Nadia and her two young children were victims of a fire that erupted on her balcony caused by a cigarette cast from a tenant above.
The fire did not enter the apartment but all contents within the unit were coated with a carcinogenic black soot. What made matters worse was that she had never purchased tenant insurance.
Toronto Fire later invited the family to a local Fire Hall and provided them a cheque of one thousand dollars and various household items, clothing and toys to help them in the rebuilding process.
Damien Walsh, Vice-President of the Toronto Firefighters Association was on hand and spoke of this program which helps families in need, “When we think there’s going to be a need or there’s kids involved, it’s especially tough for our guys. The fire’s out and they’re rolling up the hoses and getting ready to drive away and there’s a family standing there looking at their home and they can’t get back in. That’s why many years ago we started helping out families where we can. It’s just part of what fire fighters have always done, we’re part of the community and our help in community doesn’t stop when the fire’s out.”
Nadia contrasted the compassion of Toronto Fire and other first responders, with the way her landlord handled the situation. Without a place to stay, the only accommodation her landlord offered was a different unit at a higher rent, but when she said she could not afford it, her family was immediately served a letter terminating the lease.
By signing the letter, her family would receive their last month’s rent deposit (paid when they first moved in), and it would also free them of their obligation to pay the March rent. The letter would also relieve both landlord and tenant of further liability to one another.
The family hesitated to sign the document, but as the days quickly passed and they required a deposit to secure a new rental unit, they eventually signed.
Later insight from a lawyer at a local legal aid clinic revealed that the landlord did no favour to their tenant in this case.
As part of the lease, a landlord is required to provide their tenant a habitable unit. The landlord should have offered alternate accommodation (such as a hotel) while the family was still under lease. In Nadia’s case, Red Cross helped pay the costs for their temporary lodging.
Since the tenants were not responsible for the fire, they were within their rights to seek compensation for their lost belongings at the Landlord and Tenant Board. This door was closed when they signed the letter.
Despite the fire, Nadia remained positive, “It’s good to know that there were people and organizations out there to help when we were in need.” She also urged tenants in the community to consider insuring their belongings as she never imagined she’d be a victim of an accident like this.
If you need information on your rights as a tenant and the responsibilities of your landlord call the Tenant Hotline at: 416-921-9494.
For free legal aid (available to those in financial need) visit Jane Finch Community Legal Services located at 1315 Finch Avenue West or call 416-398-0677.