St. James Town tenants forced to endure nine months of balcony repairs that were supposed to take three weeks want their money back.
Once again, they're taking their landlord to the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal. This time they're armed with some unlikely ammo - the Grits' Residential Tenancies Act, which has been widely panned by tenant activists as nothing more than a watered-down version of the Harris Tories' hated Tenant Protection Act.
Sheila Cuthbertson, a lawyer for the group, says a reg in the new act stipulates that landlords must not only keep up with repairs, but - and here's the important part - "not interfere unreasonably with a tenant's reasonable enjoyment" of his or her home.
Says Cuthbertson, "The work should be performed and completed reasonably." If successful, the legal challenge could set a new precedent in tenant protection.
Says Dan McIntyre of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, "We're putting this new act to the test by seeing if it'll continue to protect bad landlords."
Andy Lehrer, spokesperson for the St. James Town Residents Association, says concrete was falling off the roof at 260 Wellesley, one of three buildings represented in the action. The others are 240 and 280 Wellesley. "We had three months of 9-to-5 jackhammering, which makes it impossible to live there if you're on shift work," he says.
Other tenant complaints include bedbugs, cockroaches and bad security. Property manager Doug Sartell says safety issues caused the balcony work to drag on.
"I could understand that there were times when tenants were inconvenienced by noise and lack of access to balconies, but we have to keep them safe," he says.
Cuthbertson expects the balcony case will go to the tribunal in June. She expects a second case regarding general maintenance in the buildings to be resolved quickly.
"Tenants are not getting what they bargained for," she says.