EMC News: Herongate tenants win battle for repairs

From left, George Brown, ACORN legal council, Daniel Tucker-Simmons, law student at the University of Ottawa, Suzanne Bouclin and David Wiseman professors at the University of Ottawa faculty of law attend an ACORN press conference on Oct. 2.EMC news - Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board has awarded tenants living with mould on their windows and holes in their walls in the Herongate area more than $75,000 in rebates and repairs.

For months, Ottawa ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has been lobbying to force property owners to put much-needed repairs into homes and apartments in the Herongate community.

On Oct. 2, members of ACORN called a press conference to announce what they called "celebrating a win" against a landlord in Herongate.

"We are here to celebrate some victories that we have had with our rental abetments and to thank all our volunteers who helped us over time dealing with the rent abetments," said Mavis Finnamore, ACORN member, adding that the group has had a 95 per cent success rate in pleading out their cases.

So far 31 cases have gone through or are still pending at the Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board, according to ACORN.

Finnamore said she hoped their success would encourage other tenants to go after landlords who are slow with repairs.

In previous years, property owners Transglobe REIT and Starlight Properties have come under pressure to perform repairs to the housing complex.

Timbercreek Asset Management now owns most of the highrises in Herongate since June and some tenants said conditions have been slowly improving.

Derek Rider, Timbercreek's regional manager, said the rebates and repairs ACORN referred to was for rulings since February for all Herongate properties, not for any one individual property owner./

"Timbercreek has been an owner and manager of some properties in this community since July," he said.

"As part of the Herongate community, Timbercreek has appeared at the tribunal mostly as a result of carryover from the previous property owners."

He added that Timbercreeks exchange with ACORN has been a positive and productive one.

"We value the feedback from ACORN and all members of our community on what we can do to make this a fantastic place for our residents to call home," said Rider.

"We feel we've made huge strides here in the Herongate community and are particularly proud of the positive words and letters of thanks and support we've received from our residents since we acquired this property just over three months ago."

Last month, Timbercreek organized an appreciation day to show their thanks to the residents.

"This event had a phenomenal turnout and was an excellent opportunity for the residents to engage with us in a positive environment.

We continue to look forward to building a partnership with our residents as we work to strengthen our community," said Rider.

In the past, dozens of ACORN members have worked with pro-bono lawyers, law students and professors to force landlords to act on issues of repairs.

Finnamore said she hopes their case will set a precedent and make the city create a bylaw that would create a minimum standard for residential properties.

"There are quite a lot of problems that we're developing here and repairs were simply not done," she said. "That is a tremendous sign of success and makes me think, yes, we can make this area beautiful as it was once."

Finnamore credits their success to the dedication and solidarity of all the volunteers, who included Daniel Tucker-Simmons, a second-year law student at the University of Ottawa.

"It was a huge eye-opening experience. We encountered tremendous difficulties that low- and middle-income people face in terms of trying to assert their rights to decent housing," said Tucker-Simmons.

"We learned that unless people demand their rights and take action to places like the tribunal, their rights are not going to be respected."