Heron Gate tenants plead for help
Three apartment buildings within a Heron Gate complex have logged the highest number of building complaints in the city, with by-law officers visiting the buildings about 150 times in 2009 alone, according to city documents.
Tenants in the buildings, which stand across from the struggling Herongate Mall, have complained of mice infestations, bedbugs, and a host of repairs they say have been neglected.
The focus of their ire is the complex's landlord, Mississauga, Ont.-based TransGlobe Property Management, which bought the complex three years ago around the time it purchased Herongate Mall.
Three buildings in the complex hold the top three spots on the City of Ottawa's housing complaints list for 2009, and residents said the list reveals only a small part of the problem.
"Originally this neighbourhood was one of the choice places to live, which was why I moved into this area." said Erica Marx, who has lived there since 2007. But now Marx said she is looking to move out.
"It is becoming a slum," she said.
Recently, a lamppost in the common area behind Marx's house nearly toppled over and one of her children got an electric shock from it while playing. Another child in the complex also received a shock from the post. Eventually, TransGlobe sent a worker to cut the wires to the pole, she said.
"I can't imagine what else can be happening in this neighbourhood that could be more important than children being exposed to electric shock. So, obviously their priorities are messed up," said Marx.
City receving complaints directly
TransGlobe declined to be interviewed but said in a statement they have hired a new property management firm and that complaints are now being "actively rectified."
Tenants, however, are increasingly calling the city directly with complaints. Reports to the City's Property Standards department show that in 2009, about 150 visits were made to three buildings within the Heron Gate complex.
Craig Calder, program manager for city by-law enforcement, said the complaints have meant more work for his department.
"Certainly it's a drain on our resources, our limited resources, I might add," he said. "I would certainly appreciate a more proactive approach from the property management company."
Fewer complaints under old regime
The complex was previously owned by Minto and tenants said the decline started when TransGlobe took over.
In 2006, when Minto was the owner, city officials visited the buildings less than 10 times.
City complaints are sorted into a number of categories including external damage, interior damage, insufficient heating and hazardous waste, such as needles or syringes. Properties in the Heron Gate village neighbourhood led the city in complaints concerning interior damage and insufficient heating last year.
John Dickie, the chair of the Eastern Ontario Landlords Organization, said when one landlord performs below the level tenants expect, it can impact the reputation of all landlords.
"It's obviously unsatisfactory for tenants not to receive proper maintenance," said Dickie. "It also certainly has an impact on the company in question because of their reputation."
With files from Stuart Thomson, Laura Osman and Lucas Timmons