Archive for the ‘Apartment Safety’ Category

Recently tenants at both 165 and 195 Barrington Avenue apartment buildings became aware of changes to the security system implemented by Ranee Management. Effective the end of May the security guard services will cease.  Instead, tenants will have to rely entirely on the electronic surveillance system that was installed. The installation of the security system is reputed to have cost approximately $50,000 per building.  We need to look carefully at how that stacks up in the long term against the annual salary of $20,000 – $25,000 for security guards monitoring apartment buildings. Any savings should be passed on to tenants in the form of a rent reduction.  It is also troubling, to say the least, that not all of the buildings owned and operated by Ranee Management will be affected. Apparently their apartment complexes in more affluent locations will retain both electronic surveillance and the presence of a security guard.

In two earlier posts we reported on a series of security incidents that occurred.  Refer to “Safety and Security in Apartment building” :  http://wp.me/pia0J-xs   and “Security in Underground Parking Garages:  http://wp.me/pia0J-LW.   There have been several thefts, damage and break-ins mostly related to cars in the underground parking and outdoor parking and also the stairwells at 165 Barrington Avenue. There have also been rowdy incidents where inebriated tenants and their guests have created disturbances and injuries have occurred. We have learned that other property managers in the GTA have also eliminated security guards. The result is that there has been an increase in security issues due to vandalized or malfunctioning cameras.  The presence of an actual guard on site would be beneficial as that would act as a deterrent to lawbreakers. 

In light of the latest development it should not come as a surprise that tenants in the buildings affected have deep concerns related to their safety and security. There are inherent problems with eliminating security guard services: 

a) Is this new security system hooked up to an Alarm Centre?
b) Are the cameras being monitored by anyone?
c) Surveillance cameras in some buildings have been vandalized and that puts tenants at risk.
d) In case of emergency (e.g. in the garage, basement or stairwell) who should we attempt to call?
e) Is the victim carrying a cell phone and who will they contact?
e) Are security duties being shifted to the building superintendents?
No form of electronic security can replace an individual who is able to respond to a call for help and contact the police/enforcement authorities right away.  Just by their presence a security guard can deter an attack on a vulnerable individual, especially seniors or frail individuals. The cameras are only referred to if the individual recalls the exact time of the incident.  How can we be sure that the enforcement authorities will always follow up when incidents are reported and not ignore the violation because in someone’s opinion it is not worthy of further investigation? In the event of a security violation there is a vast difference between what a security guard can do immediately as opposed to relying on a  surveillance camera that may or may not be functioning properly. There is a time lapse when reporting violations either to the building management or law enforcement and that is not beneficial to tenants reporting a security incident.
Tenants in buildings managed by Ranee Management who are affected by these changes need to raise their concerns with representatives of Ranee Management. We also recommend that you contact your East York councillor, Janet Davis (www.janetdavis.ca) as well as the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association (http://www.torontotenants.org/).
We look forward to hearing your opinions, ideas and suggestions on this security issue.


NOTE:  Tenants have the option to file a T6 Form  at the Landlord and Tenant Board  for a rent reduction since the landlord has not maintained safety standards through “loss of services”.  (Refer to:  T6 Application Form  for more information.) The cost of security guard services is included in rent and this change in service that tenants have been paying for is now being eliminated.  Filing a T6  Form is more easily put in place if there is an active tenant association.  

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The recent fire at 500 Dawes Road once again raises the issue of adequate fire safety regulations in apartment buildings, especially older buildings that might not meet current City of Toronto building regulations

According to news reports, the fire started in the elevator shaft of the building where the superintendent and a maintenance man were working on the elevators with a soldering gun. There was an explosion and a fire started in the elevator sending plumes of black smoke up to every floor.  This particular building is an older building with no roof hatches to vent the smoke so thick plumes of smoke wend their way through apartment units, windows, hallways and balconies. Some tenants were unable to exit the building quickly and had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Those in the elevator in question received serious injuries and had to be treated in hospital.  Clearly this building needs to be evaluated for fire safety code compliance.

Recently there was also a serious fire occurring on one of the balconies at 165 Barrington Avenue. That fire has been attributed to discarding lighted cigarette butts over balconies. Damage to the balcony in question was extensive and the heavy smoke emanating from that fire inconvenienced tenants on several floors. Fortunately there were no injuries but several tenants who were affected by the smoke seeping into their units and the hallways remain very concerned about this incident.  Tenants in this building frequently complain of finding butts on their balconies. Notices have been posted by management cautioning tenants about discarding lighted cigarette butts over their balconies and also encouraging tenants to forward any information they have about this incident.

Most us in the GTA  recall that massive fire that occurred at a TCHC apartment building on Wellesley Street last year.  Many of the residents were stranded for days and unable to return to their units.  That fire was also attibuted to a lighted cigarette butt that landed on a balcony packed with various items that included combustible materials stored there.  Massive hoarding of all kinds of stuff in apartments and balconies is neither safe nor healthy and has become somewhat of an epidemic nowadays. In addition to being  a serious fire hazard there are unpleasant outcomes from this practice.  Many of the hoarded items are scavenged either from the street or from items discarded at the rear of apartment buildings. These scavenged items often bring unwanted visitors such as bed bugs, cockroaches, and who knows what else, to apartments !  All the excess items that tenants hoard should be stored either in apartment lockers or in a public storage facility.

The fires caused by careless discarding of cigarette butts brings us back to the issue of the rights of  ‘smokers’ versus ‘non-smokers’. (Refer to our post on this issue:  Smoke Free Housing).  This is not only safety issue but also a health issue as it is well-documented that smoking can damage a person’s health.  Cigarette smoke infiltrating through electrical outlets and other crevices in poorly insulated buildings exposes non-smoking tenants to second-hand smoke.  Perhaps it is time reconsider whether or not tenants have a right to smoke in their unit or on their balcony since that activity can compromise both the safety and health of other tenants.

Tenants should take note that the property managers/landlords are required to perform  annual fire safety checks to ensure the building meets the municipal building code. If buildings are up to code and the fire/smoke alarms are operating then tenants are assured that they will be made aware of a fire in a timely manner and can protect themselves accordingly.

For your own benefit and safety it is recommended that  you check out the City of Toronto fire Safety and Fire prevention tips http://www.toronto.ca/fire/prevention/

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Recently we were notified that on Tuesday July 28, 2009, several tenants at 165 Barrington Avenue (Ranee Management) were victimized by an obviously well-planned and executed burglary that occurred during the daytime hours.

The notification received from the concerned tenants indicated that “the criminal(s) stole items to make quick sales. Items stolen included personal items such as jewellery, heirlooms, laptop computers, digital cameras, (more…)

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On the morning of July 20, 2008,  a massive explosion in the basement electrical room of 22-storey, 2 Secord Avenue and subsequent fire, forced the 900 residents of the apartment building from their homes.

Thick smoke traveled up from the basement, through the elevator shaft and ventilation system, blackening surfaces throughout the building with soot and forcing the immediate evacuation of the residents. Many left the building with only the clothing on their backs.

The 2 Secord tenants spent 40 days living in emergency accomodations: bunking either with family and friends or in hotel rooms provided by the (more…)

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