Get rid of bed bugs and cockroaches, public health tells 150 Sanford owners

Public health officials are preparing to slap an order on the owners of a controversial Sanford Avenue apartment building to force them to get rid of the bed bugs and cockroaches.

Public health officials are preparing to slap an order on the owners of a controversial Sanford Avenue apartment building to force them to get rid of the bed bugs and cockroaches.

Hamilton Public Health will issue an order in the next week to the owners of 150 Sanford Ave. N — one that will direct the owners of the 13-storey apartment building to work with a pest control company. The building is owned by investors who own millions in real estate, including one connected to a well-known Toronto bagel company.

The order we give is that the apartment owner has to hire a pest control company and develop a plan to remedy the building.- Robert Hall, Hamilton Public Health Department

Frustrations at the building in Hamilton’s central lower city have come to a head in the last month. Tenant complaints include garbage chutes jammed six floors up, urine and feces in stairwells, frigid indoor temperatures, broken elevators and squatters living in vacant apartments. Many tenants have had bed bugs multiple times.

“We can’t determine (the scope of infestation) because we don’t know whether it’s in every apartment,” said Robert Hall, the city’s director of health promotion. “The order we give is that the apartment owner has to hire a pest control company and develop a plan to remedy the building.”

Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3 held an emergency tenants meeting for 150 Sanford on Dec. 29. About 70 residents attended the standing-room-only meeting. Green plans to meet with the building’s owners on Monday to air their concerns.

He’s also working with municipal law enforcement, which already has one property standards and two yard maintenance orders on the building.

Tourbillon Facility Inc., a corporation comprised of Toronto-based investors who own millions in real estate, owns the building. But the advertised number for property managers is out of service. This includes the number on online rental ads for the units, which start at $725 for a bachelor apartment.

Tourbillon is talking to a consultancy company to help bring the building up to standard, Green said.

Normally, public health officials contact building managers and works with them on pest control issues, Hall said. It does that in as many as 700 cases per year.

Can't find the property management company

But on this rare case, Public Health can’t find the person responsible for managing the building, he said. So it’s going straight to the owners with an order.

“It’s an important issue,” Hall said. But “we just have had difficulty locating the property management company.”

The order has to go through the city’s legal process, he said. But he expects it will be issued within the next week.

The order will be issued under the city’s property standards bylaw. Hall isn’t sure how long the owners will have to comply.

Tenants first complained to the city on Dec. 17, Hall said. At first, the city had trouble finding tenants who would identify themselves. Often, he said, tenants won't.

Tenants often fear backlash

“What happens is sometimes people will complain, and when we go to the door and knock, they’ll say ‘I don’t want anyone to know I made the complaint,’ which is understandable,” he said. “Sometimes we have difficulty in confirming infestations.”

But a 150 Sanford tenant let inspectors in on Dec. 24, and they saw evidence of the infestation first hand, he said.

The city’s property standards bylaw says that dwellings must be kept free of infestation, including of bed bugs, fleas, wasps, hornets and cockroaches.

Coun. Sam Merulla first learned of the issue in a Facebook post in November 2013. Coun. Bernie Morelli represented Ward 3 then, but was gravely ill, so Merulla was helping.

Someone tagged Merulla “about the horrendous living conditions,” the Ward 4 councillor said. For about a week, he couldn’t find a tenant willing to identify themselves and let city inspectors inside.

City working 'within their legal rights'

When he did, he said, he told property standards officials, who have issued several property standards orders over the last year.

The city has responded as quickly as possible, Merulla said.

Green, who was elected in October, is satisfied with the pace of the city’s response since he’s been working on the case.

“I think the city’s done everything they can do within their legal rights,” he said.

“It works off proactive enforcement, so if people don’t call and complaints aren’t filed, they can’t act.”

Toronto-based investors own the building

Green hasn’t spoken to the owners yet, he said, but he plans to meet with them Monday.

A corporate profile lists Marc Bistricer, Daniel Gryfe, Richard Wells and Hanan Shemesh as Tourbillon’s principles.

Bistricer is associated with Talisker Corporation, which owns golf courses and retail property in multiple countries.

Gryfe, a Bisnow article reports, has about half a billion in real estate investments. His family is behind the long-standing Toronto bagel business, Gryfe’s Bagel Bakery.

Neither returned calls for comment this week.

Rents at 150 Sanford Ave. N

  • Bachelor/studio — $725
  • Two bedroom — $925
  • Three bedroom — $1,195


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