Apartment tenants who’ve been threatened with eviction for not having enough money to pay rent amid a global pandemic continue to organize in Toronto (and beyond) as part of the #KeepYourRent movement — and their most-recent IRL action hit landlords closer to home than ever.
Parkdale Organize, the legal advocacy organization spearheading these local rent strike campaigns, described how GTA tenants “descended” upon the homes of their corporate landlords last week to “collectively voice their demands for no evictions and for rent forgiveness for all tenants unable to pay during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Tenants from buildings in Scarborough, Mississauga and Parkdale are said to have visited the sprawling mansions of CEOs from major real estate enterprises such as Pinedale Properties and Starlight Investments on Wednesday during a virtual annual general meeting of the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO).
“Our first stop was the home of Pinedale Properties CEO, George Grossman. Grossman’s company owns the buildings at 7, 9, & 11 Crescent Place where company reps have visited tenants’ units demanding on-the-spot rent payments with a handheld ATM,” reads a blog post on the Parkdale Organize website.
“A company rep told one bereaved tenant whose relative had died from COVID-related illness that ‘COVID is nothing’ and that ‘the economy needs to keep going’.”
Parkdale Organize says that “Grossman opted to cower inside his mansion” while they were on his front lawn, but that they were able to deliver a letter to “a domestic worker employed at his residence.”
“Next we descended on the home of Starlight Investments CEO, Daniel Drimmer,” reads the post. “In 2019 Starlight added to its real estate empire, buying GTA apartment buildings valued at a total of 3.75 billion dollars.”
“Despite its growing financial power, in the past two months Starlight repeatedly sent notices to tenants demanding rent repayment and threatening to issue legal eviction notices.”
Protesters say they saw Drimmer “pacing on his back patio” while speaking on the phone. Parkdale Organize says that Drimmer called Toronto Police Services and reported the group for hate speech.
While protesters did not make contact with either of the landlords, they are encouraging apartment tenants to learn more about who owns their buildings.
They also continue to urge others to keep their money in solidarity when the next rent payment deadline rolls around.
“Today tenants made it clear that we will continue to organize with our neighbours,” wrote Parkdale Organize of the mansion protests.
“Unless landlords’ threats of eviction and demands for rent repayment are withdrawn, and rent forgiven for tenants unable to pay during the crisis, we are prepared to escalate our action by bringing greater numbers of our neighbours to confront even more landlords where they live and do business.”