Tenants in Mississauga fed up with pests, broken elevators and strangers appearing in hallways and stairwells

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Published July 11, 2023 at 2:08 pm

tenants say more protection needed brampton mississauga
Tenants in Brampton and Mississauga say they need more protection - photo by Ayşenaz Bilgin

Tenants at three buildings in Mississauga are asking the city and their property management company to do more to control pests, alleviate ongoing construction-related disruptions, keep elevators running and increase security. 

In May, Peel ACORN, an independent social and economic justice organization comprised of low- and moderate-income Mississauga residents, organized a protest for tenants living in buildings at 2185 Sheridan Park Dr. and 2250 Homelands Dr. 

Some tenants say the buildings, owned by Starlight Investments and managed by Forest Hill Kipling, are plagued by recurrent issues such as mouse and cockroach infestations, elevator breakdowns, and construction-related headaches that seem to go on indefinitely. 

One tenant who lives in another Starlight-owned and Forest Hill Kipling-run building located at 100 Dundas St. E. in Mississauga says that not only has she been experiencing pest infestations and elevator disruptions but has also encountered strangers in her building who make her and her family feel unsafe. 

“We’ve had the mice problem for about two years or so, probably more. Right now, it’s a pandemic with the mice,” says Marcia Bryan, chairperson for the Cooksville chapter of Peel ACORN. 

“Most units are affected [by mice]. They’re treating, but not treating the source of the problem. They’re putting down traps with poison, but the mice are in the walls and they’re chewing through the walls and tenants have proof. They need to treat the source of the problem, which is where the mice are coming from.” 

Bryan also told insauga.com that tenants in her building are experiencing ongoing issues with cockroaches in their units and non-residents appearing in stairwells and the parking garage. 

“You can’t just spray one unit for cockroaches, you have to treat all of them. Every day, the service elevator breaks down and there are a lot of homeless people in the building. Safety and security is not Starlight’s concern.” 

Const. Sarah Patten, a public and media relations officer with Peel Regional Police, told insauga.com that four incidents were reported to police between Jan. 1 and June 8. Patten said that police received reports of an unhoused woman in a stairwell on May 2, and the day prior, police were told that a person who did not live in the building was seen “breaking bottles and urinating” in the facility. 

In March, police received reports of four people consuming drugs in a stairwell, and in April, police were told a woman who did not live in the building was knocking on doors. 

Patten said the individuals all left before officers arrived, and no charges were laid in connection with any of the alleged incidents. 

Starlight did not respond to insauga.com’s request for comment by publication time.

During the May 26 demonstration, impacted tenants participated in the ACORN-organized speak-out to discuss their concerns and ask Forest Hill Kipling to develop an action plan. 

ACORN also hoped the demonstration would encourage the city to look closer at the buildings through its recently-implemented Mississauga Apartment Rental Compliance (MARC) program. 

The pilot program, introduced in 2021 after advocacy groups told city council that some landlords were refusing to address everything from heating malfunctions to pest infestations in several buildings, is an apartment building standards and maintenance program.

Similar to Toronto’s RentSafe program, MARC includes proactive rather than reactive building inspections and lays out city-wide property standards that all rental building operators must adhere to. 

According to the city, MARC covers 337 buildings and over 30,000 units.

ACORN said that despite tenant concerns, 2185 Sheridan Drive got a rating of 82 per cent from MARC inspectors, while 2250 Homelands had not yet been inspected as of May 2023. 

In February, 100 Dundast St. E. received a MARC score of 79 per cent. 

A City of Mississauga spokesperson told insauga.com that the property owner of 100 Dundas St. E. was issued one notice of contravention and six property standards orders requiring several deficiencies to be corrected.

“The compliance date for the notice of a contravention recently expired (in June) and a follow-up inspection revealed it had been partially complied with,” the spokesperson said in an email. 

“The municipal law enforcement officers will continue to monitor the property for compliance and take appropriate action, as required.” 

According to a report provided by ACORN, MARC inspectors found the parking garage in the building to be in poor condition. The grounds, roof, lobby, elevators, stairwells, mechanical and service rooms, hallways and other parts of the building were found to be in “good” or “very good” condition. 

The building’s amenities (pool, playground, party room, etc) were not evaluated. 

Bryan said that while building management told her they would increase security patrols, she has yet to see a positive impact. 

“There’s graffiti on the walls. Cars have been broken into in the underground parking lot. They say they have increased security, but I don’t see it,” she says, adding that she’s seen urine, feces and knives in the stairwell. 

Bryan said that MARC inspectors have been responding to 311 calls from tenants and that she spoke to one during a recent visit. 

“Tenants have been calling 311 because they need to live in an environment that’s healthy. We tell tenants to utilize it and not to be scared.”

Some tenants in 2185 Sheridan Park Drive, the building that received an 82 per cent grade on a recent MARC inspection, say they’re tired of constant cockroach infestations and construction-related disruptions that have kept them from opening their windows on hot days. 

“The chronic attempt to remove the cockroaches isn’t working,” says Twyla Abbott. 

