More to house flooding than thought
Six second-year Laurier students returned to their rented house after the holidays to find the residence in shambles. A burst pipe had caused over a thousand litres of water to spill into their Columbia St. house.
The flooding is said to have destroyed clothing, furniture, textbooks and electronics, as well as the walls and the floors. Even more troubling for the students, however, was the reaction of property management company Domus Student Housing.
The students, who did not respond to requests for comment in time for print, felt that Domus’s solutions were unjust and unethical.
In an article published Jan. 4 in the Waterloo Region Record, the students claimed that Domus staff suggested that the two students whose rooms had not been damaged could stay in the house.
Domus vice president Ho Tek has repeatedly denied that this exchange occurred, stating that Domus would never allow students to continue living in such conditions.
Tek said that on the contrary, a Domus handyman immediately offered to help find the students alternate accommodations. Several of the students said that they were opting to stay with friends for a few days, while several insisted upon staying in the house.
“[The handyman] spoke to one of the tenants and was like, ‘Do you have a place to stay?’” Tek told The Cord. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to stay at a buddy’s place.’ The other guy said, ‘Oh, I’m going to stay here.’ I’m like, ‘You can’t stay here. You have to leave.’”
“The next day that I went in,” Tek recounted, “There were two guys still staying there.”
According to Tek, after a brief examination, Domus found that the damage was too great for their staff to repair and the insurance company had to be involved.
After the publication of the article in the Record, Laurier’s housing services and residence life office stepped in to help to put a roof over the students’ heads.
According to manager Chris Dodd, the school offered to put the students up in a house owned by the school on Albert Street.
Both WLU and the University of Waterloo have policies to assist off-campus students in cases where they can no longer live in their houses.
Dodd said that four of the students took him up on the offer, and while he is unsure of what the other two decided upon, he has heard that the four students recently received their keys.
Unfortunately for the students, despite having a place to live, many perso
nal belongings have been damaged beyond repair. These students may be out of luck, as personal belongings are technically their own responsibility.
“Content that gets destroyed or damaged or stolen inside the property is not the responsibility of the landlord,” said WLUSU legal resources executive Adrian Saccon. “[The landlord] would have to pay for the pipes, they’d have to pay for damaged doors and stuff, but the content that is owned by tenants, [tenants] would have to have individual insurance on that.”
What could make things worse for the displaced students is their recent admission that the burst was as a result of them turning off their heat for the Christmas break.
Some student tenants — particularly those who pay their own heating bills — believe that turning off the heat during the winter is a good way to save energy and money. However, according to Ontario Power Generation’s website, radiant heat systems should not be shut off during the winter, as the conditions of a typical Ontario winter will cause pipes to freeze.
Tek also pointed out that the leases his tenants sign contain an article about not turning heat down to lower than 15 degrees Celsius for that very reason.
Tek said he feels that Domus was portrayed negatively by the Record, insisting that the company did all they could to assist the students. According to Tek, the same day that the Record published their article, Domus showed the students a house on Ezra that they were hoping would suit them.
“We’re a property management company,” Tek said. “These things just happen and we try to deal with it. It was dealt with in 48 hours. The only thing we can do is just try to find them a new place, that’s it. We can’t really do anything else besides that.”