Flooded Rebecca St. building landlord offers tenants more money

After telling tenants to move by last Wednesday, the landlords of a flooded high-rise apartment building in central Hamilton have revised the terms of their move-out and compensation.

'We were able to revise the compensation package': Landlord

Keivan Mahboubi, left, and colleagues from the Red Cross and HSR discuss the evacuation effort on Sunday, Jan. 10 after a flood damaged the bottom six floors of a 17-floor apartment building. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The landlord of an apartment building whose bottom six floors flooded two weeks ago is increasing the money being offered to tenants to help them move out so the water-damaged building can be repaired.

The move comes after the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic advised tenants the original offer may be in violation of provincial tenant protection laws.

At a well-attended meeting with tenants last Tuesday, the clinic advises them not to sign any agreements without legal advice.

The landlord, Medallion Corp., is now offering three months of rent and the deposit — and saying tenants have two weeks to find a new place and move out, according to Medallion spokesman Danny Roth.

That's a big change from last week's letter, which offered one month of rent and the deposit, and told tenants to move out within three days.

'How do we properly compensate'

That amount is for tenants who want to break their lease and move out of the building permanently. Those who want to move back after the repairs are also offered three months' rent, Roth said. The landlord is calling other Hamilton landlords to try to help tenants find places to move, he said.

"These units have to get vacated," Roth said. "So how do we properly compensate or ease the transition for these tenants?"

Roth said his wording shouldn't be read to mean the first offer was improper. 

"We had an initial offer that we thought was appropriate and as part of this dialogue we were able to increase that level," he said.

"I don't think we're any longer, if we ever were, in an adversarial position. We're genuinely trying to assist these tenants through this transition."

Roth said he didn't know how many tenants had accepted the first offer and already moved out.

But "anyone who accepted the initial offer will be entitled to the same compensation package as is currently being offered," Roth said.

Roth said the new letter comes at a time of a more "conciliatory" tone in landlord-tenant relations. "We've moved past those who say, 'I don't want to go;' 'I don't have to go;' 'I wont go,'" he said.

'The landlord knew that we were watching them:' lawyer

Brendan Jowett, staff lawyer with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, said the tenants are in a much better situation than they were a week ago. 

"Instead of seeing mass evictions, we saw tenants who understood their rights and knew how to enforce them," he said.
Jowett said clinic staff met with the landlords on Friday.

"Basically, the landlord knew that we were watching them," he said. "They knew that the tenants were going to enforce their rights, so they basically made an agreement that follows the law."

Fire, police, transit and Red Cross workers were on scene at 235 Rebecca Street on Sunday, Jan. 10, for a burst pipe that flooded six floors of the 17-storey building. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Richard Mccann lives on the third floor and his is one of the 61 units affected by the flooding. 

While he was glad to see that "they upped our compensation" in the new letter that was slid under his door on Monday morning, he said the timeline is still challenging. 

"I can't find an apartment in two weeks," he said. "I could find an apartment for, like, March 1."

Mccann said the legal clinic has been spreading the word about another tenants' meeting coming up on Thursday.

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