“The [management] constantly asks us to empty our kitchen cupboards, move things from walls. The cabinetry is high, so for seniors or people with accessibility needs, it’s a daunting task and they’re asked to do it repeatedly.” 

Abbott told insauga.com that people who don’t comply with the instructions are told they could face a fine. 

“They want everything off countertops, everything out of the cupboards, appliances pulled out, everything. On average, it happens every six months, sometimes closer together.”

Another tenant, Dwayne Liburd, says bed bugs are also a problem in the building. 

Abbott says tenants are unsure of who to go to, saying queries sent to management often go unanswered. 

“When we go to our source of building management, there’s no communication back. To go above that and go to corporate with written or verbal concerns…they’re dismissed or ignored completely. ACORN got our attention because no one knew how to get somebody to listen,” she told insauga.com. 

“The [management company] has office hours, but my hours are outside of their hours. I’ve never seen the office open when I’m home from work. On weekends, when a lot problems fall, no one is around to address them.”

Liburd says elevators are often broken. 

“One tenant moved out because of the elevator issue. It’s a long-standing issue that constantly occurs,” he says. 

He also says ongoing construction has created constant headaches for tenants. 

“They’ve built a brand new building on the lot. With that, there were upgrades–they said they’d add a gym, upgrade the pool and different things. They said we’d be able to use shared community space. It was supposed to be finished in September 2022, and it’s just kind of wrapping up now. Water is constantly being shut off in the building. They turned the power off. A lot of disruption over the years with water shutoffs and a sewage backup. At one point, we couldn’t use our parking spaces,” he says. 

“Because of the dust, you can’t use the balcony or open the windows sometimes and there’s no air conditioning.” 

“For two or three whole seasons, we could not access our outdoor space,” Abbott adds, saying she and Liburd are also dealing with a significant rent increase. 

“We also got a maximum rent increase, which just baffled me.”

Abbott and Liburd told insauga.com that they’re fine with upgrades and repairs, but the delays make it harder to stomach rent hikes. 

“We can hear a jackhammer all day long, and painters are outside our windows on weekends. I think a reasonable project completed in a reasonable amount of time [is acceptable], and if they’re not able to complete it in the timeframe, there should be some form of accountability or compensation,” Abbott says.  

A City of Mississauga spokesperson told insauga.com that the property owner of 2185 Sheridan Park Drive was provided with a list of minor deficiencies after an inspection, but no notices of contravention or property standards orders were issued. 

The city said no charges have been laid against the owner of the property. 

Liburd says some tenants feel there’s no recourse. 

“There’s no accountability for property owners and property management. When you leave, they double the rent and put someone else in.” 

Danny Roth, a spokesperson for Forest Hill Kipling, says the company “takes concerns seriously” and is doing its part to manage pest and security-related concerns. 

“We are aware of reports of increased rodent activity at the property and our pest control professionals have mitigation efforts underway. While we are increasing efforts to meet this challenge, it’s important to note that there is intensive construction activity adjacent to the community and development work can often lead to challenges at neighbouring sites,” Roth said in an email to insauga.com. 

“This is unfortunate but not unusual and we are doing everything necessary to address this situation, including a building-wide pest control program and bi-weekly suite treatments.”

Roth also spoke about safety concerns at 100 Dundas St. E. 

“We are also aware of the expressed concerns regarding resident safety and have recently added additional security staff to the community, including the addition of night patrols.  We hope these additional efforts provide greater comfort to our residents.”

Roth also said that the company has a good track record when it comes to responding to maintenance requests. 

“Our property management tracking program shows that nearly 100 per cent of all resident-reported maintenance concerns have been fully addressed. The handful of those that are ongoing or are being reported currently have our complete attention and will be resolved shortly.”

Liburd and Abbott say there are often communication issues, with requests for repairs going unacknowledged if the appropriate parts are unavailable. Liburd also says more serious issues have not been communicated to him and other tenants in a timely fashion. 

“There was a flood in the basement that smelled of sewage and we had to press [management] for information. You could smell it in the elevator shaft,” he says.  

Ultimately, tenants such as Bryan want to see significant improvements that last. 

“[My building is] rundown, like living in the slums,” she says, adding that other Starlight-owned buildings she’s seen appear to be in better shape.

“Here, we’re left to do our own thing. The building says it has increased security, but I don’t see [security staff]. We’re paying rent. If we don’t pay by the first, we get emails right away, so why can’t they be quick to fix things in here?” 

Bryan said there wouldn’t be protests and speak-outs if issues such as pest infestations were being resolved.  

“If things were working, we wouldn’t be gathering and coming together about this. They make promises, promises, promises. It’s just not working.”

Bryan also says more tenants must be aware of the MARC program and that the program needs to be stricter. 

“Not a lot of tenants know about this program. We have to do more to educate [people] and say this program exists, use it. We want to make sure tenants use it.” 

Bryan, Liburd and Abbott also say tenants need to feel empowered to speak up.

“We’re just trying to be part of the solution to make our lives better and others too,” Liburd says. 

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