Our problems began when we first moved here in 2014. The balcony on our second-floor unit was not maintained or cleaned. As a result, the wood surface was slick (likely with moss), offering no traction. The maintenance staff were aware of this as I was warned to be careful about the slickness, he said was a problem with the wood patios but it was too late I slipped on this surface, injuring my legs and rapidly losing my mobility.
The balcony surface was finally power washed six weeks later.
To limit stair use, we requested and were transferred to the second available unit in February 2015. This is where we currently reside. While the coordinator was well aware of our request and need, she let the first unit go without considering us. Since then, my mobility diminished to the point where I require a wheelchair to move any great distances. We have been offered accessible accommodations within the main building (the tower), however….there are several issues with this plan.
Moving in, we were aware of some reports of bedbug infestations. We quickly learned of the scale of the problem, and I have been hearing about bedbugs as recently as 2018. This was only one of the issues. The tower has a reputation for being noisy and I understand that many members hope to escape out to the King Street units to avoid constant disturbances. Lastly, most of the accessible suites are ONE bedroom, 3 of us currently reside in a two bedroom, moving us to the tower would have, most likely, split us up and indeed that was their original intention. Collectively, we’d be paying for two units, instead of one.
At present, we have a ramp at our back door. We finally got an accessible door in 2019, while a neighbour gave us a wooden ramp for the door in 2015. After a request and a bit of struggle, an actuator was installed on the door of the main building and room where the elevator was and this had given me access to the main building. From there I had been able to use a very small accessibility elevator to leave the property. We have asked that a ramp be considered from the area called the podium. This is a raised area over the parking garage, around which, the King Street buildings are placed. This ramp would offer access directly to King Street. As the ramp would encroach on city property, little became of this.
Recently, a social worker from the London InterCommunity Health Centre became involved, this worker was able to jump-start the ramp idea with the coordinator. It quickly became clear that a variance could be obtained and funding could be sourced. This could make the ramp a viable project, but we have been given very little information on progress. As a matter of fact the last we heard, they might try hardship to avoid putting in a ramp.
In July 2018, we were forced from our home, due to a fire. This fire, which made 12 families homeless, was a result of careless smoking. Four units were fully involved, while ours received water and smoke damage. Thieves took advantage of the situation, removing an estimated $20.00 of copper water pipe. As the result, we were holed up in a hotel, waiting to go home before our insurance money ran out. At least, this time, Tolpuddle was as much in the dark as we were.
During this time I had been trapped in elevators three times, this exacerbated the claustrophobia I suffered from, and now I suffer panic attacks whenever I even think about trying to ride in an elevator. As a result, I have become a shut in, and have not been outside since August of 2019.
After four months, we were finally able to return. As other units were occupied or reoccupied, we started to notice new problems. Secondhand smoke became very noticeable. At first, we tried to adapt by using fans in the winter and two air conditioners in the summer. An air purifier was purchased as well. Our requests for reasonable enjoyment of our unit and health issues to the office and the board have been, and continue to be minimized, dismissed or ignored, outright. At most, the board engages in victim-blaming, offering no solutions for us to deal with a problem caused by someone else.
The first attempt to discuss a smoking by-law was met with hostility. To date, every argument against such a bylaw always circles back to selfish self-entitlement. Those opposed to the by-law demand that they have a right to smoke at home with a total disregard for anyone else’s rights.
While this is going on, a transfer from the tower brought a cockroach infestation to our building. Baiting and traps seem to be keeping it under control, and we have not seen any signs since late in 2020.
As for smoking, our complaints are dismissed, since we have no specific by-law, and the board is unwilling to employ applicable by-laws (the aforementioned reasonable enjoyment of unit). Secondhand smoke is a constant problem now. We have an occupancy by-law that could address the matter, but either the coordinator or the board refuses to consider it. In October 2019, we forwarded a letter from our doctor. This letter outlined the health risks I face, due to secondhand smoke because I have asthma and a extreme sensitivity to scents and tobacco. The best the board could do was offer us a transfer from our unit to another smoke contaminated unit. Given my issues with elevators, I’d be trapped in the tower and still forced to smoke. There is NO place in this co op where smoking is not permitted. T
In November 2019, we provided a survey, regarding smoking and a by-law. The coordinator had assured me that it would be used, to date, this survey has not been sent out.
At present, we have no right to enjoy our unit, we are forced to smoke when our neighbours do. If our neighbour smokes on their patio or balcony, we cannot use our patio or open a window. If our neighbour smokes inside their unit, smoke seeps through the walls and ceiling and contaminates our home. This imposes an unreasonable hardship on our family. This fact is ignored by the coordinator and the board.
To date, smoking has caused at least five fires that the board is forced to admit to.
In August, of 2020, the idea of a smoking by-law was finally floated. We are under no illusions as to why, July 2018, and August 2020, fires were caused by smoking. In both cases, the responsible party was uninsured. The July 2018 fire caused over $800 000 in damage and caused one insurance company to withdraw. I’m not sure of the damage total for the August 2020’s fire. I am confident that financial considerations are the motivation behind the by-law, not the health considerations.
Even so, some board members resisted the by-law, they kept trying to hold off citing a need for a focus group, or more research. As mentioned before, self-entitlement fuelled every argument against the by-law (By-Law 17).
The dispute over By-Law 17, caused at least one resignation from the board of directors. The matter was finally put to a virtual general members’ meeting on November 30, 2020.
When finally called to a vote, support for By-Law 17 was obvious, and the motion was passed 24 to 12 with four members abstaining. By-Law 147 would take effect as of December 1st, 2020. We had thought it was over. Shortly after, questionable complaint was raised.
Two members claimed that they could view and hear the meeting, but were unable to vote. Instead of attempting to contact the on-site coordinator, these two members opted to wait until the day after. The following day they were able to complain and defy the majority. Of course, we are still forced to smoke at our neighbours’ pleasure. We are also left wondering if the Covid 19 by law was also passed considering it was a part of the SAME meeting and voted on right after the no smoking by law. If the same issues were of concern, then it wouldn’t be a bylaw and enforcable either, except it wasn’t mentioned on the notice we received. This leaves us to wonder if it was simply a matter of trying to undo a smoking by law that was in fact legally voted on.
As it stands now, the board of directors has requested a third-party investigation but will offer no details. We cannot even get a timetable on how long the board is willing to let us suffer.
Using fans, air conditioners and an air purifier has resulted in increased costs. The second AC and the air purifier, itself were costly. The air purifier requires filters. Our costs are now up, due to increased electricity use and higher insurance premiums because of the fire in 2018.
Replacement filters: $101.68/year as of November 2020
Hydro use: up 40%
Insurance: up 28%
I wish I had never moved here. I feel that this experience has left me with a negative impression of living in a Co Op where I feel like we have LESS rights than we would if we were tenants in an ordinary apartment building. Co ops have a possbility to serve the needs of friends and board members rather than the needs of the residents of the co op. Rules in our co op are not adhered to, nothing is done when bylaws are disobeyed leaving me with ZERO confidence in the board OR co ops in general.
As much as I would like to move, housing for disabled people in wheelchairs doesn’t seem to be a priority with the government and we are left to wait for years on end to find a remedy to our situation, often we have to wait for the death of another disabled person in order to gain accomodation. Would anyone else in my situation want to hope for the death of another so you can live your life as independently and healthy as you can? I don’t choose to think so.
This is MY reality. My frustration and my weariness at begging for the same rights as others enjoy, given rude treatment by staff and a board of directors who seem disinterested in anything but their own needs and wants. I’m exhausted.