Angry tenants take legal action over basement flooded with sewer water

Tenants in a fourplex at 555 Dougall Avenue are suing their landlord because they have been living with the stench of basement flooded with sewer water for several months.

"It's disgusting. It's disgusting to live here," said Randy Mitchell, who has lived in the aging red brick building for two years.

According to Mitchell, problems started last November when a sewer line clogged and backed up.

"It's toilet water. There's feces floating around down there," said Mitchell.

Dale Molnar/CBC

The four people living in the building say they have no hot water and that even bed bugs and cockroaches have become a nuisance.

The building's laundry facilities are also in the basement, preventing tenants from washing their belongings. 

Since we moved in [in October] it's just been one thing after the other," said Ben Agapito, who lives in the apartment building with his girlfriend Marilyn Storey.

"It's stressful, sad. My depression has been racking up since we got here," said Storey.

The city issued orders in March to force the owner to clean up the flooded basement. There's now a sign posted on the outside door to the basement ordering that the door remain closed.

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Zixi Wang bought the building last year and said she's been trying to clean it up.

Wang said she spent $4,000 on a contractor to inspect the sewer with a camera.

According to Wang, work was about to begin before another clog was soon discovered. Now she said she's faced with a $60,000 repair bill and the city won't let her put the money on her taxes.

"I'm not ... doing this just to make people suffer. I don't do this purposely," said Wang, on the phone from Toronto where she lives.

Wang said the contractor can't do the work until August, which means that she'll have to evict the building's tenants in the interim.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and other tenants — who are also involved in a rent dispute — are taking her to court.

The city is also considering legal action to force Wang into compliance, meaning she may end up having to pay a fine on top of the repair costs. 

"We look at all the evidence that we have. We have to make sure we've given the owners ample time under the law to comply with that order," said Rob Vani, deputy chief building official.

Vani says landlords are usually given three months and that time is almost up.