Tenants displaced due to construction delays

On Sept. 4, residents of the new student apartment being built at 1 Columbia Street were supposed to move into the development. However, days before, it was revealed to the incoming tenants that their suites would not be available for move-in on the aforementioned date.

“We were supposed to move in on the fourth, and I think the lease actually started on the fourth,” said Dylan Bannister, one of 1 Columbia’s leaseholders. “They had hinted we might not move in the weekend before, and I think on the Friday they said they might be set back. Then on the Monday they actually told us we wouldn’t be moving in.”

The apartment developers, Schembri Property Management, had apparently informed leaseholders of construction delays, but mentioned they were finishing construction as quick as possible.

“They’ve avoided giving us any hard date as to when our move-in would be, so they basically don’t know,” said Bannister.

Schembri has offered to either move the building’s leaseholders into existing company-owned properties in Waterloo or pay for hotel residence. Some leaseholders are concerned the rented hotels may be too far from campus, providing added difficulty to attend class.

“My roommate actually has to shuttle up to the school every day. They do provide a shuttle bus, but it’s pretty inconvenient, doesn’t run a lot and goes at weird times. So it’s quicker to take the bus,” said Bannister.

Upon the start of a September lease can often be an issue. This reality makes it necessary for tenants to carefully read over their lease agreements.

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

“Because each contract may be different in the provisions, you need to check what it says, or doesn’t say, regarding date of completion. What rights does the other party to the contract have should the completion dates not be met?” said Eric Davis, a practicing lawyer in Kitchener-Waterloo, specifying in municipal planning.

Provisions in lease agreements can often confuse tenants, especially students. It is important to remember that lease agreements, like contracts, can be legally binding and represent an understanding between the developer and leaseholder.

“I think people should read their lease, and if they do not understand any provisions, should seek the requisite legal advice,” said Davis. “Many contract have provisions in them where it mentions you have read this contract and have the ability to review it. It’s oftentimes rather difficult to get those contracts set aside.”

To students who are confused by the provisions in their lease agreement, or simply feel that a review of the lease by an expert would benefit them, can turn to Wilfrid Laurier University’s on campus resources. The Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union has a Student Rights Advisory Committee that is specifically available to aid students in landlord-tenant disputes or concerns. The committee cannot offer professional legal advice, but instead can offer guidance for what students can do to enforce their rights as tenants.

If you are looking to back out of a lease agreement, Davis offered some key advice as to going about that legal action.

“In most leases, it contains termination provisions of some sort, so if you’re looking to back out of a lease, it would be contained within that particular agreement.”

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