal.

Last week, Abigail Bond, the executive director of Toronto’s housing secretariat, published a report that called on the provincial government to tie rent control regulations to units rather than the tenants who live in them, which she argued would make it harder for landlords to jack up rents under the guise of renovations.

“The primary objectives of these activities are to preserve the city’s affordable and mid-range rental housing supply and help support tenants who are at risk of being evicted,” Bond wrote.

What word do you think I have a problem with here?

It’s “guise.”

The author says, “…under the guise of renovations.”

Are we at the point where we merely assume that any attempt to evict for the purpose of the renovation is a guise?  A rouse?  A complete and outright fraud?

That’s what the above article seems to argue, and there’s not much to support the idea that renovations can happen in good faith.

There are lots of horror stories about renovictions out there.

HERE is a bulletin from Parkdale Community Legal Services about some “bad actors” who wanted to evict the residents of an entire building for the purposes of renovation.  I can’t opine on either the intent of the owners or the fairness of the eviction, since I don’t know the facts, but this bulletin is written as though these are misdeeds.

HERE is a story from the CBC about a woman who was evicted from her apartment because the lobby, one floor below, was under construction.

But before we paint every renoviction with the same brush, can we go back the example I provided above with the 2 1/2 storey duplex?

Is it so terrible that an individual wants to purchase this property for $1,000,000, undergo a $250,000 renovation, and create two new 2-bedroom units with a 2022-era fit-and-finish?

Because if it is, then I no longer understand our society.

First of all, a home is an asset.  At least it is, for now.  That all may change one day, not tomorrow, and not the day after, but I wouldn’t rule out the day when the resentment toward those who own homes is so vile that the entire system changes.

So what’s wrong with an individual looking to maintain or even improve the state of their asset?

I understand that it comes at the cost of evicting a sitting tenant, but the law is clear.

Moreover, a $250,000 renovation would be great for the economy.

That renovation would employ a plumber, an electrician, a drywaller, a painter, some flooring guys, and perhaps a window company, not to mention a general contractor.  Money would flow to the likes of Home Depot et al, which employs others.  There’s no way to look at a $250,000 flow into the economy as a bad thing.

The house would increase in value, thereby increasing property taxes, which is good for the city.

We could rattle on and on with this list, but I think the point is clear.  The only loss here is that sitting tenant.

But can the homeowner be expected to put the tenant first?

The law is clear: the homeowner must offer the unit back to the original tenant once the renovation is done, but we know how that goes.  The tenant has long since moved on, and likely can’t afford the new rent.

The existing rent is $1,200 per month, which is well below the market rent of $1,600.  But this renovation would increase the market rent to $3,000, and there are two units here.

I ask again: is this a bad thing?

In the Financial Post article above, Abigail Bond says:

“The primary objectives of these activities are to preserve the city’s affordable and mid-range rental housing supply…”

So are we now at the point where we’re looking to keep housing affordable by discouraging renovations?

Discouraging renovictions, right.

But that’s discouraging renovations, and the sentiments expressed in that article seem to suggest that the lower the rent for a given property, the better.

So where does that lead us?

Toward the promotion of purposeful dilapidated dwellings?

The further I go down this rabbit hole, the odder it seems.

Somebody is about to suggest, “David, the homeowner can renovate.  They just have to wait until the tenant leaves.”

I understand that, but I don’t love the idea that a tenant can stay for fifty years and force the homeowner to sit idly by while the property deteriorates, both physically, and in terms of value.

And I keep going back to the law, which is clear.  Landlords are permitted to evict for the purpose of an “extensive” renovation.

There will always be bad actors here, as we’ve seen with virtually every topic discussed on TRB.  The two links I provided above are just two of many stories out there.

But I will never agree with the idea that any renoviction is unfair.

Form N11, Agreement to end Tenancy, is two pages.

Form N12, Notice to end Tenancy, is two pages.

