Toronto

Condo owner whose stuff went missing outraged to learn entire building had key to her storage locker

A Liberty Village condo owner is livid after her belongings went missing from her private storage locker, which had apparently been mistakenly assigned to another resident.

2 empty suitcases were all that was left behind, condo owner Yana Tcherniakov says

Only a few pieces of empty luggage were in the locker when Yana Tcherniakov went to gather some vacation items from her storage locker last month. Wire mesh separates Tcherniakov's locker from her neighbour's. (Mike Smee/CBC)

A Liberty Village condo owner is livid after her belongings went missing from her private storage locker, which had apparently been mistakenly assigned to another resident.

To make matters worse, Yana Tcherniakov says she discovered that at one point, everyone in the 3,300-unit condo complex had a universal key to that could open her locker door. 

Tcherniakov says the saga began in the summer of 2018, when she noticed that lock on her locker door, located in the parking garage of 6 Pirandello St., had been changed.

Yana Tcherniakov says she hopes her condo corporation or property manager agree to compensate her for her lost belongings. (Ed MIddleton/CBC)

When she approached the property manager,  she says she was told there had been attempted break-ins and that all the locks in the basement storage areas were being changed, starting with hers.

Then, in April, Tcherniakov went to her locker to get some diving gear for an upcoming vacation.

But when she opened the door the locker was bare, save for a couple of empty suitcases that do not belong to her.

"So all of our stuff is now missing, and property management has no idea where it's been put."

Now, she says, she has no choice but to hire a lawyer and go to court in the hope that she'll be reimbursed for her lost belongings — about $3,000 or $4,000 worth, she says.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, 360 Community Management head Chris Antipas blamed Tcherniakov's woes on "an unfortunate series of events, including another resident's confusion over locker numbers that caused the situation to be what it is right now."

There are more than 3,000 units in the Liberty Village condo complex where Tcherniakov lives, and most would have a universal key to the common areas. (Ed MIddleton/CBC)

But Tcherniakov says the company has done little to help her find out who authorized the lock change in the first place, how another resident's things wound up in her locker, or what became of her own property.

After reporting that her locker had been emptied, Tcherniakov said she was told by the property manager that she did not actually own the locker — that it had been assigned to someone else.

What's more, the "new" lock on the storage unit could actually be opened with a universal key that also allowed entry to the bike room, larger storage areas and outside stairwells in the 3,300-unit complex. 

Owner needed lawyer to back her up

"So everyone has this key, regardless if they have a locker or not," she said.

Angry and confused, she says she contacted both her realtor and her lawyer, who produced documents proving that she does indeed own the locker — at which point the property manager backed down and admitted that fact to Tcherniakov and her husband Mike. 

But Tcherniakov says that admission was cold comfort.

To this day, the management company, she maintains, has refused to tell her who her locker had been given to.

They've also not been helpful, she says, in determining why or exactly when her lock was initially removed, or where her belongings are now.

She says she's hoping the condo corporation and the property manager solve the problem and reimburse her for her lost belongings.

If not?  "My next step is to hire a litigator," she said.

Cautionary tale

But condo law specialist Shawn Pulver, who emphasizes that he has represented neither side, says that should be a last resort.

He suggests that she ask the condo board to do a thorough investigation to ensure that her belongings haven't simply been moved to another site in the complex inadvertently.

"Litigation is expensive," he said. "And that is coming from a litigator. The best practice is for property management and the Board to work with owners to prevent the problems from getting worse.

"Open communication is the most important factor that I always stress to all parties — owners, condo boards and property management."

Pulver said he's never seem a situation like this one. 

Even so, he said it's cautionary tale about the importance of insurance.

Condo law expert Shawn Pulver suggests that Tcherniakov do everything possible to convince the condo board to find her belongings, before entering the potentially expensive realm of litigation. (Shawn Pulver)

"I always advise that you have insurance — always," he said.

On Friday,  Tcherniakov contacted CBC Toronto by email to say that her lock had finally been changed.

"Unfortunately, changing a lock does not change that our stuff is still missing," she wrote.

In the statement from 360, Antipas writes, "Our on-site team has done their investigation ... We are currently very actively working with Yana to bring a satisfactory resolution and closure for the resident."

This story has been updated from an earlier version.

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