After a long day of work and running errands, Nazira Hindwan just wanted to take a shower and relax on the couch with her mother, while they talked about their day over a hot meal.
But that was not what happened on this day in March.
“I opened my front door and was instantly met with a concerning amount of murky water,” she said.
“Panicking, I rushed into the unit trying to see what the root of the problem was. Water was spraying out of a pipe in the living room wall,” Hindwan said. “We lost everything: clothes, shoes, valuables. It was close to $10,000 worth of damages.”
Hindwan and her mother, Jumati Mohamed, are tenants at 79 Thorncliffe Dr. Built in 1966, the 17-story building houses many, with 319 units.
As newcomers to the country, Hindwan and Mohamed had some trouble getting on their feet. When they first arrived from Eritrea in 2018, they were living at a women’s shelter at Bathurst and Dundas. They left everything behind to come to Canada for a fresh start.
Ali Abdurahman was a friend from back home in Eritrea. He helped them land them a vacant unit at the building. Hindwan and her mom has been living there for the last six years.
Often called “Arrival city” due to the large number of newcomers that live in the area. Thorncliffe Park is home to 63.7 per cent of residents in the neighbourhood are immigrants, according to the 2016 census.
From battling bed bugs to constantly fighting with landlords, life in Thorncliffe Park isn’t always easy for tenants. Stories of what life is like in this community pile up.
Unit troubles began in December: Hindwan
Hindwan said she noticed a small leak coming from the main bedroom back in December. She said that once she noticed the leak was becoming more frequent, she took pictures of it and attempted to report it to the management office.
“The manager completely disregarded me and told me to report the matter online,” Hindwan said. “I don’t know how to do that, which is why I went in person.“
Nothing was fixed after the report. No repairs were done until the unit flooded out a few months later.
In March, Hindwan and her mother came home to their unit completely flooded. The landlord said that the heating pipe from the floor above exploded. Only Hindwan’s unit was affected.
The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is an Ontario law that gives landlords and tenants specific rights and responsibilities. One of these responsibilities include “fixing anything that breaks or does not work properly (e.g., a broken refrigerator, a clogged drain or leaking pipes),” In Hindwan’s case it was the pipes.
The landlord must keep the building and the rental units in a good state of repair complying with all health, safety, housing and maintenance standards. Landlords are responsible for repairs even if the tenant knew about problems before agreeing to rent the home.
Abdurahman quickly turned into an advocate for Hindwan and her mother. He set up for the pair to stay in a hotel nearby for three days while they fixed the unit.
“The Managing office owes me over $1,400,” Abdurahman said. “[Hindwan and her mother] couldn’t stay in the unit while it was being fixed, so they had to stay at a hotel for almost a week, instead of three days like we originally agreed on.
“Now, whenever I ask [management] for the money back so I can pay off my credit card bill, they always have an excuse.”
Greenwin Corp. and its building managers did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Even though the unit was unlivable, Hindwan said the managing office said they couldn’t accommodate Hindwan and her mother. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “If a person identified by Code grounds has a need which prevents or impedes access to housing, he or she should identify this need or barrier to his or her landlord or housing provider. A landlord or housing provider must then make efforts to accommodate these needs up to the point of undue hardship.”
Councillor Jaye Robinson from Ward 15-Don Valley West said landlords must respond to tenant issues in a timely way. “It is imperative that landlords work quickly to address flooding and ensure tenants are both safe and comfortable,” she said.
Robinson went on to also talk about RentSafeTO and its importance. In the 2023 Operating Budget, the city increased funding for this program by nearly $850,000.
A call for rent control
ACORN (Association of Community for Reform Now) is an organization that represents low-income individuals fighting for social justice and change in their community. They have 10 locations throughout Canada. They’ve been fighting landlords since 2004 and accomplished things like stopping displacements, winning protections from stricter rent control laws, inclusionary zoning, and more.
The provincial government has passed laws that allow landlords to buy out properties and sell them for triple the price, which ACORN has also been protesting.
“This is why we have to fight because all the affordable units are being bought out by contractors and developers, they don’t even have to pay taxes for 25 years on these units, ” said ACORN co-chair Marcia Stone.
“Government lets landlords finance, (landlords) kick long-standing tenants out so they can do what we call renovictions and demovictions,” Stone said.
“They will try to bully and intimidate people into leaving so the landlords can do renovations and double or even triple the rent to whoever can ‘afford’ it.”
ACORN had a National Day of Action earlier this month, and the housing crisis was one of the main concerns. Stone explained that builders often say that they’re going to make units affordable and instead, they don’t.
She said ACRON wants at least 30 per cent of some of these units for rent control.
It’s been close to a month since the heating pipe exploded. The landlord still made Hindwan pay her $1,800 rent monthly, even though the problems she’s been having in her home are adding up.
Repairs to Hindiwans bathroom still haven’t been done, she said, which has caused a lot of inconvenience, especially because it was recently Ramadan.
Abdurahman and Hindwan have decided that they will be following up with a bylaw officer and will make plans to meet with the Don Valley community clinic to make a case.
“If they don’t fix it, we’re going to complain to the Don Valley community clinic, and I’m going to complain to my lawyer as well,” Abdurahman said. “They owe me more than $1,400 for the room. I just want to solve the matter in a peaceful way, this is wrong.”
“Most of these units are rented by immigrants and they take advantage of them, it’s not right. All we want is for them to fix the problem,“ he continued.
“I hope the city intervenes with this, the best thing we can do is get the word out to the public so people know about this. I’m sure others are having the same problems, “ Abdurahman said.