Enquiry into How the City Handled the Sale of a Tenant’s Business at St. Lawrence Market
For many years, the complainant owned a business and was a tenant of the St. Lawrence Market, a large City-owned market complex at Front and Jarvis Streets in Toronto.
In 2015, he wanted to sell his business to new owners. To do this, his lease required that he obtain City approval and transfer his lease.
He complained that the City’s Real Estate Services division (“Real Estate Services”) had delayed the sale of his business, and unfairly charged him interest on rental arrears and administration fees. He also said that staff had behaved unprofessionally throughout the sale process.
We gathered and analyzed information, both oral and documentary, from the complainant and from staff at Real Estate Services.
What We Found
Our Enquiry found that the City was not clear nor explicit about what it was charging the complainant and what they owed. Particularly, none of its letters to the complainant stated that interest would still be owing even once the arrears were paid.
However, our Enquiry also found the City acted fairly when it came to the timing of the sale and professionalism of staff.
In consideration of the information gathered through this Enquiry, we made the following recommendations:
- Real Estate Services should clearly advise tenants in writing that the interest on all rental arrears is calculated in accordance with the terms set out in the lease, and will be applied in all cases, even after the rent is paid.
- Real Estate Services’ arrears letters and/or attached statements should clearly reference the amount of interest owing to date and the rate at which it is continuing to accrue.
- Real Estate Services should document the details of its actions in files involving the transfer of leases resulting from the sale of a tenant’s business.
The City’s Response
Real Estate Services agreed to implement our recommendations.