Landlord revises legal form for displaced Parliament Street apartment residents

Residents of the fire-damaged Parliament Street apartment tower continued to line up to collect their belongings on Tuesday, as Toronto's mayor appealed to the city for donations of clothing, money and spaces displaced tenants can stay.

Residents again able to access fire-damaged building on Tuesday

People line up to sign waivers Tuesday morning before being allowed to enter the apartment building and retrieve some of their belongings. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Residents of the fire-damaged apartment tower on Parliament Street were granted access to the building to collect their belongings for a second day in a row on Tuesday, after the property manager revised a legal waiver that angered many the day before.

The new waiver is a simpler document that's easier to understand, said David Eisenstadt, a representative for the property management company at 650 Parliament.

"The objective is to get the tenants in as quickly as possible, and have them get their most important belongings," said Eisenstadt.

Around 1,500 people were forced out of the St. James Town highrise last week after an electrical fire sent thick plumes of smoke pouring out of multiple apartments. Tenants were told last week it may take several months before they can return to their apartments.

According to Toronto fire services, the building is still without electricity and has yet to be deemed safe, but the property management is making an exception to allow people to go in to collect possessions they left behind. 

Several tenants were upset on Monday that the landlord demanded they sign a legal form before entering the building. If signed, the document would prevent residents from suing the management company if they were injured while inside the building. 

Residents of an apartment building at 650 Parliament Street gathered outside the building on Monday. Staff from the property management company asked them to sign a legal form before entering the fire-damaged building to gather belongings. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Many were concerned that signing the document would stop them from taking future legal action against the property manager.

Another representative of the property manager, Doug Sartell, said in a press release earlier in the day that Monday's waiver only applied to the process of going into the building to retrieve belongings. He said the protests were the result of a miscommunication.

Waiver caused confusion

Councillor Lucy Troisi said the legal language of Monday's waiver caused a lot of confusion.

"[Monday's waiver] was a legal document that, unless you were a lawyer, really, you wouldn't be able to understand it," said Troisi. The new waiver says tenants enter the building at their own risk, she said, but it only applies to the day on which it is signed.

The previous form had a "forever clause," which Troisi said "made people feel really uncomfortable." 

On Tuesday, residents seemed more comfortable signing the revised form and many were granted access to their apartments. But at least one resident still refused to sign the form and was seen shouting at the private security guards and building staff.

Due to the unsafe nature of the building, residents were required to wear masks to protect them from residue, said Eisenstadt. 

David Eisenstadt, a representative of the property manager at 650 Parliament Street, speaks to reporters on Tuesday as residents wait to get access to their suites. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Property management will continue to allow residents entry into the apartment tower daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for as long as it takes, Eisenstadt said.

Troisi said the affected families have been grateful and patient, and need regular updates on the situation. Her office has also created a list of legal organizations for people to get independent counselling free of charge.

Marcisa Pare, who said the property's management has been good to her, came back for the second time on Tuesday. She said she got 15 minutes inside the apartment to collect things like clothing, legal papers and jewlery. 

While it's not so bad now, she said the building stank on Monday.

"Especially the stairwell," she said. "It's very slippery and stinky from the garbage."

Tory appeals for donations of clothing, space

On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory gave a press conference appealing for donations of things like money, children's clothing and shoes for children who will be returning to school next week, as well as space for displaced residents to stay.

"This is a time when we really need the people of Toronto to help us out," said Tory.

Specifically, Tory said residents need 320 new sets of children's clothing.

One of the residents of the 650 Parliament Street highrise, who returned again on Tuesday to collect more belongings from her apartment. (CBC)

"I'm encouraging anyone who can donate this kind of new children's clothing and shoes to the children of 650 Parliament Street to step up and help us," said Tory. "We need them to have a good first day and a good first week at school."

He said clothing donations can be made through two community organizations that have been coordinating with Coun. Troisi's office and monetary donations can be made through the Red Cross.


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