Nova Scotia

Sydney tenants in slum rentals urged to speak out

A group that represents low-income residents in Cape Breton says dozens of people in the Sydney area are living in slum rentals.

A group that represents low-income residents in Cape Breton says dozens of people in the Sydney area are living in slum rentals.

Evan Coole, a member of ACORN or the Cape Breton Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been going door-to-door looking for tenants with complaints.

"It's a fairly big problem," said Coole.

"One out of every three doors we knock on, someone has something that is of grave concern for health, safety, security — and that makes their apartment unlivable."

Coole said most tenants are too afraid to speak out for fear of being evicted, which is one of the reasons ACORN members decided to go door-to-door.

"Getting people in their home, they're more comfortable and feel more safe talking about what they're going through," he said.

"Mould, mice, rats, severe water damage, just conditions that are absolutely unfit to live in and people should not be paying to live in."

The Cape Breton ACORN branch will be holding a public meeting in Sydney on Wednesday for tenants to voice their concerns.

The organization wants the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to start cracking down on slum properties and prosecute landlords whose buildings violate building or health codes.

But Rick Fraser, the manager of building services and bylaws for the municipality, said his department can only respond when tenants complain, and they don't often get complaints.

"In the run of a year, I wouldn't suspect we get more than two dozen complaints in regards to residential apartments or housing," he told CBC News.

Fraser admitted tenants may be afraid to speak out, but said the Cape Breton Regional Municipality doesn't have the staff or the budget to inspect rental properties without a complaint.

He said tenants should take their complaints to the province under the Residential Tenancies Act, which has the power to resolve rental disputes.

now