‘Property management has ceased communication,’ say residents displaced by Toronto apartment fire

Click to play video: 'Residents displaced by North York fire voice fears, frustration about the future'
Residents displaced by North York fire voice fears, frustration about the future
WATCH ABOVE: A group of residents displaced by a North York apartment fire have retained a lawyer as they try to navigate the road ahead. Shallima Maharaj explains. – Dec 3, 2019

Residents of 235 Gosford Blvd. who were displaced after a fire tore through their apartment building in November say the building’s property management company has “ceased communication” with them.

In a press conference held Tuesday morning, residents, along with their lawyers, addressed the situation and called for a “tenable solution to the crisis at hand.”

“I’m here because I have nowhere to live with my son or the dog,” resident Jim Laferriere told reporters, who cited that his employer gave him a “roof over his head” temporarily.

“[The management company] is not supporting us or getting back to us at all and I don’t know what to do anymore.”
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On Nov. 15, a five-alarm fire broke out on the eighth floor of a high-rise apartment building in North York, displacing hundreds of residents.

The fire killed one man and injured six others. Officials said fixing structural damage done to the building due to the fire could take months, forcing residents to find other places to live.

“The landlord has provided some, and I stress the word some, temporary housing for some of the … tenants,” Darryl Singer, lawyer with Diamond & Diamond Lawyers LLP, said.

Most residents have found other places to stay, either by moving out or temporarily staying with family or friends. However, city officials said about 30 residents were housed at the Tait McKenzie Centre at York University, where the City of Toronto provides displaced residents with shelter for up to a two-week period of time which ended last Friday.

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The City of Toronto said those residents were then relocated to hotels by the management company.

“But the landlord has advised that even those people will be on their own after Dec. 31. Many of these tenants have nowhere to go and limited financial resources,” Singer said.

Global News contacted the management company, Ronkay Management Inc. and received a statement Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson said the company is working “as diligently as we can to return clients to as many units as possible as quickly as possible.” The statement said specialists are assessing what’s needed in the restoration

“Every family and every suite faces different challenges. We are working diligently to address everyone’s needs,” the spokesperson wrote.

“Right now, we are focusing on urgent challenges and no decisions have been made beyond December. For now, we are providing transition payments equal to one month’s rent to any eligible clients or lodging for those who need it.”

Gavin Krause, another Gosford Boulevard tenant who spoke on behalf of all residents, said they have exhausted all options and are unable to get answers or email responses from the management company.

“Tenants are overcome by thoughts of where will we find shelter during cold winter storms, what our next meal will be, how can we travel between our destinations and how will we survive the upcoming days and months,” he said.

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Krause said he has been told by other tenants that the property management company is asking for residents to pay rent, even going to hotel rooms where some residents are staying to collect.

“Their own statement, which was also provided to the mayor, states that tenants will not be charged rent for their units from Nov. 15 until we can re-occupy our units,” Krause said.

“This is simply not true.”

Krause said those in hotels who do not pay rent will be kicked out of their rooms and that tenants are hoping to receive assistance from the landlord.

Singer said they are asking the landlord to ensure that all displaced residents are housed, that residents receive promised transition cheques, and provide assistance with lost personal belongings such as clothing, and transportation for children as residents are scattered across the city.

The lawyers said they are looking at either taking the case to the landlord-tenant board or to the courts.

“I’m 61 years old, and to be living in that shelter, I couldn’t believe that I was even at that point in my life, to be honest with you,” Laferriere said.

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As of Tuesday, the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has not determined a cause for the fire.

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