Talbot tenants told to get out by August 31

Talbot apartments
ANN BOYD SKINNER outside her Talbot apartment complex, where there have been empty apartments for two years and a sign that says no vacancies.

Ann Boyd Skinner, a 20-year tenant in the Talbot apartments on Bayview Ave., hadn’t expected an eviction notice, although she had suspected “there was something strange going on with so many empty apartments”.

None had been rented over the past two years and until recently there was a No Vacancy sign in front of the buildings. There are 97 apartments and 19 coach houses in the three-building complex.

Then on Friday, April 26, Skinner and all other tenants received their rental increase forms, Skinner’s going up 2.5 percent as of August 31. She felt more at ease.

But the following Monday, April 29, the superintendent knocked on her door bearing an eviction notice from HPI Realty Management Inc., agents for Kelvingrove Investment Corporation. She and all other tenants, except those living in the coach houses, have been told to be out by August 31 so the complex can be renovated.

Skinner estimates there are about 40 empty apartments in the complex. She says two people have already moved and she knows of an elderly housebound renter so distressed she cried for days after getting her eviction notice.

Skinner has joined with other tenants, some who have been there for decades, to see if there is anything they do.

Councillor John Parker says, “The tenants can accept, reject or sit on the landlord’s offer” of a cash payment because it must first prove its case before the tenant tribunal.

He is planning a meeting with the tenants.

“This is bad news,” he says. “It is disappointing, the insensitivity to the tenants. This is a very stable community. We are talking about people’s homes. These tenants have formed a tight community.”

A recent letter from Kelvingrove says, “The scope of the work on the complex and the rental units within the various buildings that form part of the complex include but are not limited to, interior demolitions, new interior finishes and materials, new kitchens, new washrooms, new windows, new electrical systems including the removal of all knob and tube wiring, new heating system and utility metering.”

Luc Corneli, president of HPI, says “We don’t have a choice any more, we have to deal with the knob and tube, windows and heating.” The apartments will be gutted and “everything will be replaced”. That will take about a year to 18 months.

“Recently, extensive exterior repairs and upgrades valued at over $500,000 were completed at the Kelvingrove apartments,” Corneli added. The repairs included “sidewalks, retaining walls, brickwork and landscaping”.

Greg Fera, principal and co-founder of HPI, says, “We cannot keep up with the ongoing work.”

In a May 13 letter Corneli said that rents for returning tenants “will initially be the same but may subsequently be subject to a rental increase significantly higher than the provinical guideline by way of an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board”.

Tenants have been told, “We have made arrangements with Mr. Andrew Coppola and his team from Royal LePage to survey surrounding neighbourhoods and provide you with alternatives that may be helpful in your search for new accommodations whether for rent or purchase.”

Only the apartment tenants are being asked to move. Renovations were made to the coach houses about 15 years ago, but some of the tenants there are worried that they’ll be living in a construction zone, laundry and storage facilities will be unusable and once electricity is shut off from the apartments there will be no outdoor lighting.

Parker says he wonders why the renovations can’t be done in stages to avoid disruption.

In February 2012 Margaret Randall helped her 80-year-old mother move into the Talbot apartments, around the corner from her home. Her mother’s apartment features the original kitchen and a newly renovated bathroom and fresh paint.

Randall says they were told by Victor Jakupi, the building manager at that time, that the apartments were going to be renovated but that the tenants would be moved into vacant apartments until the renovations were completed and then moved back into their original units, at no expense to the tenants.

Randall says, “This is so wrong, it is cold and callous. My husband and I are so enraged.”

Gail, a 25-year-tenant, says when the property was owned by ManuLife everything was well maintained and everybody had their own garden. Now she says, “They are letting the buildings go to seed.”