Winnipeg city councillor's apartment declared 'insanitary'

The apartment of a Winnipeg city councillor has been deemed insanitary by the city's environmental health services department.

The apartment of a Winnipeg city councillor has been deemed insanitary by the city's environmental health services department.

Harvey Smith, who represents the Daniel McIntyre ward in Winnipeg, has moved out of his suite in the Marie Apartments on Alverstone Street in the West End neighbourhood he represents.

Building caretaker Normand McKay says earlier media reports that Smith was evicted are incorrect.

"He wasn't evicted, and if he would have cleaned up, he'd still be living here," McKay said.

"If you don't abide by the health rules, by the health department and stuff — like, they even told him to clean up because it was unsafe for anybody to live in.The way it was, I wouldn't even let my dog live here."

McKay says he found mouse droppings and year-old food in Smith's apartment.

"I filled out three bins of his garbage and I'm still cleaning up the apartment, the way he left it," McKay said.

The closing order for Smith's suite indicates inspectors found a "large accumulation of household garbage, debris, filth and hoarding of items throughout the suite," according to a report in the Winnipeg Free Press.

The order also required the landlord to repair "structural defects on walls, ceilings and floors, including water damage on all ceilings, defective flooring, cracked walls, peeling paint, defective and stained wallpaper and stained walls throughout the suite," the paper reported.

'I agree with it': Smith

For his part, Smith says he's not surprised his apartment was ruled unfit for human habitation.

"I mean, I agree with it. It's the walls. It's the physical condition of the apartment," he says.

"When the roof leaked, they repaired the roof but they didn't bother repairing the wallpaper where the water had come down."

Smith admits he had a lot of belongings, including thousands of books, records and old furniture, such as an old radio from the 1930s.

"But it was all neat and clean."

Smith believes he was forced out of his apartment by the landlord after he stood up for another tenant.

"I made the landlord angry… because I went to bat for the tenant across the way," he says. "They tried to evict him and the Rentalsman's decision quoted me as saying the tenant wasquiet and responsible."

'Significant health issue'

Whatever the tenant-landlord relationship might have been, the city's health department did deem the apartment insanitary.

Although the department wouldn't get into specifics about Smith's case, spokesman Peter Parys said in only the most severe cases is a residence deemed insanitary— and even then a tenant or landlord is given a certain period of time to clean or fix the problem.

"If that work is not completed or not to the satisfaction within a prescribed time and the risk to the individual or other people in the suite is high enough where there's a significant health issue, then the decision is made to close the suite and have it vacated," Parys said.

Smith says he's embarrassed about all the attention and he's considering legal action.

But the landlord says the situation could have been avoided if Smith had only cleaned his apartment.