From bedbugs to break-ins, Scarborough tenants demand change … –

Complaints of bed bugs, stoves that turn on by themselves, break-ins and a landlord that tenants say ignores their cries for help led to a protest that saw dozens of residents demanding to speak with property management on Saturday afternoon.

Chanting, placard-waving tenants are accusing mega-manager,RealstarGroup, of failing to maintain the safety and livability of theirScarboroughbuilding complex in the Oakridge area.

They claim the company has createdan atmosphere of aggression in the process.

Mohammed Rokonuzzaman, a tenant representative of the building and member of advocacy group ACORN, has a list of grievances he says aren't being addressed. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

Residents say management has tried to charge them an air-conditioning fee, has notbothered to keep up with maintenance requestsand has failed to adequately address vehicle break-ins.

Realstar, whichmanages $6 billion in assets and operates hotel chains and residences in Canada and the United Kingdom,denies the charges.

"The problem is getting severe," said Mohammed Rokonuzzaman, resident of the building and a member of theAssociation of Community Organizations for Reform Now, otherwise known as ACORN.

One tenant said he felt Realstar had created an atmosphere of 'systemic fear' in the building complex. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

ACORN, which bills itself as "an independent national organization of low- and moderate-income families,"helpedRokonuzzamanand other tenants organize Saturday's protest.

Amongst the thefts and pest problems, tenants say they have been called "rude"and"racist"by property managers, Rokonuzzaman alleges.

It's an attitude he sayscreates "systemic fear" for those living at 30 Denton Avenue.

Rokonuzzaman pointed totenants who he says have been sleeping on couches to avoid bedbugs, calling the conditions "miserable."

Other tenants at the protest agreed, chanting slogans with ACORN organizers.

Some, likeMohammad Ud-doula, think the management's treatment of tenants stands in the way of a friendly community.

One tenant had belongings wrapped in plastic bags in an effort to fend off bed bugs. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

"The main problem is their attitude towards us as tenants," said Ud-doula, who has lived in the building for nine years.

"More communication, more listening, and a better attitude" is needed from management, he added.

Ud-doula says residents asked management to place security cameras in the hallways on each floor to fight vandalism and theft, but says management refused, citing privacy issues.

Realstarsenior vice president Mark Hales told CBC Toronto on Saturday the company has done all they can to prevent break-ins, including the installation of 30 security cameras and new lights, hiring night security patrol and adding an electronic access system to the main entrance.

But of break-ins, Hales said, "unfortunately they can happen anywhere and we take them seriously."

A few dozen tenants gathered outside their apartment complex Saturday in a protest organized by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

Hales added he isn't currently aware of any outstanding maintenance problemsat the property.

'We have investigated and aren't aware of any issues of significance," he said.

ACORN organizers pointed to new apartment bylaws in the city, whichcame into effect July 1, as impetus for Realstar to take protesters' concerns seriously.

The bylaws, collectively called "RentSafeTO,"imposestandards for rental maintenance on managers that would compel them to carry out regular pest inspectionsand respond to service requests within a set timeframe.

Halessays Realstarstands by their staff at 30 Denton Avenue, but said lines of communication with tenants would be kept open.

"The residents are entitled to voice their concerns and we respect that," he said.

Tenants with complaints, Hales added, are"welcome to approach management office to discuss that."

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From bedbugs to break-ins, Scarborough tenants demand change ... -

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