August 31, 2018 6:53 pm

Displaced residents of 650 Parliament St. protest lack of landlord help 10 days after fire

After an electrical fire left more than 1,500 residents displaced, some are now considering taking the building management company to court. Kamil Karamali reports.

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Tenants from 650 Parliament St. rallied outside the building demanding action from property managers after they were informed their temporary accommodations would be coming to an end as soon as Monday, ACORN members say.

ACORN said they are demanding immediate action from the landlords and owners of the property since a six-alarm electrical fire left hundreds of tenants without homes.

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The protest, held by ACORN, tenants and supports, moved from 650 Parliament St. to the property management office where they had intended to present the landlord with a letter. However, no one would come outside. From there, they then marched to the Wellesley Community Centre where they were told they could come inside if they needed services but otherwise, protesting inside the building was not allowed.

READ MORE: 1,500 Toronto residents displaced after 6-alarm high-rise fire in St. James Town

Sophia Linhares, a currently displaced tenant, told Global News on Friday that she’s extremely frustrated. Linhares, along with other tenants, said 10 days after the fire, management has yet to help them out. They said those who are staying in hotels and Airbnbs have been told the temporary accommodation ends on Monday.

“I’m one of the lucky ones that have family to stay with. There’s a lot of people that do not have a place to go as of Sept. 4 or even earlier than that,” she said.

Lee Turner, another tenant of 650 Parliament St., said he’s frustrated with the lack of communication between tenants and landlords.

“I think everybody just wants a real person to talk to. We haven’t seen anyone that we can actually talk to so if someone could just talk to us, it would be very satisfying,” said Turner.

“People are very angry right now.”

Doug Sartell, property manager of 650 Parliament St., addressed media later Friday afternoon and said they are doing what they can to help displaced tenants.

“We have a website in place, WPSQ.ca, OK, where residents can access. We have a helpline in place. I can give you that information at some point, where people can call and give us their information. It is staffed so you’ll talk to a real person in real time to give you the information,” he said.

WATCH: 650 Parliament St. property manager speaks to media, says working on solution for displaced tenants 

“We’ve reached out to other landlords, other landlord associations, the Greater Toronto apartment Association under the capable leadership of Daryl Chong. We’re working with community organizations that do such a good job in this community. And basically, we’re putting the word out wherever we can with respect to an ability to provide short-term accommodations.”

Sartell said the building consists of a north and south tower, both of which have significantly different damage and will see different target dates for tenants to move back in.

“We believe we have a target available to repopulate the north side of that building. We’re setting a soft target date of Thanksgiving,” Sartell told reporters.

The south side of the building, however, he said could take up to 11 weeks or more.

WATCH: 650 Parliament St. property manager says tenants from north tower could be back in by Thanksgiving 

“We understand the urgency of the situation. We have 568 extraordinary families that are dealing with a most difficult situation,” Sartell said.

“I would tell them right off the bat, ‘Anything you can do under your control to secure a place, a safe place for your family to live, we implore you do it. Leave no stone unturned, go to your families, go to your friends.’

“Yes, there will be an inconvenience but there will be a roof over your head and with respect to the overall situation, the ownership understands and accepts that that’s our responsibility, not the city’s. It’s ours and it’s a challenge for all of us. We’re used to managing buildings, not crisis management. The staff in my office, the people in the city are giving extraordinary efforts to try to get this to a resolution quickly.”

Sartell said that if anyone wishes to terminate their lease, there will be no issue to do so. He also said tenants were being reimbursed for the 10 days of rent missed for the month of August.

Tenants said, however, they are considering legal action against the property owners and managers and plan to meet on Sunday to discuss a class-action lawsuit.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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