06/18/2013 07:10 EDT | Updated 08/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Couple baffled over burger franchise lockout

A couple are baffled as to why they have been locked out a Toronto burger franchise that they have been running for more than a year, given that they have made their rent payments each month.

Marufa Ahmed and her husband, Mohammad Hashen, say that when they arrived at a Lick’s burger franchise on The Queensway last week, they learned they had been locked out of the building.

A note from the baliff indicated that the parent company, identified as Lick’s Inc., owed the landlord nearly $90,000.

Ahmed and Hashen have bank statements showing that Lick’s had been cashing their rent cheques, which were more than $10,000 each month. The couple say they never missed a rent payment since buying the franchise.

With a mortgage to pay and a young child at home, Hashen said that losing access to the business has been tough. The couple purchased the west-end Lick’s franchise 18 months ago.

"The last 18 months, I never take a day off…I work hard and this is my result?" Hashen told CBC News in an interview.

Hashen and Ahmed were forced to immediately lay off the 16 staff members who worked for them.

The couple told CBC News that the closure was completely unexpected.

The only hint that something might be wrong was when they received a letter last month from the Lick’s parent company indicating they were non-compliant and owed about $16,000, mainly for royalties.

"That's not right. I pay every month royalty on time and I have proof for all those, too," Ahmed told CBC News.

Denise Meehan, the president of Lick's declined our request for an on camera interview.

On the phone she wouldn't answer questions about the money the landlord claims Lick's Inc. owes.

Meehan did say Lick's was negotiating with the landlord, Smart Centres Incorporated, when the landlord suddenly shut the restaurant down.

But a spokesperson for Smart Centres told CBC News this was not a hasty decision.

Ahmed and Hashen say they are consulting a lawyer. They are hoping that the future of their franchise is resolved soon.

The Lick's website says the Toronto-based burger chain has more than 20 locations.