By Shafiqullah Aziz & Sara Jaffri
Residents of 25 Cougar Court are desperately in need of repairs in their building.
The 20-storey building near the intersection of Markham and Eglinton is managed by MetCap Living. Management has consistently neglected the property, but is petitioning for a rent increase that is above provincial standards. Disgruntled tenants strongly oppose paying more to live in a building that is falling into disrepair.
MetCap is seeking approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board to increase the rent beyond the 1.5% guideline set by the province for 2017. MetCap is trying to justify an Above the Guideline Increase (AGI) of 2.3% based on the supposed need to cover the costs for “capital expenditure.”
The rent increase comes as a slap in the face to tenants who have spent years with disrepair, lack of maintenance and neglect from a constantly changing building management. In the past two years, the building has seen an almost monthly turnover of superintendents. In this limited period of time, superintendents are not able to understand the building’s issues, let alone resolve them.
“Superintendents are not staying for a long time. Every one and a half months the superintendents are changing so they are not able to understand the problem. If they stay for at least a year they may be able to do something,” says Mohammad, a tenant in the building.
The high turnover of superintendents on its own is curious, but would not be as much of a problem were it not for the alarming state of disrepair in the building due to neglect. Superintendents are leaving precisely because there is too much work to be done and too few resources allocated by MetCap to do the work.
Mariam shared many of the problems she confronts as a tenant in the building. “The laundry sucks, windows are horrible, I hear dripping noises from my windows, I have rat issues. There are a lot of issues and they are just not solving it.”
It appears that when new superintendents do get hired, they are unable to deal with the backlog of repairs that they inevitably inherit. Superintendents are not provided with the resources and staff they need to even chip away at the overwhelming amount of complaints and maintenance requests.
Tenants are fed up with the unsafe, dysfunctional and often disgusting conditions in the building. They understand that the issues are far beyond the capacity of any superintendent to address.
From maggots and bedbugs, to eroding balconies and heavy leaking during rains, there are a host of urgent concerns that should have been addressed prior to MetCap’s appeal for an AGI.
As a tenant who has been subject to consistent rent hikes, Susan rejects the validity of an AGI and points to what she believes is MetCap’s long-term goal. “Where does MetCap justify raising the rent above the guideline? I guess MetCap would like to frustrate the long-time tenants to the point where they want to leave if the repairs they need done aren’t completed. The new person that moves into that apartment can then be charged a much higher rent.”
Tenants have been coping and creating short-term solutions themselves, putting up wallpaper to cover holes in walls and staying off their crumbling balconies. However, there is an increasing sense of the need to act towards more permanent changes. According to a long-term tenant, Shahid, the time has come for tenants to execute a solid plan of action. “We have so many people in the building, everybody will show support. The ‘big’ people will create problems for us, so it’s better that we unite and know the issues and sit together and resolve those issues.”