Tensions were high Monday evening for frustrated renters of Mariner Apartments in Comox as promises of answers and money fell through.
With a standing-room-only crowd, tenants gathered at a meeting at the Comox Recreation Centre to have questions answered and options put forth for housing and resources following a water main break Thursday morning which completely flooded the bottom floor.
As a result of the flood, renters from 17 units have been evicted from their residences.
On Jan. 11, tenants were served with ‘frustrated tenancy agreement’ papers. The FTA declared the tenancies terminated and the tenants have been evicted.
All affected tenants have been forced to find new accommodations; only one of the tenants had insurance.
Comox Mayor Russ Arnott told those in attendance the property owner – who was supposed to be present – was stuck in Vancouver due to a cancelled flight. He reassured the crowd the water main break was not a negligent act, and that the Town’s insurance is looking into the situation.
Chris Murray, the building manager for Mariner Apartments said he wished he had more answers for those without homes.
“Drew Ratcliffe (senior vice-president of finance for Arpeg – the landlord company) was supposed to be standing here. I apologize, especially to those on the ground floor. We were told cheques were here for the damage deposits and pet deposits.”
One of the residents questioned why the owners took so long to address those affected.
“We had no choice but to do a frustrated tenancy,” explained Murray. “It was not my intention to get you guys to leave. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. First and most importantly, this was about your health – mold starts in 48 hours – we’ve already got mold.”
He added a restoration company has already begun the process of repairing the suites and noted in the worst-case scenario, it may be up to one year before every apartment gets repaired.
Murray also noted that for those tenants living on the second, third and fourth floors, the next months “are going to be a war zone,” as repairs will move from the suites to the hallway and both the front and rear entrances.
“You’ll have to bear with us … the second, third and fourth floors are safe because of the first floor getting out so fast. The first floor saved the rest of the building.”
With two or three possible vacant apartments on the upper floors, Murray said everyone on the ground floor will be given an option to apply to move up, and that management is currently working out the details for how the decisions will be made.
Arnott encouraged residents to utilize the dispute mechanisms in place through the Residential Tenancy Branch.
“You don’t have to sit back and let this happen.”
Affected resident Kayla (who asked her last name not be used) questioned why there is no place for tenants to go in an emergency.
“This is not our fault. We were sitting at home, it flooded with water, and now we’re homeless … we didn’t get any compassion, we don’t have a home. Where’s my home? Where can I go?”
Howie Siemens, emergency program co-ordinator of the Comox Valley Emergency Program offered a list of community resources available to residents but added it is up to the individual tenants to contact the respective organizations.
Murray said the owners should be available sometime Tuesday to meet with residents, but could not confirm a time or location.
A GoFundMe page has been created to collect funds to assist those displaced. To donate, click here.