City inspectors unable to enforce living standards

Five years later, residents at 217 Morningside Ave. are still waiting for city inspectors to return and enforce their complaints.

This is not an isolated situation. Throughout Scarborough many apartment buildings have multiple unsolved standard-of-living complaints.

“Residents shouldn’t have to put up with this nonsense,” said Ward 44 councillor Ron Moeser.  “People should be able to live in comfort and have their issues addressed as soon as possible.”

According to Moeser, the problem is due to a lack of appropriate legislation and the power of landlords to deny city by-law inspectors entry.  The city is forced to take property owners to court, which can take years and keep tenants living in impoverished and sometimes dangerous conditions.

“It breaks my heart when we can’t do our job, it’s extremely frustrating,” Moeser said.  “By-law officers have to tell property managers that they don’t have to let them in, even after we receive complaints.”

Angelo Swampillai, property manager at 205 Morningside Ave., said they are doing the best they can with their budget to fix the building.  He says they deal with the serious safety complaints first and claims the city doesn’t do much of a job of enforcement.

“City inspectors show up maybe once in a blue moon,” Swampillai said.  “They just give an extension anyway — safety issues are the only thing they really care about.”

Moeser says the landlords are simply taking advantage of a flawed system and doing all they can to avoid and prolong dealing with complaints.

“These guys know how to use the courts,” Moeser said. “Even if we are victorious the courts just give them a slap on the wrist anyway,”

He said new legislation is needed from the province to really solve the problem.

“We need to be able to give them a fine right away if they don’t comply with our orders — and a significant fine that will hit them where it hurts.”

Mike Halliday, a tenant at 207 Morningside Ave., agrees the city needs to step in and make sure landlords live up to their responsibilities.

“My girlfriend gets shocked every time she touches her stove,” Halliday said.  “They keep saying they are going to fix it and never get around to it.”

Vincent Simon, who has lived in the same building as Halliday for 30 years, said the building could use some work but has improved drastically since a new more responsible owner has taken over.

“It used to be horrible, full of cockroaches and falling apart,” Simon said.  “This new owner is trying to fix things up.  Violence and graffiti have almost completely disappeared, and they put in new windows and balconies.”