But form N13, Notice to End your Tenancy Because the Landlord Wants to Demolish the Rental Unit, Repair it or Convert it to Another Use, is six pages long.

There’s a reason for that.  Just as there’s a reason why we’re discussing renovictions today.

But if “renoviction” wasn’t a word and we simply used “N13’d” as a verb, I don’t believe the response would be nearly as negative.

Renoviction isn’t a bad word.

It’s just misunderstood…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. cyber

    at 6:48 am

    Ahem, by law landlord is also supposed to offer the renovated units to the same tenant AT THE SAME RENT once renovations are complete. So the reason this word is “bad” is (a) because it’s being used as a way to illegally evict even paying tenants who are benefiting from rent control (b) because often these “renovations” are not really the type that this exception is meant for, i.e. refacing kitchen cabinets and installing click floors vs. structural work and redoing plumbing.

    In your semi “rental flip” example, the only way new owners could increase rent to $3k, is if they knowingly break the law. Just the fact that they advertised the unit for lease or entered a rental agreement with someone else would be interpreted as sufficient evidence of a “bad faith” eviction by the LTB – and new landlords/owners would not only be fined up to $50k, but their names would also be published on CANLII if tenant decides to pursue

    Now, the bigger question of “how much rights should property owners versus tenants” have by law is there – while we may see some evolution in ability to evict, and do so faster, for non-payment, property damage etc. at some point, public sentiment wise I highly doubt even a conservative government in Ontario would stick their neck out and risk re-election for EXISTING landlords (now, developer buddies of new condos who’ve been funding big $$$ – a totally different story…)

    1. Ed

      at 9:26 am

      I thought it had to be the same rent too.

    2. Mike

      at 10:30 am

      Cyber: you’re feeding the narrative David’s talking about. “Some” people evict to install click-flooring so paint the whole process with the same brush?

    3. Toad

      at 8:31 pm

      I keep waiting for David to respond to this because the whole basis for his example is against the law. As you point out, the rent has to stay the same.

      Did David not know this? Would he have bothered to write the article (or at least that example) if he had known? But he’s a top agent in the city (I assume), so how could he not know? Everyone’s allowed a gaffe, I guess.

      “they’re well within their rights to buy the house, evict the tenant, put $250,000 into the home, and then lease each unit out for $3,000”. But they’re not within their rights. They’re within their right to lease one out for 3000 and within their right to lease the other for 1200.

      1. Alexander

        at 10:24 pm

        Well, someone can renovate, rent the empty one for 3000 and move into the one which is currently occupied. Someone is within their right to move out a year later and rent it for 3100 as well.
        Overall, I find the tenant/landlord laws in Ontario are very tenant-oriented. They should give a landlord an opportunity to renegotiate a rental agreement after 5 years, there should not be such a thing as indefinite rental with pathetic annual rent increase which does not cover your running costs. 2.5% for 2023, you are JOKING!

      2. David Fleming

        at 9:06 am

        @ Toad

        Apologies, this wasn’t explained very well.

        I don’t believe that any tenant comes back after a renovation. It’s theoretical at best.

        Yes, legally-speaking, you have to offer the unit back to the tenant at the same rate. But tenants move on.

        In my example, we’re talking about a 6-8 month renovation. So let’s say that six months from now, you call up the tenant and say, “We’re finished the renovation. Would you like to move back in next week?” That tenant is likely six months into a one-year lease. That tenant can’t rent two places at once. That tenant isn’t coming back, and the suggestion that they’re going to is just silly.

        I’m sure we could cherrypick an example of where a tenant actually does come back. A tenant is evicted for a renovation and the renovation is only six weeks, and that tenant is sleeping on their freind’s couch because they coudln’t find a place, so yes, they come back. But in the examples we’re using – with major renovations that take 6-8 months, those tenants have moved on.

        Perhaps people don’t realize how much natural turnover there is in the Toronto rental market. But there’s a difference between apartments, co-ops, condos, and houses. I don’t deal in apartments where people have been living there for 28 years. I deal in houses and condos, so my examples reflect that. I realize this wasn’t clear.

