When Jason Michaud signed a lease for his Parkdale apartment last year, he agreed the arrangement would be a sublease – where he would rent the one-plus-den unit to a company called Temp Stay Inc., which was in turn leasing from 12 Lansdowne Inc., for a period of 11 months.

He put his initials next to a series of warnings: that unlike a regular tenancy in Ontario, he was not allowed to occupy the unit after the fixed term and that he could be evicted if he tried . 12 Lansdowne Inc. was listed as the “primary owner” and Temp Stay Inc. as the “sub-owner”.

The problem? Both companies, Michaud has since learned, are each run solely by a man named Neil Spiegel. As Michaud faces the end of his lease this week, he argues the arrangement should not be allowed and is a “loophole” to prevent tenants from being protected by law.

A spokesperson for Spiegel’s 12 Lansdowne Inc. declined to comment, saying the ‘issues underlying’ the Star’s investigation were ‘concerning’ in another matter before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board – the Star confirming that the council currently has a request from a landlord linked to Michaud’s address, alleging missed rent.

Regarding the sublease agreement, a legal expert says Michaud’s situation raises questions about what constitutes an appropriate sublease, an investigation that has been tested at the CLI over the past few years.

“The law on whether or not a sublet is a sublet, just because you call it that, is a little less gray than it was before,” said Benjamin Ries, director of the York Region Community Legal Clinic.

Michaud first came across the unit at 12 Lansdowne Inc., a low-rise apartment complex, through an online post last year. It seemed like a promising deal, costing just $995 per month. He arranged a meeting with a man who, Michaud says, introduced himself as a representative of Temp Stay Inc. and explained that it was not a regular rental: the agreement would be a sublease through this company.

Despite the unusual setup, Michaud was interested. The company did not mind having its rent paid through the Ontario Disability Support Program, he said. The unit was also self-contained, which he considered better than a rooming house. So he signed and moved in last spring.

He didn’t know about the ties between the two companies, he said, until he started having trouble reaching anyone from Temp Stay. He received notice that an L1 request – a filing to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent – ​​had been filed against him in January, with an email he shared with the Star which only listed a representative of 12 Lansdowne Inc., a paralegal and himself as parties.

The dispute over missed rent, he says, stems from a disagreement over whether his first month’s rent was properly collected. He believes the owner received direct payment from the Disability Support Program, but says the company disagrees, saying he was never paid.

Danny Roth, spokesperson for 12 Lansdowne Inc., declined to comment on any aspect of Michaud’s case, citing concerns about “harm to process” at the Landlord and Tenant Board. No hearing was scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Michaud’s concerns emerged amid other simmering tensions at the Parkdale complex, as 12 Lansdowne Inc. sought the eviction of several other residents for a renovation and repair project – raising concerns, among some, at the subject of Spiegel’s story with similar eviction efforts.

In 2019, a company he co-run with Evan Johnsen — 795 College Inc. — was twice fined $135,000 for refusing to allow tenants at that address to return after renovations. Roth in February said the company was “committed” to respecting the return rights of Lansdowne tenants and was dedicated to “revitalizing” aging downtown rentals.

Michaud said he did not receive the same eviction notice, but did receive a letter from property managers in January – which he shared with the Star – informing him of the “demolition/repair to come” of the complex, which he said required all units to be vacated in advance.

“Due to these upcoming changes, management will no longer be able to extend sublets and residents are encouraged to make alternate arrangements,” read the emailed letter.

Michaud’s sublet, in Ries, raises a similar issue to a case that came before the Landlord and Tenant Board years ago, with a review order decision released in 2015.

In this case, a nonprofit rented a number of apartments from a private landlord and then sublet those units at a lower price to people in need of affordable housing.

The council decided that the non-profit was in fact a co-owner of the accommodations, as it was not – and never intended to be – a residential tenant occupying the flat. This decision meant that the sub-letter, as it was registered on paper, was in fact the tenant entitled to legal guarantees.

“We are not prepared to accept what is essentially fiction…because it is convenient for the parties, particularly if it would compromise or limit the rights of the people the RTA is specifically designed to protect,” a trio of members of the board of directors said in a written decision.

The Ontario government’s Ministry of Housing, in an email, said only a tenant as defined in the province’s Residential Tenancies Act can sublet a rental unit. Is not considered a tenant under this law, spokeswoman Nazaneen Baqizada wrote.

Generally speaking, Ries said for landlords, having a subletter can be attractive because of the flexibility — these agreements could be extended or terminated easily at the end of a specified period. He believes that in some cases tenants can accept the terms of sublease agreements without skepticism, especially those who may be less familiar with Ontario rental laws, such as newcomers and international students.

If he receives an offer to sublet, he encourages tenants to consider who is on the other side of the dotted line. Was it a business or an individual? Had they ever lived in unity? Was there a relationship between the tenant and the landlord? Each of these, he claimed, could be a ‘red flag’ that a landlord didn’t understand the rules or was trying to ‘trick the real tenant’.

But he acknowledged that questions were often not easy to answer and relied on someone with detailed knowledge of their rights. “They would have to dig in and be very persistent.”

Back at 12 Lansdowne, Michaud says he wants to stay in the apartment for as long as he can. While he said he was reminded of the upcoming end date – he found a friend willing to let him crash with them if things got bad – he said he had the intent to hide until someone shows up at his door.

“I’m going to stay here until I get kicked out,” he said.

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