Potentially hazardous mould leaves tenants homeless

A building in a central Montreal borough has been evacuated after inspectors deemed the mould-ridden units a health hazard to tenants.
Tenants of the six-unit building on Stuart Avenue were forced out Thursday after inspectors deemed the apartments potentially hazardous. (CBC)

A building in central Montreal borough has been evacuated after inspectors deemed the mould-ridden units a health hazard to tenants.

"There's a lot of fungus – I mean just walking into the building you get a whiff of the smell that is very strong," said Parc Extension city councillor, Mary Deros. "So, [inspectors] said that they have to move out."

The six-unit building in the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough has been the subject of at least half a dozen complaints from tenants in recent years. 

There are an estimated 16 children among the four families occupying the building.

Dangerous level of mould

Malik said the mould has spread throughout the apartment. (CBC)
In early November, tenant Ali Malik complained the landlord of the Stuart Street building had failed to make repairs promised when he, his wife and four children moved in July 2011.

After a subsequent visit by a borough inspector, public health authorities concluded water-infiltration and excess humidity had led to a dangerous level of mould contamination. 

They ordered Malik to decontaminate all the furniture in the apartment, and he gave the family two weeks to find a new place to live.       

A borough inspector paid a second visit to the building on November 9, this time visiting all four occupied apartments and the empty basement, where stagnant water can be seen pooled on the floor.  

Twenty-four hours later, the borough issued the evacuation order.       

The apartment building is registered in the name of Patricia di Giambattista, though tenants say they deal with Claudio di Giambattista.        

The man owns several buildings in the low-income Montreal neighbourhood and is notorious for his run-ins with tenants, tenants' rights activists and city officials.        

Mould in the shower at Malik's Stuart Avenue apartment. (CBC)
 In 2001, a judged named di Giambattista a vexatious litigator for wasting valuable court time with incoherent lawsuits, after the city of Montreal condemned two of his buildings in Côte-des-Neiges.

More recently, the city undertook tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to another Parc Extension building owned by the same di Giambattista. 

It has billed those repairs back to the landlord, but Deros says the city is still waiting to get its money back from di Giambattista.       

Di Giambattista has not returned calls from CBC.  

However, he showed up at the Stuart Street building just hours after reporters left the premises on November 8th.  Ali caught him on video, loudly cursing him in front of the tenant’s children and neighbours. 

Police were called to the scene.

A borough official said Montreal's municipal housing authority will find emergency shelter for the families, likely in the downtown YMCA, until permanent new homes can be found for them.