North

Hay River highrise tenants frustrated, confused as owner throws out belongings

Months after a fire displaced the tenants of Hay River’s highrise, the owner of the building has begun to dispose of belongings left behind, leaving some frustrated about a lack of communication.

Satdeo Inc. has not communicated plans for their items or the building, resident says

Garbage bins at the Hay River highrise overflow with people's belongings. Months after a fire displaced residents, a notice on Facebook from Satdeo Inc., the building's owner, advised tenants 'the company is no longer responsible to store tenants' uncollected personal belongings.' (Michaela Crook/CBC)

Months after a fire displaced the tenants of Hay River's highrise, the owner of the building is disposing of residents' belongings, leaving some frustrated about a lack of communication over their ability to collect their property.

On July 19, a notice posted to a popular Hay River community Facebook group from Satdeo Inc., the building's owner, advised tenants "the company is no longer responsible to store tenants' uncollected personal belongings and is absolved of all its responsibility in this respect."

Any uncollected belongings will be disposed of at the tenants' cost, the notice reads. On Wednesday afternoon, workers were seen putting furniture and other items in garbage dumpsters placed on the property.

The fire broke out on March 15, necessitating the evacuation of more than 150 residents from the building. Since then, the building has not been habitable, leaving many scrambling to find homes.

I want to know what's happening, how it happened, and what's the future for the building.- Kyle Camsell, former tenant

Tenants were briefly allowed back into the building to collect their belongings later that month, and have been given "numerous opportunities" since then, according to Satdeo Inc.'s financial adviser.

However, Kyle Camsell, who lived in the building, says those opportunities were not well publicized and came at inopportune times, leaving him and many others with valuables still in the highrise.

"They only gave me a window from 9 until 5 on a Wednesday, I think it was, to try to get everything into boxes and to relocate it all, and to use the elevators," he said. "It was not enough time."

Kyle Camsell says not only did his apartment suffer water damage in the fire, he has only been given one day to access his apartment since he had to leave. (Michaela Crook/CBC)

Camsell says after that window passed, he didn't hear anything else from Satdeo Inc. until the notice was published on Facebook last week. He still has furniture and a bicycle in the building.

"They're now saying they gave everybody three chances to go in there," said Camsell. "And I only ever heard of the one."

Malay Das, the financial adviser for Satdeo Inc., said notices have been posted on Facebook and communicated through the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority. 

A notice with one designated day to access each unit in July was also posted to the building's front door.

Camsell is also the vice-chair of CKHR, Hay River's community radio station, which broadcasts out of the highrise. Though the station was able to recover most of its equipment, records and archives dating back to the 1970s are still in the building.

"It'd just be a waste to see it thrown out," said Camsell.

It isn't clear whether the Hay River highrise will be habitable again after a fire in March. (Michaela Crook/CBC)

What the tenancy act says

Satdeo Inc.'s notice says the company's responsibilities have been fulfilled to tenants under the N.W.T.'s Residential Tenancies Act. 

The act states landlords may dispose of items left in an abandoned or vacated unit if they "would be unsanitary or unsafe to store" or are "worthless," or if the cost of removing them, storing them, and selling them is determined to be higher than a potential sale price.

It also states if items do not fit this description, they must be inventoried — with the list given to the territory's rental officer and attempted to be given to the tenant — and stored in a safe place for 60 days before they can be sold or disposed of.

Satdeo Inc. says it intends to charge tenants for removing and storing the items. The act states that if the tenant bears those costs, the landlord must give the items to the tenant.

Adelle Guigon, the Northwest Territories' rental officer, could not speak on specific cases but said the tenancies act does not recognize Facebook posts as a serving of notice to tenants or landlords.

'I want to know what's happening'

Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson says he wishes more steps were taken to address the tenants' situation.

"I think it goes without saying that this has been a poorly handled situation," he said. "Everyone's been affected by this, the owner and the tenants. And I think the owner's response was a little one-sided."

MLA R.J. Simpson says he wishes Satdeo Inc. would have done more to accommodate the building's former tenants. (Michaela Crook/CBC)

According to Camsell, tenants were also expected to completely clean their units in order to receive their damage deposit and a refund of half a month's rent.

However, he says that to do so in the timeframe given was impossible, especially given water damage in his unit, which was located five floors below the 11th floor apartment where the fire started.

"I didn't know how I was going to clean that out," he said. "If you gave me a week, maybe."

Camsell says, more than money, he's hoping for clear communication from the building's owner.

"I want to know what's happening, how it happened, and what's the future for the building," he said. "At this point that's the only closure I need."

Written by Garrett Hinchey with files from Michaela Crook

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