Cosburn tenants still homeless after fire

[attach]4280[/attach]Tenants of a Cosburn Avenue apartment are considering legal action after a February electrical fire forced them into temporary housing.

Several tenants of 80 Cosburn Ave., located near Pape and Mortimer avenues, have hired lawyer Brad Teplitsky to represent them in a possible case against property management firm Brown Group of Companies and the building’s owner, Hanard Investments.

Tenants have not been allowed to live in the 90-unit building since Feb. 15, when an electrical fire broke out. Since then the building, constructed in the 1970s, has been undergoing a full replacement of electrical and heating systems.

Speaking by phone on May 9, Teplitsky said he intended to file a statement of claim in mid-May at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. He said he would be claiming more than $400,000 in financial compensation.

Teplitsky claims “negligent maintenance” of the electrical system caused the fire.

The fire, which caused $450,000 in damage, was widely reported to be the result of faulty electrical wiring.

Yasir Malik, a tenant who is attempting to mobilize residents, says they are looking for compensation and also an apology.

[attach]4281[/attach]“They treated us horribly,” Malik said, adding that in the days following the fire residents were allowed inside the building only if they signed a waiver, and even then were allowed only 20 minutes to collect their belongings. They’re still not allowed in the building for long periods of time, Malik said.

So far, Malik says, residents of 45 units have agreed to join in legal action.

Brown Group spokesperson Danny Roth said in early May there was no clear-cut re-occupancy schedule, but hoped that all tenants would be back in their units by June 1.

Though Malik says the building has long-standing issues, including regular interruptions in water flow and electrical issues that have often left elevators out of service, Roth said the building was well-run prior to the fire.

According to Roth, only a handful of tenants have left their leases and that the vast majority will be returning.

“We’re very grateful to the tenants for their cooperation,” Roth said.

Malik said tenants should have been given money for alternative housing.

“At the end of the day, it’s a message to the Brown Company that they have responsibilities,” Malik said in a post on his website, “They can’t tell people to wait indefinitely without taking care of the situation.”

Malik has since found a new apartment. He says he feels badly for people who have no options.

“If I put myself in their position I would cry,” he said. “Trust me.”