Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Toronto’s top apartment building for complaints: 79 Thorncliffe Park
Cockroaches, poor ventilation and plumbing problems topped the list of concerns for the apartment tower that have made it the most complained-about residential property in Toronto this year.
A Star analysis of 33,587 entries in Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards investigations database reveals 59 official complaints have been lodged with the city about that apartment building alone.
“There’s water leaking through the ceilings, and there are cockroaches and mice everywhere,” says Abbas Kolia, the president of the tenants association.
Kolia, 60, says many tenants don’t have the choice to move.
“It’s hard for these people, who are mostly immigrants from India and Pakistan, to find another affordable place to live,” he says.
“Many of the tenants don’t speak proper English, so when they complain to the landlord they aren’t understood and the issues end up just getting ignored.”
However, one licensing official says an audit of the building, near Overlea Blvd. and Don Mills Rd., showed the number of problems is not out of line for a building of its size. But residents are not alone.
About one-third of the complaints made to the city division between January and Aug. 16 of this year — more than 11,000 — concerned property standards. Such complaints involve issues with the interior and exterior condition of the building, driveways, trees and ground cover.
Readers can explore the data collected through the Star’s interactive dashboard, to see whether their building has been investigated, or download information for their own offline analysis.
Property records show that 79 Thorncliffe Park Dr. was purchased by Q Residential in August 2007 for $54.3 million. Representatives of the company did not return calls asking about issues at the building.
On June 8, the tenants association staged a rally to protest conditions within the collection of buildings at 71, 75, and 79 Thorncliffe Park Dr., all of which it owned by Q Residential.
John Parker, councillor for Ward 26, Don Valley West, attended the rally and was given a tour of 71 Thorncliffe Park Rd. But he downplayed the concerns.
“In one unit, the tenant pulled out the stove to show me the remains of one dead cockroach,” says Parker.
“It’s clear there’s a housekeeping issue in some of the units.” The councillor argues it only takes one mismanaged kitchen for cockroaches to infiltrate an entire building.
But Kolia says Parker is trivializing the condition of the properties.
“There wasn’t just one dead cockroach,” he says. “There were 20 to 25 of them, on the stove and in the cupboards, sharing the floor with a 2-year old girl.”
“If there were no serious issues, then why have we organized marches the last two years?”
But Parker says conditions have actually improved dramatically in the three buildings over the past decade, and that there are other properties in the city in far worse condition.
“If you’re going to orchestrate a huge tenant rally, invite the media, and try and make an issue of the sorry state of these buildings — and the worst that they find is one dead cockroach,” he says, “at that point I think we can all agree that the resources of the city should be applied to areas where the problems are far more serious.”
The Star’s analysis shows that the ward with the most property-standards complaints was Etobicoke-Lakeshore, with 527. There are 28 wards that have lodged more complaints than Don Valley West’s 230.
Bill Blakes, an investigations manager with the city’s licensing and standards division, agrees that 79 Thorncliffe Park Dr. isn’t the worst building he’s seen.
At Parker’s request, Blakes conducted an audit of the property on June 18, and residents were encouraged to file complaints to his team.
The audit recorded a total of 75 interior and exterior deficiencies, ranging from cracked walls and poorly maintained electrical fixtures to an inadequate ventilation system.
“But in a 17-storey building, that figure isn’t excessive,” says Blakes. “If you look at any building, there’s not many that we’re not going to find something wrong with.”
The investigations manager says his team found nothing that merited immediate remedial action from the division, and that the problems were largely general maintenance issues.
“If anything serious was found — like loose bricks falling from a balcony or a severe cockroach infestation — there would have been a separate report and we would have taken immediate action,” said Blakes.
The top five most-investigated addresses
1) 79 Thorncliffe Park Dr., in the Overlea Blvd. and Don Mills Rd. area
2) 607-617 The East Mall, north of Rathburn Rd.
3) 34 Brookwell Dr., near Sheppard Ave. W and Sentinel Rd.
4) 160 Chalkfarm Dr., near Jane St. and Sheppard Ave. W.
5) 1032 Queen St. W., between Ossington Ave. and Dovercourt Rd.
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