Waterloo students demand deposits back from Schembri

In a desperate attempt to get the attention of Schembri Property Management, students who weren't able to move in to one of the company's unfinished apartment buildings are trying to walk away from their leases.
Construction workers outside 1 Columbia Street West on Monday. The building was scheduled to be completed Sept. 4. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

In a desperate attempt to get the attention of Schembri Property Management, students displaced by one of the company's unfinished apartment buildings are attempting to walk away from their leases.

Schembri Property Management advertised a September 4th move-in date for its new residence at 1 Columbia Street West, but construction at the 22-storey building continues and tenants still cannot move in.

The students formed a tenant committee after they say they struggled to get answers from the company as individuals. 

Friday afternoon the group marched down to Schembri's offices in Waterloo and demanded the company return their deposits within three days, or face further legal action.

"In the beginning, I was actually a bit sympathetic with them," said Tia Vu, a second year University of Waterloo student who left a letter with the company. "Then I started to hear more stories about the plans being backed up and why they were being backed up, and I started to feel no sympathy at all and I just wanted to get out of there."

Many of the students have since signed leases for other apartments, and worry they will be stuck with two contracts for the year, says Alex Diceanu of the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group — which has helped the students form the tenants committee, and access legal advice.

Justin Park, who also attends the University of Waterloo, says he is in that exact situation, and wants to collect his deposit back from Schembri. 

"It's a huge burden for me as I'm a student and naturally I need the money to pay rent," said Park. 

In an earlier statement to CBC, Schembri wrote that construction was delayed because "the constructor was not able to get the appropriate manpower on site," and assured the company was doing all it could to get students in their apartments as soon as possible. 

The company has offered tenants the option to transfer their leases to other properties, pay pro-rated rent based on delayed occupancy, or stay in a hotel, paid for by Schembri.

However, the company has not offered to terminate leases or return $1,450 tenant deposits.