'Where’s the humanity in this?’ Residents told to vacate Toronto apartment within 24 hours after building deemed unsafe
TORONTO -- It's been a whirlwind of a week for some tenants of an apartment building in Toronto's west end.
Residents of 1407-1409 Bloor Street West were left scrambling to find a home after they were told to vacate their units within 24 hours as it was deemed unsafe by city officials. Earlier last week, emergency crews were called twice to the building due to the detection of high levels of carbon monoxide. Subsequently, the city found that the four units located on the second floor of the property managed by Brad J. Lamb Realty were built without a permit.
"No one even had boxes. No one knew where they were going to go, how they were going to move all of their personal effects. It was very hard to get in touch with the landlord's property manager. They were avoiding our calls. They had very little information for us," Miles Gertler, one of the residents, told CTV News Toronto Sunday.
It began early Wednesday morning when the carbon monoxide detector Gertler and his partner Michael Seater installed in their unit went off. Several months before, they notified their landlord that they could smell fumes coming from the auto repair shop on the ground floor.
Gertler said their complaint was ignored.
That night, none of the detectors that the landlord installed went off in any of the units, Gertler said. When Toronto Fire Services arrived, they evacuated the building while it was inspected.
Toronto Fire told CP24 on Sunday that they found "elevated CO levels" on the property on several visits, resulting in the gas being shut off by Enbridge.
Gertler said they were out in the cold until 4 a.m.
"I'm very grateful that we put in our own carbon monoxide detector because I'm not sure what would have happened if we hadn't," Gertler said. He added that fire services told them that it likely saved a lot of lives.
Even after Toronto Fire cleared the building, the situation left residents concerned for their safety at that point. On top of that, there was no heating in their units because the gas was off. While they were given space heaters, Gertler said it was "inadequate."
The city then issued a formal notice that deemed the property was unsafe and the building needed to be vacated immediately.
Gertler said they were in the process of drafting a letter to their landlord, informing them of their safety concerns, when they received the eviction notice.
"We never actually even sent it because before we had the chance to, we received an eviction notice via our landlord's property manager. And it gave us 24-hour notice to leave the building," he said.
CTV News obtained a copy of the email sent to the tenants. It noted the city ordered the landlord to empty the second-floor units by Friday at midnight as “reentry after such time will not be permitted.” A city notice posted on the building stated that the units are in contravention of the Building Code as they have been constructed without a building permit.
Shortly after receiving the notice Thursday evening, Gertler said their carbon monoxide detector rang again, prompting another evacuation. Following further inspection of the building, the source of the gas was from a leaking cylinder located in the auto repair shop underneath, Toronto Fire said.
"We were sure that the landlord had done everything by the book, but that wasn't the case. It turns out that these units were constructed without permits. And this was only revealed to us after fire services responded to the situation this week. And it's because of that, that all tenants here were evicted with a 24-hour eviction notice," Gertler said.
Most of the tenants are staying with family and friends temporarily. Seater said it's been a very difficult and harrowing week.
"This week has been overwhelming for everyone and some of our neighbours here in this building have young children are having a difficult time even just finding space with the people who have taken them in," Gertler said.
"You can imagine that in a pandemic, suddenly and abruptly joining another household is also not advisable. We're wondering, are we putting people at risk now having to move on such short notice. You can imagine that finding help and even storage or moving trucks was incredibly challenging and stressful."
Ward 9 Councillor Ana Bailao said the way the landlord approached the situation is extremely disturbing and that the city is working with the tenants.
‘Where’s the humanity in this?’
Another tenant, Tahsin Davdani, said she moved to one of the units in April last year. As a visual artist and a single mother, she found the space "perfect" and "fits the bill" as it allows her watch her two children while she works.
Davdani said she was shocked and distraught when she received the eviction notice.
"I went through my realtor. I did all the right steps and it just should never have been listed. So, that's really irresponsible and negligent on the landlord's behalf," Davdani told CTV News Toronto on Sunday.
She said looking for another place is not an easy task, especially during a pandemic and finding the right space for herself and her children takes time and energy. Some of her belongings are still in the unit.
"I messaged the property manager just to kind of advise her that the timeline that they provided was too short for me to be able to operate under. I have two small children and my priority has been to provide a safe place for them and kind of get them comfortable because it is a little bit traumatic for them to kind of like not have a house so abruptly, taken away from them," Davdani said.
She is currently staying with her sister in Vaughan. Her children were with their father the night carbon monoxide was detected. Like the Seater and Gertler, she said the CO detector in her unit did not go off. It was her neighbours knocking the door that alerted her.
"Thank God for that because who knows how the story would have turned out or how the events would have unfolded had they not had it, had they not been alerted to the fact that it was unsafe in here," she said
"That was terrible."
While Davdani is grateful that she has a roof over her head, for now, she said some tenants are still without accommodations.
"I don't think that the landlord can assume that we all had spaces to live. My neighbour is not from here. Actually, she's from the west coast and how can you assume that she has some place to rest her head? She actually is scrambling for a new rental right now," Davdani said.
"I understand that the building is not safe. Sure, we'll leave. But could you not have a little bit of compassion for people, provide them what you're legally obliged to do and have a little bit of care and empathy? Where's the humanity in this?"
CTV News Toronto has reached out to the property manager Brad J. Lamb Realty for comment but has not heard back.
- with files from CTV News Toronto's Saron Fanel