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Displaced residents of 650 Parliament ‘shocked’ over unexpected hotel bills

WATCH ABOVE: Some residents who were left without a home after a fire tore through their building now say management isn't keeping their word by covering the hotel costs. Kamil Karamali has the story.

Mark Slapinski has been bouncing from room to room since a fire tore through his apartment building at 650 Parliament St. in August, leaving approximately 1,500 people out of their homes.

“(I’m) stressed out,” he said from his current room at the Holiday Inn.

Slapinski said the longer he’s without a home, the more that stress increases — just like his hotel bills.

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

The 27-year-old student said he saw “unexpected” charges during his month-long stay at the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto for almost all of October.

The bill racking up his food and parking fees totalled more than $2,000.

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“First I got the bill, I shrugged it off,” said Slipinski.

“I didn’t even think it was seriously. I thought ‘OK, they sent me a bill. Maybe this is a record of what happened.’

“I can’t afford to pay this. This is something that was unexpected.”

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Slapinski said the building management told him that they would cover all living expenses after the fire. He added he hasn’t been charged for the rooms he’s been staying at yet — but was promised a $65 daily per diem for food and free parking, which he now has to pay out of his own pocket.

Ricky Kirkpatrick has a similar story, who told Global News he was charged nearly $1,000 for parking, food, and hotel pet service during his two week stay at the Chelsea Hotel in mid-October after the management company for 650 Parliament St. promised they would cover all costs associated with their hotel stay.

READ MORE: Energy problems at 650 Parliament delays return for displaced residents, property manager says

“They told us, ‘It’s OK. You can check in.’ Everything was good with the pet, parking and it was $65 a day per person for food,” said Kirkpatrick.

But Kirkpatrick’s bill was unusually high for other reasons as well. He was charged for two other rooms for two other tenants also living at the Chelsea Hotel.

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“Two separate names that have nothing to do with me,” said Kirkpatrick.

“Every day it gets more and more frustrating. Now I’m worried that my credit card will be used for other people’s rooms.”

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He added he hasn’t gotten a clear answer if all of the costs will be reimbursed by the management company.

“I have no idea how that could’ve happened — it’s been a complete mess.”

On Wednesday, the landlords of the building sent notices to all the tenants saying the management company will “no longer fund hotel accommodation after Nov. 30, 2018.”

“We have done our best to provide assistance to allow you time to find other accommodations, and have helped with tenants who have found their own alternatives in the Greater Toronto Area. We will continue to provide assistance to those who locate comparable accommodations, but we cannot continue the cost of providing hotel accommodation after Nov. 30,” said the notice.

The move prompted backlash.

“Where are these people going to go? That’s the big question,” said Jeffrey Stern with ACORN Toronto.

“We just don’t have the answers right now.”

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Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the hotel rooms should be covered by the owners of 650 Parliament St. until the apartments are ready.

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

“I believe the landlord has the responsibility to house those who couldn’t find alternative housing and it’s a relative small number that are in hotel rooms,” said

“I believe those hotel rooms to be continued until such time until their apartments are available again.”

The building’s management company said during the past three months it has covered all hotel costs for any resident that has a lease with them.

It estimates there are about 175 families who are still using hotels as temporary accommodations.

“Anyone that may have been charged would not have been on a lease,” said James Thomas, property relocation manager for 650 Parliament.

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The company said it didn’t check whether all residents being assisted after the fire were on a lease because it wanted to make sure every tenant had a roof over their head right away.

But now, the company said they’re finding some residents who lied about not being covered by insurance or being on a lease with management.

The management company for the owners of 650 Parliament St. said it eliminated funding for hotel accommodations after November as a cost-saving measure.

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“[The owners] are stretched incredibly thin,” said Thomas.

“I think that’s what happened. They’ve been assisting for three months now. I know the numbers were as high as $1 million during the month of October.”

Thomas added the company will fully reimburse Kirkpatrick for his hotel charges, including paying for the two additional rooms, because he is on a lease.

But added Slapinski was not on a lease while staying at the building and will not have his hotel bill covered.

READ MORE: Displaced residents of 650 Parliament St. won’t be allowed back to homes until 2019

“The hotel was booked under my name and I was given a verbal agreement from the worker [that] the hotel was for 2 people and would cover $65 per day per person,” said Slapinski in his defence.

Residents are expected to be out of their homes until early next year, or possibly longer.

“The hardest part is just not knowing,” said Slapinski.

“We don’t know when we’re going to go back.”