Toronto

Residents displaced by Parliament Street apartment fire upset with landlord's legal form

More than 1,000 residents of a Parliament Street apartment tower that was seriously damaged by a six-alarm fire were supposed to gain access to the belongings they left behind on Monday, however the scheduled event quickly turned into a protest.

Property company demands residents sign before accessing smoke-damaged building

Residents of the fire-damaged apartment building at 650 Parliament Street were hoping to go inside today to collect their belongings. However, many are now concerned about a legal form their landlord asked them to sign. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

More than 1,000 residents of a Parliament Street apartment tower that was seriously damaged by a six-alarm fire were supposed to gain access to the belongings they left behind on Monday, however the scheduled event quickly turned into a protest.

Many of the residents — who have been told it could be months before they're allowed to move back in — are angry that their landlord is demanding they sign a legal form before entering the building in Toronto's St. James Town area.

The two page document, if signed, would prevent residents from suing the management company if they get injured while inside the building. 

Many suggested they're concerned that signing the document would block them from taking any future legal action against the property manager.

However, the general manager of the property management company, Doug Sartell, said the waiver only applies to the process of going into the building to get their belongings.

"The waiver form applies only to this process, nothing else, you're not waiving your rights," Sartell said to the crowd of residents who began protesting the legal form Monday afternoon.

"You want to sue us because your steaks got spoiled? That's not part of this, you're entitled to do that...This waiver is strictly and expressly for the entry into the building."

'We want you to get in safe'

Sartell said he thinks the protests were the result of a miscommunication and that the property management is just trying to protect itself from anything bad that could happen.

"We want to get you in safe, and get you out safe, but if you decide you got to bring a 60-inch TV down the stairs and you slip and fall that's on you — it's that simple," he said.

The residents of 650 Parliament Street were forced from their homes on Tuesday after a massive electrical fire in the basement. 

Despite the protests, Doug Sartell, the general manager of the property management company for 650 Parliament, maintains residents are "not waiving your rights." (CBC News)

According to Toronto police, the building is still not secure and has yet to be deemed safe, but the property management is making an exception to allow people to go in to get some necessities. 

Many residents who signed the waiver to go into their units gathered clothes, toiletries, medication and documents they didn't have time to grab when the fire displaced them from their homes almost a week ago.

Residents who lived on higher floors said they were exhausted and couldn't take as much as they needed because they didn't think they could carry it all safely.

Sartell said the management company has been doing everything they can to help residents get into the building safely and easily. 

"We had 25 security guards here this morning, I had electricians working all weekend and we have a working elevator in here for you," he said to the crowd, pointing out the elevator wasn't working until later in the afternoon after a brief pause when nobody was allowed in the building. 

'We will not sign your papers'

But some residents were not happy.

"We will not sign your papers," one building resident screamed amid the fray.

Other residents, who have been told that they won't be able to move back into the building for months, have criticized how the situation has been handled.

Lucy Troisi, the councillor for the neighbourhood, said she is trying to "make the community calm and give them as much info as possible."

Troisi said her office has arranged for the local legal aid to come and speak to residents who still have questions and reservations about the legal document. She also said she has set up a website for residents to get more information than they have been throughout the first week of being taken out of their homes.

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