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Timbercreek "purposely ignored" work orders at Heron Gate property, lawsuit alleges

Two residents say that the real estate giant let houses fall into disrepair in part by ignoring work orders, even when water was leaking into their basement.
A townhouse sits boarded up, on October 4, 2018, in the parcel of Herongate slated to be demolished.

Two ex-residents of Heron Gate are suing Timbercreek, the development company that owns the property, alleging that the multi-national company lied to city officials during an appeal at the city’s Property Standards Licensing and Appeals Committee.

In a statement of claims provided to Ottawa Matters by the plaintiffs’ legal team, former Heron Gate residents Saido Gashan and Abdullahi Ali, claim that Timbercreek had ignored repeated maintenance requests to address a variety of issues including flooding in the basement and leaks in the foundation, and that the developer falsely denied having prior knowledge of these complaints when it appealed a city-issued work order on the properties to a quasi-judicial body called the Property Standards Licensing and Appeals Committee (PSLAC).

The plaintiffs are seeking $25,000 in damages, and have brought the case before small claims court.

The allegations stem from Timbercreek’s claim that it was unaware of any issues the tenants were having with water damage prior to July 2018. After heavy rains caused flooding in Ali and Gashan’s home last summer, the city issued a work order to Timbercreek to repair the damage. Timbercreek appealed the work order to the PSLAC, arguing that the flooding was the result of a one-inch hole the appeared to be drilled in the bottom of the basement window frame that had been covered by a “loose piece of clear packing tape.”

The residents have not been able to explain why a near-perfect circular hole had been drilled in the window frame, which Timbercreek claims was the sole cause of the flooding.

Representatives from Timbercreek claimed that the work they did immediately following the floods — which according to a transcript of the PSLAC hearing was described by a Timbercreek employee as “extensive caulking to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the immediate future” — was sufficient. Plus, there was little point in doing substantial repairs, since the properties were slated to be demolished as part of the larger redevelopment that Timbercreek had planned for Heron Gate. The PSLAC agreed, especially given the fact that the properties were expected to be vacant by early October.

However, Ali and Gashan claim that they had repeatedly attempted to notify Timbercreek of “persistent” leaks in their basement. On three occasions — May 3rd, 2017; May 5th, 2017; and October 31, 2017 — Gashan filed work orders with Timbercreek, but on each occasion the property managers failed to respond to their complaints. Documents shared with Ottawa Matters by the plaintiffs show that each of these three work orders bear a “received” stamp from the Timbercreek property office, which includes the date of each work order.

Ali and Gashan claim that Timbercreek “purposely ignored the Plaintiff’s numerous work order and allowed the plaintiff’s unit to dilapidate for the purpose of encouraging them to find alternative housing.” They also claim that, during a hearing before the PSLAC on September 19, 2018, Timbercreek employees misled the committee by claiming that there was “no history of water infiltration into the basement,” as Loubser testified.

“I have been having many issues with my basement,” wrote Gashan in an email to Paul Boutros, Timbercreek’s property manager, on November 8, 2017. “I have informed the office about the flooding in my basement every time it rains, and I’ve even completed the work order, yet the issue has not been resolved and I am stuck managing the mess every time it rains. I have already thrown out many of my personal belongings such as my carpets as a result of the damage. This has already been a financial burden upon myself and my family.”

“During this time, the plaintiffs were subject to a basement that had flooded, leaked, developed mold, and caused damage to furniture and other belongings,” reads the lawsuit. “Each of the work orders indicated that the defendant’s representatives could enter the plaintiff’s unit at any time to inspect and repair. Despite the plaintiffs’ attempts at cooperation, the defendant did not respond.”

Timbercreek has denied any knowledge of water damage to the property, and had claimed in their appeal that the work order was a malicious one being brought by tenants keen to get back at the developer after it notified 150 households in May that it planned to demolish their homes, and that they were required to leave by the end of September, 2018.

Timbercreek's vice-president of operations John Loubser told Ottawa Matters, in an email, "We are currently unaware of any pending lawsuits against Timbercreek Communities regarding unfulfilled work orders. We take work order requests very seriously and fulfill them as quickly as possible. Any work orders received that are pending are never deliberately delayed or ignored."

In a letter to the PSLAC last summer, Timbercreek’s director of operations John Loubser wrote that “the occupants of the subject property have been among a handful who are resisting leaving legally. This groundless complaint is motivated by their dissatisfaction that they must move. They seek to use the City’s Property Standards department to force work that is neither warranted, required, nor reasonable to undertake under the circumstances.”

None of the claims contained in the lawsuit have been proven in court. Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on Monday.

Read a copy of the lawsuit: 

Final Claim Htc v Timber Creek March 25 2019 by Kieran Delamont on Scribd


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