Councillor berates landlords, condo boards over slow tornado repairs

An Ottawa city councillor is calling on landlords and condominium boards to speed up repair work to tornado-damaged buildings in his ward.

'It's time to step up,' Coun. Keith Egli warns

Tarps still cover tornado-damaged roofs at the Arlington Court condos. (Stu Mills/CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor is calling on landlords and condominium boards to speed up repair work to tornado-damaged buildings in his ward.

At Arlington Court, a pocket of condos near Greenbank and West Hunt Club roads in the hard-hit Trend-Arlington neighbourhood, tarps still cover roofs and windows eight weeks after the devastating Sept. 21 storm.

At a recent community meeting, Keith Egli, the city councillor for the area, said that's unacceptable.

These are your tenants and you have to step up.- Coun. Keith Egli

"You don't want to be that landlord, that condo board," Egli said. "These are your tenants and you have to step up."

Cynthia Foulds is one of those tenants. The tornado blew in her windows and tore holes in her roof, letting water pour in for days and flooding her basement. A city-issued work order has been affixed to her front door since Oct. 2, calling for repairs to be completed before December. 

Now Foulds, who's lived in the affordable, two-storey end unit for 16 years, has learned it will be more than two months before workers arrive.

"That puts it at the end of January," she said.

Arlington Court resident Cynthia Foulds says it will be late January before repairs are made to her damaged condo. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Panic, anxiety

Foulds has been avoiding her upstairs bedrooms since the storm, which haunts her still: the sound of wind-whipped tarpaulins brings panic and anxiety, she said.

Several doors down is the home of Chris Dacey, a carpenter. Since the tornado struck, Dacey said he's been too stressed to go to work at Home Depot. The repair delays have only added to his anxiety, leaving him feeling frustrated and helpless.

Some of the repairs would be cheap and easy, he said: $200 in plywood would repair the dangling soffit above Foulds's door, for example, and would buy his neighbour some piece of mind.

But under condo board rules, owners are prevented from making repairs themselves. 

"Perhaps that's the law, but that's ludicrous," Dacey said.

Shannon Hiemstra and Chris Dacey went nearly two months without hot water after their rented condo was damaged by the tornado in September. They and their neighbours are still waiting for other important repairs. 0:36

Dacey and his girlfriend Shannon Hiemstra were without hot water for eight weeks after the tornado severed a gas line to their building. Service was finally restored Thursday.

"Depressing is the best word," Hiemstra said. "No hot water, so no dishes, no clean house, no clean counters. You don't notice it till it's gone."

Boiling water on the stove and plugging in space heaters to battle the chill has pushed the couple's utility bill up by about $120 this month, Dacey said. 

Growing impatient

Another neighbour, Donna Yarrow, is also growing impatient.

Yarrow is the only remaining inhabitant of the four-unit condo building that abuts Dacey and Hiemstra's.

"How could it take so long?" she asked. "Nobody's showing up! I know roofers are busy and there's priorities, but these people have had to move out."

'Nobody’s showing up!' said frustrated Arlington Court resident Donna Yarrow. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Pat Gosson, president of the Arlington Court condo board, said in some cases repairs are needed to roof trusses and other structural damage, work that can't be completed until spring.

"It's very nice if some people have all day to do nothing but complain about their roof," he said.

Gosson blamed a shortage of contractors, but also denied that work at Arlington Court has lagged behind.

"I'm not just a volunteer guy, I'm an owner. I'm not a contractor, I'm not an engineer, I don't go up on roofs," Gosson said.