Long processing times discourage students from fighting construction delays

Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo and MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo Catherine Fife say student tenants' rights need more protection from the province.

MPP Catherine Fife says student tenants don’t have enough protection

The sign advertising the units at TheHub says "guaranteed move-in August 2017," but three towers experienced weeks of delay. (Brooke Willis)

Dissatisfied tenants at TheHub were planning on filing a collective T6 to the Landlord and Tenant Board for concerns over maintenance of the units, but legal counsel advised against it because of the legnthy process.

"It's going to take quite a long time to actually see any sort of remedy from this if they're looking to file a joint application with 300 individuals," said Giordano Modesto, a community legal worker at Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.

Modesto said there's a lot of evidence that will need to be collected and reviewed for such a collective filing. Even an individual T6 claim could take months to reach a resolution, considering general delays from the board and the landlord.

Lengthy processing times at the Landlord and Tenant Board has long been a concern for students, according to the Federation of Students (Feds) at the University of Waterloo.

When tenants at 1 Columbia filed to the Board, Andrew Clubine at Feds said there were several months of dispute before a resolution was reached.

"The process doesn't happen quick enough to give students the assurance that it's kind of worth following through with," said Andrew Clubine, the vice president of education at Feds.

Due to construction delays at the K2 condo building, students expecting to move in September, 2016 were still in October. (Carmen Ponciano/ CBC News)

Expediting applications 'a doable option'

Clubine said the problem is many students at Laurier and UW are co-op students, only in the city four months at a time for their classes before moving away for a work term.

"If they don't have assurance that the issue can be resolved quickly, they will likely just leave the problem to the next tenant, because we have such high turnovers," he said.

Clubine, along with Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife, said they're hoping the Landlord and Tenant Board can expedite student applications.

"That is completely a doable option," Fife said.

They would also like to see the province review of the Residential Tenancy Act to ensure that "students have a streamlined, accelerated process, would empower them as consumers."

Not enough protection for students

Fife said student tenants' rights are generally not well-protected. 

"They have very few avenues for which to advocate for their units to be completed on time and on budget, with the amenities that they have been promised," she said.
Construction workers outside 1 Columbia Street West on Sept. 15, 2014. The building was scheduled to be completed Sept. 4, 2014. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

For the past few years, new condo buildings around University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University have been promising move-in dates for September, but too often students arrive to find them construction incomplete.

This year TheHub, owned by Accommod8u, saw weeks of delay. When students finally moved in, they discovered the units were not finished. 

Despite complaints the city should not be issuing occupancy permits to unfinished units, there is nothing the city can do because they are obligated to give out permits as long as they meet safety requirements set out by the Building Code.

"What we're hoping to educate students on is for them to know what occupancy really means for a new building," Clubine said. "It doesn't mean your gym will be ready."

Fife said cities should stop granting permits to "contractors who have a track record of not honouring their commitments to consumers, in this case, students," pointing out students at Western University, Ryerson University and Queen's University have experienced similar problems. 

About the Author

Flora Pan

Associate Producer & Reporter/Editor

Flora Pan is a multimedia journalist based in southern Ontario. She currently works out of Windsor. You can reach her at flora.pan@cbc.ca or on Twitter @FloraTPan.

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