London

London landlord under investigation for renting 'windowless, closetless box' to student

A London landlord is under investigation by city hall for allegedly breaking provincial rules when it rented a Western student a windowless bedroom for almost $700 a month.

Chantale Pard was paying $693 a month for a bedroom not fit 'for the habitation of people'

Chantale Pard sits in her windowless bedroom at 75 Ann Street in October 2019. She said she was paying almost $700 a month for a unit with no windows or ventilation. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

At first Chantale Pard didn't suspect her "bedroom" was never intended to be a bedroom at all, but the clues slowly started to add up. 

"If the fan isn't going, it is way too hot in here," she said. "There isn't a lot of air movement."

It wasn't until the Western University graduate student started making light of her stuffy, windowless accommodations that she realized she might be paying $693 a month for a room that wasn't up to code. 

"I was making a joke at school saying it was hard to wake up in this bedroom because there's no natural light that comes in. One of my friends at school said 'I think that's actually illegal, I think you should look into that.'" 

Turns out her friend was onto something. 

Other tenants might not even know

This bedroom appears to have been converted from a den or storage area in the apartment. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Pard is one of three people living in what appears to have been originally designed as a two-bedroom apartment unit inside "The Marq," a 12-storey highrise located at 75 Ann Street. It's marketed toward college and university students.

Each tenant has access to a shared living room, kitchen, two bathrooms and a storage space. Tenants' individual bedroom doors are opened with their respective fob keys, which also give them access to the main door of the building and their shared apartment unit. 

Legally speaking, Pard is the only tenant in her unit whose bedroom is not really a bedroom. 

Under London's Property Standards By-law and the Ontario Building Code Act, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms are all legally required to have windows. 

"It's a windowless, closetless box, really. I think it might have been a storage area at one point," she said. "It's marketed as a bedroom and that's what I signed a lease for." 

Pard said she believes there are other tenants in her 12-storey building who might be in a similar situation. 

"I really want to make sure I'm living in up to standard living conditions," she said. "I think it's really important for all the other students living in this building as well, who may not be aware of it."

Pard said she raised the issue with her landlord, who agreed to terminate the lease, but was unable to explain why it was charging her $693 a month for an illegal apartment in the first place. 

By-law enforcement launches investigation

Orest Katolyk is the City of London's top by-law officer. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Centurion Properties, owner of the 75 Ann Street highrise and three other buildings in London, did not respond to a request for comment by CBC News. 

Municipal by-law officials confirmed that they've opened an investigation into an alleged violation of the city's property standards by-law at 75 Ann Street.

"I can confirm that we did receive a complaint about the lack of windows in bedrooms in this apartment building," said the city's chief by-law officer Orest Katolyk. "We are investigating the complaint." 

Katolyk said city officials have given the landlord until October 16 to come up with a solution, but if an acceptable one can't be reached, the city isn't ruling out prosecution. 

Not fit 'for the habitation of people'

The City of London says it opened an official investigation into allegations Centurion Properties, which owns this London apartment building is renting illegal windowless bedrooms. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"If we go to court the penalty will be decided by the courts, but we always offer solutions before we take court action. The solution here is not to use specific rooms that don't have any windows as bedrooms," said Katolyk. 

"They can be used as storage, or other uses," he said. "Not the habitation of people." 

Katolyk said the problem is not unique to 75 Ann Street and that illegal apartments near campus neighbourhoods are "not uncommon," noting by-law officers will follow up on all complaints. 

He said anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation can make a complaint by phone at 519-661-4660 or email enforcement@london.ca.

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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