Acorn protest August 2, 2023 (Photo by Tamara Thornton, Blackburn Media)Acorn protest August 2, 2023 (Photo by Tamara Thornton, Blackburn Media)
London

"Just do your job," tenants demand of Old Oak Properties

Tenants from several Old Oak apartment buildings gathered Wednesday to demand action from their landlord.

Residents of the buildings on Adelaide Street North said they have repeatedly reported chronic issues like water damage, holes in the walls, carpets that haven't been cleaned or replaced in years, strangers including unhoused people accessing the building, and pest infestations with little to no response.

Water damage at an Old Oak apartment (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)Water damage at an Old Oak apartment (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)Water damage at an Old Oak property (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)Water damage at an Old Oak property (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)Bugs in an Old Oak property (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)Bugs in an Old Oak property (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)

Anna and another female tenant of 1150 Adelaide Street North said they just want Old Oak to do their job.

"What I'm hoping for is for Old Oak to finally be accountable and to do the repairs they haven't done," Anna said.

The other tenant, who preferred not to be named, said she dealt with a months-long allergic reaction to bed bugs, which were found in her apartment.

"Another big one is the ventilation in the washroom, there's a bunch of mold on the ceiling cause there's no ventilation," she said. She added that she spoke to the City of London, which said the issue needed to be taken care of immediately but the response of the landlord was to "scrape it off" or that they would paint over it.

Both women spoke of a recent incident that left them shaken, when someone smashed the glass beside the main door and apparently slept that night in the vestibule.

"There was a bunch of blood," the tenant said. Adding that it was all over the floor and door handles and it took almost 48 hours for someone to completely clean the area and board up the hole in the glass.

According to tenants, both individual apartments and common areas need to be addressed, but many residents find it almost impossible to even request a repair.

"[Old Oak] got rid of all of our payment methods, pretty much. They got rid of all of our ways to do repair orders, unless you have internet. It's not fair. It's not accessible. And it's not okay," Anna said. "Our apartments are falling apart due to their neglect."

Old Oak Properties did originally construct the 'Royal Oak Terrace' properties nearly 70 years ago. Though it has changed hands several times over the years, Old Oak is once again the property owner as it purchased the buildings two years ago.

Tenants said Old Oak knew what kind of damage it was inheriting when the buildings were reacquired, but haven't done anything about it. Residents also said that Old Oak eliminated the role of superintendent from the buildings two years ago and it's nearly impossible to get ahold of anyone in the office, which is closed to them after 4 p.m.

"People who work or don't get home until 6:30. They can't even put in a complaint or talk to anybody. We have to call the after hours and [they're] like, 'we're not dealing with you'. What do you do?" Anna said.

Cathi DeMuy lives in what is classed as "the show building." She said she doesn't experience the same issues, but as a person who uses a mobility scooter, she's trapped inside her building in the winter.

"They dump the snow on the one ramp we have to get out of that complex in the winter. I've [even] blocked the driveway trying to get them to move the snow to the other side," DeMuy said. "They don't listen. So we can't get out."

She added that there are a lot of people who use mobility aids who are trapped in winter.

DeMuy, who is a paralegal and former property manager, said she's afraid of renovictions, which have recently been seen in London and across the province, as she's well aware of her rights. But it's not the same for many other residents.

"They're terrified," she said.

Anna said people in her building are more afraid of the whole thing being demolished, leaving them with virtually no recourse.

The intent of Wednesday's march was to speak to someone in person about the issues at the Old Oak properties on Adelaide and to deliver their list of demands.

"If we can't get inside, we'll tape it to the door," Anna said. "That way they can't say they didn't receive it."

The tenants were met with police outside of Old Oaks' headquarters. They were told they couldn't enter the building or take up the whole sidewalk and were advised to take up a class action lawsuit.

Protestors were met with police (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)Protestors were met with police (Image courtesy of ACORN Canada)

Old Oak Properties told LondonNewsToday that they can only deal directly with residents, following Privacy and RTA guidelines. Adding "We are not at liberty to speak in groups about specific concerns or maintenance issues. The privacy and confidentially of all communications with residents is our top priority and must be maintained."

"Residents are encouraged to use the Resident portal as it is a secure channel and easy to use to track maintenance requests, submit general inquiries, pay rent and other useful tools. Residents can also email, call, or leave a voice mail message for site staff," Vice President of Operations, Robert Bierbaum, said. He also mentioned that there is someone on call 24/7 and residents can go to the site office at each property to speak to someone in-person during regular business hours.

The tenants and ACORN Canada, an independent organization of low-and-moderate income families, plan to hold another event on Saturday.

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