Posted August 19, 2021
Rexdale tenants of 1960-built low-rise apartment buildings and townhouses are protesting what they charge are years of maintenance and repair issues not addressed by Pinedale Properties.
Four low-rise apartments and 60 townhouses on Bergamot Avenue gave long-standing tenants affordable homes as city rents skyrocketed beyond reach.
The Hussain-Ezzi family pays $1,200 a month, plus hydro and parking, for a three-bedroom apartment. Monique Gordon pays $1,220 rent for her three-bedroom in the same building.
But both say living conditions at Bergamot are bringing some tenants to the breaking point.
Sakina Hussain-Ezzi said she was pregnant, and later bathed her newborn son, Burhanuddin, in their bathroom riddled with black mould on the bathtub, tiles, walls, ceiling and under the sink.
Black mould along the bathtub and tile of the Hussain-Ezzi's bathroom in their Pinedale Properties' Bergamot apartment, where daughter Sakina bathes her baby son, Burhanuddin. The superintendent has since removed the mould. Sakina Hussain-Ezzi and Radiyah Hussain-Ezzi photos
“It’s terrible, really terrible,” she said. “They painted right over the existing mould and said it wouldn’t come back. A year later, not only did it come back, it spread even further. (Since then) our superintendent came in, scrubbed down the mould and applied some chemicals to kill and prevent it from coming back.”
Last week, the family got a new stove after earlier attempts to repair it failed. Hussain-Ezzi said she was asked verbally to contribute $250 toward the new unit. She refused.
“Our stove was sparking even when it was off. You could smell the wiring burning,” she said. “I have a baby. They said if we wanted to replace the stove it would cost us $250. I said no. That doesn’t seem right.”
Isabelle Garcia, Pinedale Properties’ property manager of 9-27 Bergamot Ave., did not respond to repeated calls and emails requesting comment on tenants’ repairs, maintenance and security concerns.
Last Friday, housing advocacy group Toronto ACORN (Association of Community Organization for Reform Now) members and 9-27 Bergamot Ave. tenants rallied for improved living conditions.
This comes after a Toronto ACORN letter to Pinedale dated June 17 demanded action on tenants’ issues, including mice, cockroach and bedbug infestations; building maintenance, plumbing and security issues; frequent sewage backup; and no building security.
This year, the city has issued two property standards orders against Pinedale and is working with them to bring them into compliance. Municipal licensing officers have also visited the properties 19 times this year and investigated 30 tenants’ complaints, city spokesperson Lyne Kyle said in an email.
“This includes conducting ongoing inspections and issuing property standard orders for areas of concerns that do not meet regulations set out under the City’s Property Standards Bylaw and/or Apartment Buildings Bylaw,” Kyle wrote.
Many tenants feel trapped.
“The problem is rents are so high in Toronto,” Hussain-Ezzi said. “Where can low-income people live? We can’t afford double the rent for a two-bedroom apartment. But management is really pushing our limits.”
At the rally, Monique Gordon, a Toronto ACORN member and Hussain-Ezzi’s neighbour, urged tenants to first email Garcia their complaints, then call 311 if repairs did not happen, and keep the report number.
City bylaws require landlords respond to urgent service requests, such as no heat or water, within 24 hours, and non-urgent service requests within seven days.
“Stop being afraid,” Gordon told tenants. “Stop paying $250 for a fridge and $250 for a stove. You as a group need to fight back against Pinedale. If you need help, come to me.”
Gordon took a reporter to her apartment, where paint is peeling on her kitchen cabinets and mould is growing on her bathtub stopper. She also showed a reporter the lockers in the basement of two townhouse complexes where black mould was forming two feet up the wall and on the stairs from what Gordon said was flooding.
“Life has been rough for the majority of tenants,” Gordon said in an interview. “People are getting tired. They’re tired of fighting the battle. … “If (Pinedale) would just (repair) one thing at a time and do it properly, the place would be livable. Right now, it’s not livable.”
Article by Tamara Shephard for Toronto.com