        1. your_favourite_tenant

          at 4:41 pm

          I think before rents went crazy, you might have been right in most cases. But these days, a rent-stabilised apartment that a tenant has been living in for years is significantly under market. In your example, the tenant is paying $400 under market, or $4800 per year. So if the tenant was hoping to stay there for another 5 years, moving costs them $24,000. It would be absolutely be worth the tenants while to break there new lease – and given that the rental market is crazy, its unlikely they would loose more than a month or at most two of the new rent before it was re-rented.

          And your story is of a very small rent differential. Everyone I know who has been forced out recently (though for own use applications admittedly) has ended up paying $1,000 to $1500 more per month, sometimes for worse apartments. They would break their leases and be back in their old places in an instant if they had that option.

          If a tenant goes from a $1200 run down apartment, to paying $2000 for a newer nicer one, but then has the option to go back to $1200 for a newly renovated unit, they would be very short sighted to not go back.

          And I very much doubt any landlord wants to undertake those renovations if they will be renting the unit out at $1200 after its done. And once its re-rented, the LTB won’t evict the new tenant, so the old tenant is out possibly 10s of thousands. And maybe the landlord gets a fine for $50,000 (unlikely worst case) which will be recouped by the higher rent in less than 2 years, or sooner if you consider the increased property value. Cost of doing business.

  2. Marina

    at 9:04 am

    I think the problem is who should be responsible for affordable housing and what kind of housing. Is it the landlord’s responsibility to take the loss? Or should it be the government who comps the difference? Or should government own more housing?
    Or something else.
    I don’t see how the right answer is the current housing should stay crappy so the current tenant can live in squalor and the owner takes the loss.

  3. Ace Goodheart

    at 9:21 am

    Likely there should be a distinction between “cosmetic repairs” and “necessary repairs”.

    For example, the basement tenants in a building near one of my rentals (now sold) we’re “renovicted” due to the double brick foundation walls of the building having deteriorated to the point that they became structurally unsound. The process of repair involved a lot of digging and shoring up, making continued residence in the basement impossible.

    This would contrast with a situation where the unit and building are structurally sound, but the owner wants to gentrify the building to get higher paying tenants.

    That seems to be what people are upset about.

    Is it right or wrong? Who knows. At the moment it is legal to gentrify your building, but you have to then offer the gentrified units to the original tenants at the original rent.

    Having been a landlord in Ontario for many years, I would never do it again.

    The system is too socialist and heavily weighted towards the rights of the tenants.

  4. Ed

    at 9:26 am

    Why wouldn’t the current owner of the duplex simply offer the current tenant $20K or so to move voluntarily and the sell the duplex vacant?

    1. Somebody

      at 10:16 am

      Because people are idiots and cheap.

      Property owners should absolutely pay off tenants to move in a situation like this as they’ll make 5-30X the investment within a few months.

  5. Alexander

    at 10:51 pm

    I would say there are less and less investors who want to be landlords in Ontario. It is not about renoviction, it is about a house (asset) vs home (right of the roof) mentality clash . People rather invest money into something they have control of. Landlords cannot do this, cannot do that, there is no damage deposit, absorb all running costs, increased taxes, unpaid water bills, damaged premises, unpaid rent, renters who you can never evict, etc, etc. There will be a shortage of housing in Ontario in no time because of new 500K immigrants to Canada per year, lack of public housing development and government push to build private rental accommodations while they are stripping all landlord rights day by day.

    1. Ace Goodheart

      at 8:12 pm

      Everyone is all about social housing now.

      Which is weird.

      Makes me wonder whether any of these people have ever lived in social housing.

      Best thing about it is the day you get out. Moving from social housing into market rent is like moving from Cuba to Florida.

Pick5 is a weekly series comparing and analyzing five residential properties based on price, style, location, and neighbourhood.

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