Tenant wants mice, rot issues addressed

Barb Sweet
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A Buckmaster’s Circle woman says Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC) won’t do anything about poor conditions in her apartment, including a major mouse infestation and rotting, leaking windows.

Veronica Butler, who has lived in the two-bedroom, two-storey unit for about 20 years, said she’s got a living room window that housing workers nailed shut, mildew or mould in various areas, and leaks in her upstairs plumbing that’s caused ceiling damage.

“I didn’t cause these problems,” Butler said Friday.

“Now I got to go public. … So whatever happens after this I got to face the consequences.”

“They are the cause of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. This happened over the years. This is their responsibility. I can only bring it to their attention.”

She has been trying for five years to get some of the problems fixed, she told The Telegram and St. John’s South Liberal MHA Tom Osborne, who has been lobbying the province to beef up the Landlord Tenancy Act.

But in this situation, Osborne said, the landlord is the province through its low-income housing agency.

“She’s told me she’s five years trying to get housing to fix those leaks. That’s far too long,” Osborne said.

“If these were private landlords they would be forced to carry out those repairs. Government themselves are responsible for the Landlord-Tenants Relations Agency. Government own this building. So it’s a double standard that government themselves have, where they are saying on one hand landlords and tenants have to treat each other with respect. On the other hand, they are the landlord and they aren’t carrying out the work that has been requested of them.

“Boards around windows rotting. Windows are nailed shut. None of these conditions are acceptable.”

Osborne said Butler has to tidy her unit and get rid of some clutter.

But he doesn’t think tenants should be expected to do their own painting — after such a long period of occupancy — and flooring, as Butler has attempted to do, even trying to level it. She spilled paint on 20-year-old carpet and Housing said it won’t replace it.

“If you are going to rely on tenants to do their own painting, tenants are not professional painters — you can expect spills on carpets,” he said.

A spare bedroom smells musty because water has seeped under the wooden window through the drywall underneath.

Butler won’t open her kitchen cupboards because she says mice are running through them, chewing holes and running across her countertop and over her stove and into the burners.

She said the mice problem worsened when the unit next door caught fire — it’s empty and boarded up.

There was a large hole in the wood exterior by her door and she said Housing covered it with tin.

Dennis Kendell, NLHC executive director of regional operations, couldn’t discuss the specifics, but said some problems have been addressed and there has been an issue with accessing the unit to do other repairs.

Kendell said that’s a common problem, with some housing clients not answering the door at prescheduled appointment times and not replying to door knocker cards left by maintenance.

‘We’ve tried to respond on several occasions. We haven’t been able to access the unit,” he said.

“The onus is on the tenant to call back and reschedule. … It’s a challenge for us all the time.”

He said there is no issue with NLHC’s maintenance budget delaying necessary repairs.

“The modernization and im­prove­ments budget is three times what it was in 2004,” he said.

Kendell said housing deals with complaints of rodent infestations and has a standing contract with a local pest control company.

Kendell also noted that units such as those at Buckmaster’s Circle in St. John’s were last overhauled at least 10-15 years ago and are coming back around for refits.

He said there are 3,000 housing units in the city, with 300-500 being refitted with new building en­velopes every year. Approximately 75-85 per cent of the housing stock has been renovated and is in good condition, he said.

Interior makeovers, including new kitchens and bathrooms, are typically done on units in the winter, after exterior upgrades.

As for the house that is boarded up from the recent fire, Kendell said it takes time to clean units out, assess damages and call tenders. Fires are unexpected and not covered in the regular maintenance budget.

Butler said she was also concerned about exposed wrap around pipes in the basement, suspecting the material to be disturbed asbestos.

But Kendell, who viewed the photo, said he would be surprised if it is, because of the remediation work NLHC has done in its units.


Organizations: Landlord-Tenants Relations Agency

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Recent comments

  • Single mom in BMC
    June 02, 2014 - 10:32

    I am completely disgusted with this article and some of the comments that have been made. I am single mom living in one of the Buckmaster Circle units and I have a college education and work 40-50 hours a week. I don't receive handouts and if living in low income housing is considered a handout it's pretty ridiculous. More than half of the residents in the Circle work just to inform those that are ignorant. As a tenant I understand that there are problems with the units and I have been on wait lists several times for different things. But I keep my unit up to the best that I can and have had problems with mice and even a rat in one case and the problem was resolved very quickly. De-cluttering is a understatement in some cases and when I had the pest problems I nearly lost my mind but cleaning it up and getting rid of stuff that cause the pests to stay around was what resolved the problem.

  • Yo mama
    June 01, 2014 - 16:00

    She couldn't get a decent job in 20 years?

