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150 Sanford, now half empty, has many problems still not fixed

The city is looking at its next steps after the owners of 150 Sanford Ave. N have complied with only some of the long-outstanding orders on the 13-storey apartment building.

Building is less than 50 per cent occupied, councillor says

'The place is almost empty, so I don’t know what’s going on,' Dan Gushie says of life at 150 Sanford Ave. N. The building's owners have complied with some city orders, while others remain outstanding. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city is looking at its next steps after the owners of 150 Sanford Ave. N. met deadlines for only some of the long-outstanding orders to address fire, health and safety issues at the 13-storey apartment building.

Among the orders not complied with are several from the Hamilton Fire Department to bring the building in compliance with the fire code. The owners have complied with a public health order, which was to work with a pest control company to rid the building of cockroaches and bed bugs. 

Tourbillon Facility Inc. has also faced numerous orders on the property related to poor living conditions in the building, many of which have not been addressed. 

There has been some progress, said Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3, who’s holding another meeting with tenants on Feb. 24.

I’m at the stage now where I’m running out of patience.- Coun. Matthew Green

He’s met with Tourbillon, which seems intent on fixing the issues.

But many of the original tenants have moved out, and Green estimates that the building is less than 50 per cent occupied. And issues persist.

“I’m at the stage now where I’m running out of patience,” he said.

The building came into the spotlight late last year when, prompted by tenant complaints, Green held a public meeting and organized a resident survey to take stock of issues.

Problems included garbage piled in chutes up to the sixth floor, urine and feces in the stairwells, squatters living in vacant units and a broken entrance door and intercom system. Some of those have been fixed.

The Toronto-based principles for Tourbillon Facility Inc. have deep ties in real estate. One of them is Daniel Gryfe, whose family owns a long-time Toronto bagel company.

He didn’t return CBC Hamilton's request for comment on Tuesday.

One of those tenants, Sam Macbeath, successfully argued his case about the living conditions to the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal on Feb. 12 and got thousands in rent back.

Macbeath pays $925 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. He received half of his rent back, retroactive to June. He gets a 20-per cent reduction in rent per month as long as three broken electrical outlets in his apartment aren't fixed.

He gets another 12.5 per cent off for each month he has cockroaches, and another 12.5 per cent for every month one of the building’s two elevators isn’t fixed.

I find myself trapped in the apartment because I’m afraid of the elevator.- Sam McBeth, resident

It's a victory, Macbeath said, but he’s not after money.

“We’re just trying to get the building livable."

The building’s condition hit home for Macbeath on Monday night when he and another tenant were stuck in the elevator. They couldn’t call for a superintendent because no one was in the office, he said. Eventually the elevator shot up to the 11th floor on its own.

Macbeath and the other tenant — neither of whom live on the 11th floor — rushed off and took the stairs, he said.

“I find myself trapped in the apartment because I’m afraid of the elevator."

Fire department 'reviewing options'

The fire department says two orders dating back months are still outstanding. The third, due Feb. 5, might be outstanding too, but the fire department has to reinspect.

“The fire department is currently reviewing options for our next course of action regarding these outstanding items, which could include proceeding to charges for non-compliance with the Ontario Fire Code,” said Bob Simpson, chief fire prevention officer.

The owner has been very cooperative.- Robert Hall, Hamilton Public Health

Here are the three orders:

  • Test requirements for fire alarms and sprinklers. Due Nov. 13, 2014.
  • Fire separation issues on the first floor. Due Dec. 16, 2014.
  • Fire separation issues. Due Feb. 5, 2015.

The owners have done “quite a lot of work” to meet the public health order regarding pest control, said Robert Hall, director of the health protection division.

Units inspected for bed bugs

“Every unit, to our satisfaction, has been done, but we still have to monitor that for obvious reasons.”

Public health inspectors can use the order to return to the building and take action if needed. But "the owner has been very cooperative,” Hall said.

I’m very frustrated. There’s not a lot I can say without swearing.- Dan Gushie, resident

Dan Gushie, a resident of 150 Sanford, said units have been checked and sprayed, but insects have returned.

“I’m very frustrated. There’s not a lot I can say without swearing.”

Orders outstanding

The city has issued recent notices for snow and ice to be removed from city sidewalks, the driveway ramp, the parking lot and the walkway. The city also issued a notice for the property managers to remove a large icicle.

An order that expired on Jan. 30 demanded the property owners deal with holes and cracks in walls on several floors, along with fixing any "loose coverings or other substantial defects."

The owner has completed a number of orders related to wall, roof and floor repairs, the city said.

Macbeath lived in the building in 2003 and it was a good building, he said. He likes his apartment now.

“I want to see the building do whatever’s necessary to improve,” he said. “Fix it, sell it, whatever they have to do. It’s basically becoming a joke and that’s a shame. It shouldn’t be like that.”

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