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Ottawa Citizen: Watson wants Heron Gate Property Properly Managed - ACORN Canada

Ottawa Citizen: Watson wants Heron Gate Property Properly Managed

Posted August 16, 2011

OTTAWA — Mayor Jim Watson is putting pressure on landlord TransGlobe to address the shoddy state of its Heron Gate Village properties, scheduling a meeting with tenants and management for early September.

“We’ll get everything ironed out with property standards in one room at one time and try and resolve this. Because it’s frustrating when I see pictures of the condition of some of the units,” Watson said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “Hopefully that will be a catalyst for the landlord to act more responsibly.”

Tenants who live in the Heron Gate Village complex of townhouses and apartments continued their campaign to improve the condition of their units Monday morning, calling on Watson and the City of Ottawa to enforce bylaws and require TransGlobe, the company that owns the buildings, to live up to its obligations as landlord. On July 26, about 100 tenants marched through the complex, carrying posters with pictures of mould, garbage and flood damage and demanding TransGlobe complete outstanding repairs.

At a press conference at the Heron Road Community Centre organized by the tenants’ rights organization ACORN [Canada], residents said little has changed since the demonstration. Abdullahi Ali, who said he went without heat or hot water for a week this winter, said the city needs to step up penalties for property standards violations if TransGlobe won’t comply on its own.

OTTAWA — Mayor Jim Watson is putting pressure on landlord TransGlobe to address the shoddy state of its Heron Gate Village properties, scheduling a meeting with tenants and management for early September.

“We’ll get everything ironed out with property standards in one room at one time and try and resolve this. Because it’s frustrating when I see pictures of the condition of some of the units,” Watson said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “Hopefully that will be a catalyst for the landlord to act more responsibly.”

Tenants who live in the Heron Gate Village complex of townhouses and apartments continued their campaign to improve the condition of their units Monday morning, calling on Watson and the City of Ottawa to enforce bylaws and require TransGlobe, the company that owns the buildings, to live up to its obligations as landlord. On July 26, about 100 tenants marched through the complex, carrying posters with pictures of mould, garbage and flood damage and demanding TransGlobe complete outstanding repairs.

At a press conference at the Heron Road Community Centre organized by the tenants’ rights organization ACORN [Canada], residents said little has changed since the demonstration. Abdullahi Ali, who said he went without heat or hot water for a week this winter, said the city needs to step up penalties for property standards violations if TransGlobe won’t comply on its own.

“We fill the work orders again and again and again. And no result,” he said. “We need the city to do its job in enforcing the property standards law in the area.”

On Sept. 1, TransGlobeREIT will assume ownership and property management responsibilities of 1,300 of the 1,800 units in the Heron Gate complex. TransGlobe owns about 15 per cent of TransGlobeREIT, a publicly traded company that has been acquiring many of TransGlobe’s properties across Canada.

TransGlobe will hold 20 per cent of the REIT shares after Sept. 1. The company owning the 500 remaining units will be renamed.

Kely Hanczyk, the CEO of TransGlobeREIT, said he was aware of the problems in the Heron Gate Village and plans to address them once his company assumes ownership, although he wouldn’t say what specific steps he will take.

“Under the REIT, we’ll run it professionally and the way it should be run,” he said. “We’ve done our investigation and we know what we’re going to do when we come in.”

However, Hanczyk said he believes the units with the worst outstanding repair problems are not among the 1,300 being taken over by TransGlobeREIT.

Watson said he spoke with TransGlobeREIT’s Chief Operating Officer Monday, who agreed to meet with Watson, tenants, ACORN members and Alta Vista ward councillor Peter Hume and address their concerns.

Currently, however, the situation is so bad, the City of Ottawa has taken the unprecedented move of assigning a full-time bylaw officer to handle complaints from tenants. Residents in the complex complain to the city more often than anyone else in Ottawa, with bylaw officers logging 90 complaints and 36 work orders and property standards violations in 2011 so far.

Watson said the bylaw officer is to patrol the area to look for infractions rather than waiting for complaints.

“Our folks are going to be there on a much more frequent basis to document any problems,” he said. “And if they’re not handled in a satisfactory fashion, either we’ll do the work and add it to their tax bill, or we’ll lay charges.”

So far, however, the problem hasn’t been TransGlobe refusing to do repairs outright. Instead, the company tends to wait for an order from the city instead of completing work when requested by tenants, according to the city’s bylaw enforcement co-ordinator.

Alta Vista ward councillor Peter Hume said bylaw officers are bound by provincial enforcement rules. If TransGlobe takes the city to court, bylaw officers have to be able to argue the penalties and the amount of time given to fix the problem were reasonable.

That leaves tenants and the city in a frustrating position, he said. “It’s like disciplining an errant child.”

The company appears to take a similar tactic when dealing with complaints to the Better Business Bureau.

Ontario residents have filed 41 BBB complaints against TransGlobe’s Mississauga head office in the past three years. No other property management company in southern Ontario has more than five.

Yet TransGlobe’s BBB rating remains a B, with the organization saying it is satisfied TransGlobe addresses complaints “in good faith” when they are brought to its attention.

Watson said the current state of affairs is unacceptable and needs resolution.

“It’s in everyone’s interest, quite frankly. The reputation of the company, the savings for the taxpayers and the peace of mind of the residents. This issue should be resolved sooner rather than later.”

Original article available at: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Watson+wants+Heron+Gate+property+properly+managed/5258554/story.html#ixzz1VC2seMuv