13 is a crowd in North York, where rooming houses are illegal

13 is a crowd in North York, where rooming houses are illegal

Published on Thursday August 30, 2012

VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR Junhoo Hong, 19, pays $350 to sleep in a small bedroom with a roommate, who sleeps on a thin mattress on the floor. Hong says there are up to 13 people living in the house at a time. “Too many people,” he says.
Laura Stone
Staff Reporter

13 Comments

When Sienna Choi found the room for rent on a popular Korean website, she envisioned a cheap, cozy place near the subway.

What she didn’t picture was a dozen roommates.

After a quick tour of the Kenaston Gardens house near Sheppard Ave. E. and Bayview Ave. in North York, the 22-year-old English student agreed to take it.

Arriving in Toronto in June, she moved there with a childhood friend also from South Korea, with the understanding that they would share a bed at a cost of $780 every four weeks.

“We didn’t have any choice, because we need (a) place,” said Choi.

Only after they moved in did they notice more people coming into the two-level bungalow, all of them young Koreans. At one point, Choi said, there were 13 residents.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “I didn’t expect this situation. I didn’t know a lot of people lived there.”

The Kenaston house appears to have six bedrooms on the main floor and three in the basement; no living or dining room; and two bathrooms. With only one kitchen, food was constantly disappearing from the fridge.

“Every dinnertime is war,” Choi said.

Unlike in the former city of Toronto, rooming houses are illegal in Scarborough and North York, which allows a maximum of two apartments per house. But they’ve proved difficult to stop, because the issue has to come to authorities through tenant complaints. Newcomers to Canada may not know the law or simply be satisfied paying cheaper rent for crowded conditions.

Choi said the roommates all paid individually, and in cash.

Property records show the Kenaston Gardens house is owned by Abdul Mujib Cadili and Daowd Kazandji, who bought it for $976,000 in 2006. The pair also own a Kenaston Gardens home next door, which they bought for $1.2 million on the same day. Cadili also owns a third house on the street, which he purchased in 2009 for $1.2 million.

When reached by phone, Kazandji said he rents the house for $2,500 a month to a Korean family at nearby Barberry Place, who told him their relatives live there.

He said he was not aware of so many people renting rooms.

“She told you 13 people? I don’t know, I swear to God. I don’t know this point,” he said.

Junhoo Hong, 19, who pays $350 to share a room with another person who sleeps on a thin mattress on the floor, backs up Choi’s comment that up to 13 people have been living there at a time.

“Too many people,” he said, pointing to nearby Barberry Place as the home of the people who collect their rent.

A young man who answered the door at the Barberry home, accompanied by his mother, denied they were landlords at the Kenaston property.

He claimed his relatives and friends live at the home, and there are only five or six tenants.

“Thirteen people, that’s not true,” he said. “The landlord couldn’t find someone to live there. So now we are renting the house.”

However, he denied collecting money for the property and said his mother simply acts as the cleaner.

When asked in a follow-up interview if his family rents the Kenaston home from Kazandji, he said yes, but wouldn’t answer questions about why tenants said they are paying rent to his family.

Choi and her friend said they wanted to move out immediately, but were told they had to stay three months or risk losing their $100 deposits. They recently left the home after their three months were up.

Hong said he lived in a single basement room for four months, at a rate of $450. Currently, he said, there are 10 people in the house. A reporter visiting the home did not see other tenants as all the bedroom doors were closed.

At a mere $350 per month for 10 people, the house would bring in $3,500 a month, $1,000 more than Kazandji claimed he was renting it for.

Councillor David Shiner, who represents the area, said the property is zoned for a single-family home. It probably wouldn’t pass safety and fire codes for 10 to 13 residents, and it’s illegal to rent the rooms individually.

He believes the other houses on the street have been assembled for condominium developments, although an application filed with the city in 2009 has since lapsed.

“What you have is a home in transition that someone has rented out,” he said. “It would not pass our safety standards and wouldn’t be permitted under law.”

He added that it’s difficult for municipal licensing and standards division officers, who investigate complaints, to lay charges because they cannot gain access without permission from someone in the home.

Shiner said he has now alerted the city to the Kenaston properties.

 

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COMMENT:

I have noted this topic in several posts. Likely coming to a neighbourhood near you one day. It is a sign of low wages, high housing costs. Many owners have bought properties with such an intent,(one of my neighbours had their property for sale…and one potential purchaser had done the math for rent revenue……another neighbour sold and they have turned the 300 sq ft home  into  a rooming house ) and other may be forced to to generate cash flow. A sign of the times…

 

 

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