Tenants to bear balcony costs

[attach]5543[/attach]Melinda McInnes doesn’t want her balcony to fall off, but she also doesn’t think the cost of renovations should fall on tenants’ shoulders.

Residents of the 45-year-old highrise rentals at 65 and 95 High Park Ave. should have new balconies to enjoy in a matter of months, but will have to deal with the construction during that time too.

“We all understand that this is an important thing that needs to be done in our community,” said McInnes, who has lived in her building for four years. “However, the current tenants are expected to bear the disruption with limited mitigation measures from Minto, no rent abatement and a rent increase.

“So it’s all kind of falling on the current community to bear the brunt of this very disruptive construction.”

Minto Group completed similar balcony renovations last year at 66 Pacific Ave. and 35 High Park Ave. McInnes said some residents decided to move out rather than put up with the noise and dust associated with demolishing the old balconies. Others have taken Minto Group to court arguing for a retroactive rent decrease to make up for the inconvenience.

According to Minto, no rent reduction is scheduled for the renovations at 65 and 95 High Park Ave., which were scheduled to begin Feb. 15.

“We’ve been told by Minto that not only will we not get a rent abatement, but we will receive an above-market increase,” McInnes said. “They are going to make an application within 18 months of the construction.”

The vice-president of customer experience at Minto Group, Doug Brunsdon, said Minto is within its rights to increase the rent.

“With respect to significant capital work, there is the ability for landlords, on a presubscribed formula, to apply to the rental tribune to increase rental rates based on capital expenditures at the property,” he said.

Brunsdon did say many steps have been taken to ease the strain felt by residents during the renovation process. Minto has created lounges equipped with TVs, computers and wireless Internet in the lobbies of their neighbouring properties in order to provide tenants a sanctuary from the noise. It has also provided eight “quiet suites” in other buildings for disrupted tenants and another suite for their pets.

“We’re going to experiment with a pet suite to try and create an environment where you can take your pet to if it’s a particularly harsh day,” he said. “We’ve also contacted the local pet daycare and got discounts of 15-20 percent.”

Brunsdon and McInnes disagree on whether eight quiet suites are enough to fill the demand in buildings that have hundreds of apartments. They also do not agree on how long the project is supposed to last.

McInnes said she received a letter of notice for the renovations on Dec. 18, less than 60 days before they were scheduled to begin.

“It sort of said the balconies will be renovated between 12 and 16 weeks, but that’s for one side of the building,” she said. “So the actual estimated time that they’re talking about for this entire building is 28 weeks.”

According to Brunsdon, the whole project should take 14–16 weeks, weather permitting.

Despite the confusion, McInnes said she is happy with the communication Minto has had with the residents. On Feb. 2, she was one of about 65 residents to attend a Minto-organized meeting informing tenants about the project.

“I was happy with the opportunity to have dialogue with Minto directly and I hope that Minto takes seriously the concerns that were expressed in that meeting,” she said, before adding she was unhappy with the meeting’s conclusion. “At the end of the meeting they handed out tape, dust masks and non-industrial ear plugs. I was not impressed.”