  • Shane
    June 01, 2014 - 12:16

    @ Rose, For some reason, you misunderstood my comment, I'm talking about who are to lazy to do anything. You not in this class, Has for living in the housing there nothing wrong with this, It the one's, who think the world owns them something. and the hell with everyone else. Rose look at the picture, tell me what do you see? Lady who like to sit around, pretending she got the world by the tail. maybe she do, only one thing wrong with that thought, at our expense. @ Maxwell J, Sorry this isn't Tom job. Tom job is to look after those who pay his cheque. The only reason he there , he hoping to score political points.

  • Rose
    May 31, 2014 - 14:42

    I live in one of these units. Granted, I haven't been here that long, but I've never had an issue with maintenance and upkeep by NLHC. The windows could stand to be replaced, but everything else is on par.

  • Maxwell J.
    May 31, 2014 - 13:46

    'Osborne said Butler has to tidy her unit and get rid of some clutter.' Osborne is doing his job trying to help Butler at the same time telling her politely she has to meet the landlord halfway. No doubt there are many cases where Housing has failed to maintain properties to a reasonable standard. Equally certain is that many of the problems they face - infestations, damage, excessive wear and tear - are due to the negligent, if not deliberately destructive behaviours of tenants. What it comes down to is that some (certainly not all) residents of subsidized or free housing lack either the respect and/or knowledge to maintain their premises to a standard of care the rest of us take for granted. It isn't being facetious or dismissive of the plight of the poor to say that those unable or unwilling to meet reasonable expectations with respect to public property entrusted to them should be required to undergo some training in the basics. If, despite that training, they are still unable to maintain their accommodations, then they should be evicted. Otherwise the integrity of neighbouring units is compromised. For its part, Housing must ensure that units are properly constructed and equipped to begin with. I note the absence of a proper fan above the stove. Bathroom fans should be gang switched with the lights. All leaks should be repaired immediately and basements should be properly sealed against the infiltration of moisture. Only mould resistant drywall should ever be used in housing subject to wide variations in heat as is often the case with low income housing. Once Housing has cleaned up its act, it is fair to insist their tenants do likewise.

  • A mom
    May 31, 2014 - 10:21

    To start with I drive though Buckmaster many times,getout and clean the garbage up that's around your door.Is discussing,they don't answer door when the inspectors come they would have to get all the extra people out that are living there.I wouldn't livein a rodent invested house I would after been moved.Don't say you can't afford it,you are certainly done up like a stick of chewing gun.

  • Shane
    May 31, 2014 - 08:42

    Try, and do like the rest of us, Get a job, and pay for thing on your owns, stop picking our pockets. Tom try and help the working poor, not some one who is to lazy to work.

    • Rose
      May 31, 2014 - 14:39

      Shane, your arrogance is baffling. I actually live in one of these 2 bedroom units. I have a degree from Memorial, I work part-time in my field, and my husband works 2 jobs. I do not intend to live in NL Housing for the rest of my life, but until the economy and housing market is more favourable for young families in this province, I will be thankful to have a safe and stable roof over my head. Shame on you.

    • John
      May 31, 2014 - 15:38

      Rose, you have a degree from memorial, your husband works two jobs, what the hell are you doing in housing? Put that degree to use and go buy a house!

    • Single mother
      May 31, 2014 - 16:51

      I agree with rose Shane you need to get a clue I am a single mother with 2 small children who works a full time job with eastern health and I can bearly afford the rent that I have to pay and I just moved in to nl housing not to long ago. So before you judge other people think before you open your mouth. I am a good person and work very hard to get by day by day. I myself don't have any issues with my house in maintance wise but know of a lot of people that do and housing pushes it off and it's not because of the people all the time that are living in the units. I my self have been dealing with non respectful neighbours traumatizing my children and keeping us up all night and housing continues to say they are dealing with it but actually not. So think before you open your mouth. Yes everyone has there own opinion but some people are so rude...

    • RATTER 01
      May 31, 2014 - 18:58

      I agree with Shane. Rose, if these comments do not reflect you life style, then please do not take them as a slap in the face to you. Shane was addressing the majority of tenants in NLHC buildings who are too lazy to go to work. They leech off you and I.

    • Yo mama
      June 01, 2014 - 16:03

      Shane for Premier!!

  • Sheila
    May 31, 2014 - 07:57

    I grew up for the most part in Buckmasters Circle and found it amazing how they managed to keep up the units considering the many they have throughout the province. I admit this unit needs major repairs and I feel that if Housing cannot gain access as prearranged timed it is the fault of the tenant that the repairs are not done. Housing cannot repair if they cannot get in or there is clutter in the way. The time she spent looking for her 15 minutes of fame should have been used to keep an appointment with Housing staff instead so they can enter the unit and start the repair assessment.

  • caroges
    May 31, 2014 - 07:13

    NLHC is a landlord like any other and has the right to enter any unit given 24 hour notice. So answering the door is just an excuse for these ridicules conditions.

    • Carol
      May 31, 2014 - 19:28

      This is exactly what I thought when I read this. A poor, lazy excuse for not addressing this woman's issues.