Residents of evacuated downtown building could be out 8 months, says project manager

Tenants who live in the apartment building at 1616 Ouellette Ave. could be out of the building for months, according to a project manager hired by the building's owners.  (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Tenants who live in the apartment building at 1616 Ouellette Ave. could be out of the building for months, according to a project manager hired by the building's owners. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Evacuated residents of a downtown Windsor building without proper heat and electricity could be out of their building for at least eight months, according to a project manager for 1616 Ouellette Ave.

Marc Nasseh of Larsa Development said he is the project manager for the building.

He told CBC News the building is in need of $3-million in renovations, including new windows, plumbing, changing the washrooms, upgrading all the rooms, the boiler, furnace, and flooring.

Nasseh says residents of the 120-unit building could be out as long as eight months while they wait for the renovations to be done.

He said that the building recently got a new property manager.

On Tuesday, the city and Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for the residents after officials ordered the apartment building be evacuated for safety reasons. About 30 residents stayed in the shelter the first night, according to the city.

The building has been without proper heat for "some time" due to a boiler issue, according to the city. Electricity has also been unstable.

"Since September there hasn't been any heat, there hasn't been any hot water — it comes and it goes but [it's] mostly cold," resident Roy Campbell told CBC News on Tuesday.

Heat and electricity not the only issues: tenants

Ted Irwin, another resident, said the heating was supposed to turn on for the season on Sept. 15 — it never was.

"The newest issue is the hydro," he said, adding that when the heat didn't turn on, many residents resorted to using portable heaters, which put a strain on the building's electricity.

In addition to the heat and electricity problems, Irwin said tenants have had issues with bed bugs, cockroaches, rodents and mould.

"They still had some tenants that did live in that environment, in that unit [with mould], which isn't fair. They should have got moved as soon as the mould come," Irwin said.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

"The building has just been dismantled internally," said resident Stephen Warren, who has lived in the building for over a decade.

Warren said railings were taken down inside the building for renovations and were never put back. He said the building has hired exterminators to deal with the bed bugs and cockroaches in the past, but they haven't done anything to stop the insects.

"What they're doing is nowhere near enough. It's superficial, it's the same as the renovation practices," he said.

"We've been told not to pay rent," said Warren. "They have to have accountability."

"It's sad. It's a good building and it's been neglected for probably 50 years."

Property bought in September

According to documents obtained by CBC News, the building was sold by a family in September 2022 for $9.2 million to a generically named Ontario company that does not own any other properties in Essex County.

The company, which is based in Peel, owns no properties in that region and the former building's owners also have no other properties in the area.

A sales brochure for the building mentions it has two steam boilers, two AO Smith hot water heaters and two tanks, and a modified bitumen roof (2006) with built-up roofing (2007-2015.)

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

Rob Vani, director of inspections for Windsor's building department, said the city only found out about the building's conditions last week, after receiving complaints from residents.

"When the vital services were not provided to this particular building there were orders issued at that time particular time, putting the owner on notice that they hadn't put on their boilers yet. That's really when our initial investigation started," he said.

Vani said it is the responsibility of rental property owners to ensure their tenants aren't evacuated and displaced.

He said the city's message to rental property owners is, "Maintain your buildings properly."

Vani said that means having "good maintenance programs in place," hiring staff to perform the maintenance and ensure they have the funds to take care of the building.

The City of Windsor does have a by-law requiring landlords to provide vital services that are "adequate and suitable" for tenants. That includes:

  • A supply of hot water at a min. of 45 C.

  • A room temperature of 21 C when the outside temperature is -18 C.

  • A vital service to run necessary electrical appliances (i.e. a refrigerator).

Passed in November 2011, the bylaw also states landlords should provide the city with advanced notice if they are to stop any of these services,"in order that any interruption to a vital service may be averted."