Black mould, trashed apartments, doors which you can see light underneath and water leaks.
That’s just a few of the litany of problems at an 18-unit apartment complex in Alvinston which the municipality is looking to take over.
Several years ago, a Toronto man purchased the three buildings on Lorne Street and began renting them out. But the condition of the apartment buildings deteriorated as residents tried to reach him to make repairs.
Garrette Moran, his girlfriend and their now 18-month old son moved from Wyoming to Alvinston because they needed a larger place with a reasonable rent. They agreed rent it after viewing pictures on Kijji. But the pictures were not an accurate reflection of what they found.
“Both toilets were clogged, the place was a mess, there were holes in the wall,” he told The Independent. His family spent an entire winter in the unit using portable space heaters because the heating didn’t work.
They finally left that unit for another in the complex after water from broken pipes in an empty unit next door flooded their apartment.
Shelly Carlson has also had to deal with flooding from empty units. The former Kerwood resident moved to Alvinston to be close to her ailing mother. She needed some room for her two children and the Lorne Street complex was within her price range.
“I thought it was better than what it was,” she says. Her apartment is neat and clean but the signs of neglect are evident. In some places linoleum is lifting up, a door damaged by a water leak next door doesn’t close properly. And Carlson, who is expecting another child, found black mould behind the water heater under the stairs while cleaning up that flood.
Carlson has tried to talk to the landlord about the problem, but without any luck. “He has a phone number but he never answers.”
Carlson is now looking for someplace else to live.
The lack of response to residents doesn’t surprise Brooke-Alvinston officials. The owner of the complex has been avoiding them too. It’s been three years since he paid any taxes and now owes the municipality about $240,000.
Since November, the municipality has posted Emergency Orders for bylaw infractions because the owner hasn’t taken care of the property. The municipality has boarded up some windows and doors and has been taking care of some of the maintenance of the property and charging back to the owner.
Brooke-Alvinston has also started legal proceedings to seize the buildings for a tax sale.
Brooke-Alvinston Treasurer-Administrator Rick Holland says “in the fourth year of being in arrears and not paying your taxes, it can be registered for tax sale.” After going through the court process, which Holland says could take a year and a half, the municipality can offer the buildings for sale for the cost of the unpaid taxes.
But Holland isn’t sure it will ever get that far. The bank which holds the mortgage to the building is also looking at the property and could “redeem it” paying Brooke-Alvinston the taxes and then trying to sell it on the open market.
“The units are not in that bad of shape,” says Holland saying at the cost of the taxes each unit would cost a developer just $14,000. “An investor could come in and bring them up easily enough that they’d make money if they could rent them out.”
Holland admits that’s a lot of ifs.
So the municipality is considering another if – what if it ends up the owners of the buildings? “We have talked about other avenues we could take,” says Holland. “It could be geared to income housing or assisted housing…we could explore those possibilities.”
Whatever happens, Holland hopes the buildings will be repaired and rented again, bringing more people to live and shop in Alvinston. “It would be helpful all the way around.”