‘Beyond stressed’ Hamilton tenants with no running water left to wonder


Published February 22, 2023 at 3:07 pm

In Hamilton, it is possible for a landlord to go almost three months without restoring running water to tenants who fear that leaving will open the door to renoviction.

The weeks-long saga of 1083 Main St. E., an older apartment building in the Delta neighbhourhood, has taken another twist. The remaining tenants there have been without running water since Dec. 28 — eight weeks ago as of Wednesday — while landlord 1083 Main St. Inc. maintains, publicly, that the 60-unit building must be empty in order for planned renovations to go ahead. Residents who have to go off-site to a Stoney Creek motel to shower, and are having water delivered by the City of Hamilton, have shared fears that leaving will put them out in the cold.

The dispute about renovations will be heard at a Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) hearing on March 8. On Tuesday (Feb. 21), the all-volunteer property standards committee accepted a joint submission from the landlord and the City of Hamilton that stated the tenants have to leave for the work to be done, even as it confirmed the municipal order. The tenants have retained legal counsel through the city’s tenant defence fund.

That decision led to city council approvincg a motion, brought by Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann, that instructs for city staff to “take and enforce all available actions… to ensure clean, running water is restored as expeditiously as possible for the residents.” It was approved by a 13-0 vote. It also calls for a review of the city’s vital services bylaw, which was last updated in 2021.

“We can’t just walk into private property and tell the owner what to do, but we can truncate the timeline to get those things done,” Mayor Andrea Horwath said. “That is what we are asking for staff, and they understand that is what we want … We should take this on, because the level of government that looks after the Landlord and Tenant Act didn’t — and won’t.”

Prior to that, council was told that the property standards committee will not necessarily consider the matter immediately after March 8. It has to be revisited with 45 days, or by April 7. Jason Thorne, the city economic and planning development general manager, told city council on Wednesday that tenants would receive more information over the next two days. A report on whether Hamilton could adopt anti-renoviction bylaws similar to those in New Westminster, B.C., is due to be presented to council in April.

In the morning, Nann called the 45-day timeline “unacceptable” during the council meeting. Horwath said the province has not been “addressing seriously” the issues that renters face. A report last fall by CBC said the waiting period for a hearing at the LTB is eight months.

“It’s frustrating for cities — but nowhere near as frustrating as it is for tenants — to have to pick up the cracks in administration and the cracks in regulation,” Horwath said.

Multiple requests for comment to Caveat LLP, the legal representative of 1083 Main St Inc., have not been returned.

The ACORN Hamilton tenant group released a statement earlier on Wednesday quoting longtime tenants who are trying to keep stable housing.

“I am beyond stressed. It has taken a toll on my health — mentally and physically,” Chad Ward, a 17-year resident, said in ACORN Hamilton’s statement. “I am not sleeping well. It’s on your mind every hour but my family cannot afford to move.”

There were nine occupied units when running water was lost on Dec. 28 and the issue was reported to city bylaw. Published reports indicate that seven remain occupied. The initial deadline for the landlord to complete the work was on Jan. 24, but it appealed the order, leading to the meeting on Tuesday.

At that meeting, 1083 Main St. Inc. indicated it was willing to pick up the tab for delivering potable water to the building, after the city spent around $12,000 doing so across the last several weeks.

The latest rentals.ca National Rent Report shows that the average cost of a one-bedroom rental in Hamilton is $1,868, and the average cost of a two-bedroom is $2,280 (both up around 6 per cent from one month prior). A longtime tenant, all variables being equal, usually pays a lower rent than a new one on account of provincial guidelines on rent increases (which can also be taken up at the LTB).

In its statement, ACORN asked for an explanation of why the city presented a joint submission with the landlord “instead of seeking immediate compliance or (starting) the repairs themselves.” The renter group also made calls related to bylaw changes, the need for a landlord licensing program, and improved municipal supports for tenants, including increased funding to the tenant defence fund — which the residents are using to pay for a lawyer.

(Cover image: Google Earth.)

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