Hundreds of downtown apartment residents now face the possibility of becoming homeless as their landlord no longer foots the bill to stay in hotel rooms.
Multiple pipe bursts at the 41-story Westview Heights Apartments on Southwest Eighth Avenue left all 297 units without heat or power for much of the end of December.
Water flooded the stairs and several floors, and with the heat not working properly, it didn’t take long for the ice to form, covering parts of the interiors of the buildings.
Residents were sent to nearby hotels paid for by property management company Mayflower Ventures for a total of three days, but now tenants say they are being forced to pay on their own or go to a homeless shelter. shelter.
“I’ve basically paid $ 600 in the last 48 hours just for housing, that doesn’t include any food or any of my regular expenses,” said Laura Montague, an 18-year-old student who is currently paying out of pocket. stay in a hotel.
“I’ve been quite distraught these last few days, it’s difficult to stay together. I tried to get help from the Alberta Emergency Benefits, but I don’t qualify to be married or have children, so I was told to go to a shelter.
Funds are running out for many tenants in the building, including Steve Schutte who has had to ask family and friends for extra money just to get by.
“I had no electricity, no water, I sat in the dark, frozen for days and days and days,” he said.
“You finally have some life, then all of a sudden you’re kicked out and I’m now in debt of $ 1,300, just to my family for the last week of paying the hotels.”
Mayflower Ventures did not respond to media inquiries from CTV News, but a memo obtained from tenants on December 29 indicates that a schedule for the return to the building is still tentative for next week.
“The earliest tentative date we are considering is January 5, 2022,” the note read.
“Please understand that this is subject to change. The only thing we can assure you is that we are all working as hard as possible to get you back to your homes.”
Mayflower Ventures has added a phone number available to tenants eligible for emergency benefits, but not everyone is eligible and life situations are rare for those without options.
The building’s four systems are currently under construction (electrical, fire safety, elevators and mechanics), but freezing temperatures have caused several delays in repairs.
Westview Heights tenant Adam Bremner told CTV News he saw people still inside the building and was concerned for their safety.
“There are still people residing in the building right now who still cannot get out due to medical issues, even with the help of the Calgary Fire Department or EMS,” he said.
“They won’t be able to leave until the elevators are working again as soon as possible.”
THE CAPACITY OF “TENANTS” TO COLLECT DAMAGES MAY BE LIMITED: LAWYER
Kahane Law’s Head of Advisory and Litigation, Chadwick Newcombe, explains that there are several factors for tenants to consider when they have been placed in a situation where pipes have burst and living conditions are uninhabitable .
Newcombe says most of the leases themselves deal with damage or things that happen when the premises become uninhabitable, but the Residential Tenancies Act takes precedence over anything mentioned in a lease.
“For example, a landlord must provide habitable space and if he is unable to do so, the law provides for remedies in terms of action or a claim for damages,” he said. .
“A statement that the contracts have been broken, you know, can even under certain circumstances give tenants an opportunity to say that we’re going to treat this term rental now as over and live elsewhere.”
At the same time, if the tenant has purchased insurance and their insurance company covers their expenses, the tenant’s ability to recover damages from the landlord may be limited due to amounts paid by the insurer.
“For example, if they have $ 1,000 out of their pocket and the insurance company pays them $ 750 for their damages, they may only be able to get the $ 250 they have left,” Newcombe added.
“And their insurer may have a claim against the landlord for the $ 750 the insurer paid the tenant.”
CTV News has also contacted Service Alberta for clarity on the matter.
In a statement, communications director Jennifer Mitok said:
“In Alberta, the Residential Tenancies Act does not contain any provision regarding emergency situations.
“Homeowners may have some coverage under their insurance policy for tenant housing costs in the event of an emergency. Renters’ insurance can also include coverage for temporary housing in an emergency like this. “
A LOCAL MOSQUE HELPS RESIDENTS IN NEED
The Green Dome Mosque at 4616 80 Avenue NE provides warm clothing, food, and a place for Calgarians to stay warm during extreme cold conditions.
Malik Ashraf, who volunteers at the mosque, said residents of Westview Heights Apartments would be welcomed with open arms.
“The purpose of life here is to give back to society,” he said.
“We want to at least do whatever we can to help those in need, who have no food or shelter. We currently have a food bank and more than 100 families come every month, doing groceries for a whole month, so if anyone needs help us, please come see us. “
Mosque volunteers also sent food to Sandman and Ramada hotels in downtown Calgary, where dozens of Westview Heights Apartments residents are currently staying.