With eviction day looming, family struggles without basic services

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With eviction day looming, family struggles without basic services

Facing eviction from their North York apartment in just a few months, a single mom, her 12-year-old daughter and 69-year-old mother say they're being forced to live out their remaining weeks there in brutal conditions.

"Horrible, horrible, horrible," is how Aurora Esperanza Zepeda describes the way she, her daughter and her granddaughter have lived since last fall.

That's when their building was sold to a new owner who, they say, soon left tenants without heat for weeks at a time, no working laundry equipment or oven, and a limited water supply.

Hamid Barzgar, the new owner of the triplex on Bathurst Street south of Sheppard Avenue, refused to speak on camera with CBC Toronto. But he said in a phone interview Wednesday that he won't be fixing anything until the current tenants leave.

"We told them to go and they wouldn't move out," he said. "Nothing is fixable until they move out."

However, later Thursday, Berrios called CBC Toronto to say that a plumber had shown up at her unit and that some of the problems were being repaired.

Barzgar went to the province's landlord and tenant board last December and won an eviction order forcing Zepeda, her daughter Orquidea Berrios and granddaughter Celeste,12, to leave on the grounds that the owner will be moving in, according to documents provided by Berrios.

The board gave the family until June 30 to leave, Berrios said, to allow Celeste to finish the school year before leaving the neighbourhood.

Berrios told CBC Toronto in an interview Tuesday that she and her mother — both house cleaners — pay a total of $1,250 a month for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. That includes utilities, laundry access and parking.

But during renovations on the unit below them last fall, she discovered only one of her toilets worked and neither bathroom sink operated properly. She said those problems have not been fixed and the family has been brushing their teeth in the bathtub or kitchen sink for months.

As well, she said her oven stopped working, as did her clothes dryer, and the washing machine is unreliable.

In December, the family found themselves without heat for about two weeks, Berrios said.

On Thursday evening, Berrios called CBC Toronto to say a plumber had arrived and that one inoperable sink and the broken toilet had been fixed.

The city has issued an order for the landlord to complete repairs on the family's unit by Monday. A spokesperson for the municipal licensing and standards department said an inspector will visit the unit next Tuesday to see whether the repairs have been carried out.

The city councillor for the neighbourhood, James Pasternak, visited the unit on Wednesday.

"It's totally unacceptable," he told CBC Toronto at the time. "We're going to be following this situation closely and we're going to be working with the tenants to make sure they're protected and respected."

Eviction order

The family says although they've lived happily in the neighbourhood for more than 12 years, they aren't protesting against the eviction order —  just the conditions that they've been living in since last fall.

"At least the last months we live here, let us have a proper apartment with heat, with plumbing, with the kitchen complete," Zepeda said Wednesday.

Berrios and Zepeda said they're not yet sure where they'll go, or how they'll find an affordable apartment for three. 

"We're not rich people. We can't just pick up and go anywhere," Berrios said.