Forced to check out of hotels, displaced Parliament Street tenants demand action from landlord

Residents displaced by a fire at 650 Parliament Street protested the property manager’s handling of the situation after many faced the prospect of leaving the comfort of hotel beds for cots in a community shelter.

Tenants can cancel lease if they want to, property manager says

Residents displaced by a building fire at 650 Parliament and members of tenant advocacy organization ACORN protest the landlord's handling of the situation on Friday. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

Residents displaced by a fire at 650 Parliament Street criticized the property manager's handling of the situation after many faced the prospect of leaving the comfort of hotel beds for cots in community shelters.

Dozens of tenants and members of ACORN, a tenant advocacy group, rallied outside the building and moved down the street to the office of the property manager, Wellesley Parliament Square, expressing their displeasure.

The rally-goers wanted to present the company with a list of demands to the property manager that included meeting face-to-face with ACORN members on behalf of the tenants, arranging "safe and stable" housing for displaced tenants and providing transit passes and food vouchers.

Despite the public show of force, no one from the property manager came outside to meet the protesters.

Forced out on Friday

According to the city of Toronto, 700 residents displaced by the six-alarm fire at 650 Parliament Street last week have been staying in hotels across the city. But in a letter from the city and the Canadian Red Cross, residents were told they will need to check out between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4, because the hotels are largely booked for the Labour Day long weekend.

For people who don't have the option to stay with friends or family, they may need to stay on a cot in a make-shift shelter being set up at the Regent Park Community Centre.

Farshad Masoomi had been staying at Town Inn and Suites on Church Street for the last few days. He told CBC Toronto he was forced to leave the hotel on Friday morning

"It's one dislocation after another dislocation," he said. "It's very inconvenient to be moving from one place to another place and carrying all your stuff."

Farshad Masoomi was forced to leave the room he was staying in at Town Inn Suites on Church Street on Friday. Masoomi criticized the lack of communication from the landlord. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

He criticized the lack of communication and support from the landlord.

"The management is basically a shadow in the shadows. We don't see him, we cannot talk to him, he's hiding somewhere I guess and relaying his message through other people," Masoomi said of the property manager.

Property manager speaks to reporters

In the afternoon, Doug Sartell, a representative for the property manager, held a press conference with reporters inside the property manager's office.

Sartell tried to reassure residents the company is doing its best to get residents back into their homes, and to support them in finding accommodation in the interim. 

"Don't think management or ownership has abandoned you or will abandon you," said Sartell. "We're giving everything we got to get you home."

Doug Sartell, a representative of the property manager, Parliament Wellesley Square, speaks to reporters on Friday. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

He said the company has set up a website and a telephone hotline and has been trying to put the word out to secure short-term accommodations for tenants.

"We've reached out to other landlords, other landlord associations, the Greater Toronto Apartment Association … We're working with community organizations that do such a good job in this community," he said.

But he also encourage residents to "leave no stone unturned" to help themselves find accommodation.

Sartell said residents who already paid rent will be given cheques repaying them for the period from Aug. 21 to Aug. 31 and said anyone who wants to cancel their lease can do so immediately.

Sartell also provided an update on the state of the building and the expected timeline for getting residents back into their homes.

He said the building is made up of a north tower and a south tower joined together by a central elevator lobby on each floor. He said the damage was mostly confined to the south tower.

"We believe we have a target available to repopulate the north tower of that building, we're setting a soft target date of Thanksgiving," Sartell said. "The south tower is going to take a lot more work."

It will be many more months until residents can return to the south tower, Sartell said.

With files from Ali Chiasson and Hailey Salvian


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