Essex evicts tenants from unsafe apartment building
WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Town of Essex is evicting tenants from their Laird Avenue apartment building because it is not safe.
Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche says they had no choice but to notify the tenants on Tuesday they must be out of their homes by 4 p.m. on Friday.
“The engineer came back and said this place needs to be shut down immediately,” because it doesn’t meet Ontario’s Fire Safety code, said Meloche.
“If there’s a fire nobody will be able to escape, or they might not be able to escape due to the distance to the staircase, the staircase is made out of wood, it could catch on fire,” according to landlord Dianne Bishop, who is also a tenant, and daughter of the buildings’ owner, Eugene Dahl.
It is known as “The Dahl House” in town because it has been owned by the same family for more than 30 years.
Eugene, 82, put the building, which included six apartment units and two commercial spaces, up for sale.
“We had a good offer, they were acceptable with it, with this? I don’t think it’s going to go through,” he tells CTV News.
“We realize its COVID, we realize its winter, the coldest time of the year, nobody wants to see anybody out on the street,” so Meloche met with six tenants Thursday to make sure they have somewhere to go, temporarily.
Richard Barker is one of the tenants displayed.
“I don’t understand how they can kick you out in the middle of winter with a pandemic going on and there’s nowhere to go,” he said Wednesday.
Meloche says since then, all tenants have secured somewhere to live.
Bishop and Dahl admit they let inspectors with Essex Fire and Rescue into their building in Nov. 2020.
“They walked through, we let them come through, no problems. They did what they wanted to do then a couple of days later, they came and knocked on our door, saying we must get an engineer in, and the report must be received to them by February 1,” says Bishop.
The family hired an engineer, and paid $6,000 for a review of the building to see if it met Ontario’s building code for fire safety.
The report was delivered to the town and to Dahl on Monday, Feb. 8.
Then on Tuesday Bishop says “the town came and told us, with the sheriffs, two sheriffs, came and told us that it’s not safe if there’s ever a fire.”
Bishop says 11 people were forced to find somewhere else to live, along with 15 pets.
Bishop adds the report pegged repair costs at $200,000.
“My parents owned it for 30 years, we’re not just going to walk away.”
Meloche says on Friday evening the building will be boarded up and Bishop says the locks will be changed.
The building will remain vacant, according to Meloche, until the owner, or new owner, brings it up to code, or tears it down.
Here is the entire statement from the Town of Essex:
"This was not a decision that the Town of Essex or the Chief Building Official has taken lightly and our hearts go out to all the tenants impacted by the order. As a Town, we have a legislated responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our residents. We recognize the impacts that the order will have on the lives of these tenants, but given the state of the building and the results of the engineer’s report, there were no other options.
In early November 2020, officials from Essex Fire & Rescue Services were notified of potential fire hazards at the subject property. Essex Fire and Rescue Services immediately contacted the owner and tenants to make arrangements for a joint inspection with the Town’s Building Department. Later that month, members from Essex Fire and the Town’s Building Department attended the property for a joint inspection. During the inspection they found numerous safety concerns related to fire separation and access/egress.
In early December 2020, the Town’s Chief Building Official issued an order to the building owner to retain the services of a Professional Engineer or Architect to assess egress (safe exits), HVAC, and fire separations/penetrations throughout the entire building. This order was provided to the building owners and all tenants residing there at the time.
On February 9, 2021, the Town’s Chief Building Official received a copy of the report from the engineer hired by the building owner which noted that, in the engineer’s opinion, the building was unsafe for occupancy and that tenants should be removed from the premises immediately.
Subsequently, the Town’s Chief Building Official attended the property on February 9, 2021 with an Order to Remedy Unsafe Building and an Order Prohibiting Occupancy of an Unsafe Building. All tenants of the building are required to be out of the building by February 12, 2021 at 4:00pm.
In early December, the Town’s Chief Building Official also contacted the City of Windsor’s Housing and Children’s Services division to advise them of the issues at the subject property. As in previous cases and if requested, the Town will provide the tenants with available information about local housing resources, including contact with the City of Windsor Housing and Children’s Services department. The Town has also provided all tenants with a signed letter to assist with priority applications to the Central Housing Registry- Windsor Essex County."
With files from CTV Windsor's Alana Hadadean.