Some tenants of a rental complex in Heron Gate, in the south end of Ottawa, are on notice their townhomes will be demolished and they have to move out.
Timbercreek Asset Management, which took over the complex in 2013, delivered eviction notices Oct. 29, telling residents they must leave their homes by Feb. 29, 2016.
In total, 80 units will be demolished.
"I'm very frustrated," said Magda Ibrahim, who lives in one of the units with her husband and six children. "Last week I started having pain in my chest. Maybe too much stress."
Some tenants said eviction is the final insult by landlords who've allowed the buildings to go to ruin.
Tenants said they've been living with problems from bedbugs to leaky plumbing to holes in the walls for years. Timbercreek said the townhomes had multiple problems when they took ownership.
Ibrahim's unit has extensive mould in the bathroom, water leaking into a kitchen cupboard below the sink, and a broken storm door with missing glass.
She said she's happy to leave those problems behind, but not in the middle of winter and halfway through the school year with no idea where to go next.
Residents have limited options
Her reliance on a rental subsidy limits her options, Ibrahim said.
So far, she said Timbercreek has offered her a different Heron Gate townhouse with front stairs unsafe for her daughter, who has co-ordination problems, and another unit across town in Bells Corners.
'All of us [are in] the same boat. We might sink all together.' - Magda Ibrahim
Moving to Bells Corners would require all her children to change schools and to give up language classes and soccer lessons she's already paid for.
"There's single moms, there's moms with special needs kids, there's moms [who are] newcomers," said Ibrahim, who immigrated to Canada from Sudan. "All of us [are in] the same boat. We might sink all together."
Ibrahim and some other Heron Gate tenants organized by the advocacy group ACORN are calling for eviction to be delayed to June.
Timbercreek plans to build new rental housing
Timbercreek is offering residents of the affected units a payout equal to three months' rent, as required by law.
It's topping that up with a moving incentive of $1,500, which is not required, and is extending the same offer to tenants who move within the complex, which also goes beyond its legal obligation.
Timbercreek also defends the timeline for eviction, pointing out that residents began receiving letters in late September even before the formal notice of eviction late last month.
"The Feb. 29 date is really based on the legislation itself, that requires 120 days notice," said Dennis Jacobs, whose planning and public relations firm was hired by Timbercreek to handle communications about the tenant relocation.
Jacobs said Timbercreek would like to initiate demolition and potentially begin construction sometime in 2016 to build new rental housing.
He also said Timbercreek will have spent $30 million by year's end to improve the complex since taking over the property.
Some early movers 'disappointed'
Timbercreek has offered to relocate the evicted tenants to other newly-renovated units nearby.
One tenant who moved in the spring before the eviction notices, Abdullahi Ali, has a cautionary tale about moving into another Heron Gate townhouse.
Ali moved out of one of the units now slated for demolition after he said management refused to fix a bathroom leak that was causing cracks in the kitchen ceiling.
He said he was told the repair was too expensive and the unit would be torn down anyway so he paid a $250 fee to transfer to a different Heron Gate unit, where heat and parking are no longer included in the rent.
His family of nine, including a toddler grandchild, now sleeps on the living room floor to avoid bedbugs upstairs and their clothes are piled nearby, stuffed in garbage bags to keep out pests.
"It has mice, cockroaches, bedbugs. I've been telling these people [for] almost six months to fix this problem once and for all, but they keep telling [us] all these excuses," Ali said. "We're extremely disappointed [about] the way they treat us."
Timbercreek said it is taking steps to deal with the problems in Ali's unit and it has been working to clean up all of the units that evicted tenants are moving into.
Timbercreek said they are sanitizing those units and replacing appliances for evicted tenants.