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Updated: 18th October 2018 01:06

Tenant of Kensington Manor calls building evacuation 'worst nightmare scenario'

Laura Seymour and her partner just moved into a new apartment in Calgary — not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

About 125 residents displaced indefinitely, as tenant Laura Seymour says management ignoring her phone calls

Laura Seymour says being suddenly forced to leave her home at the Kensington Manor building has been like a nightmare scenario, partly because of poor communication from the property management company. (CBC/Laura Seymour)

Laura Seymour and her partner just moved into a new apartment in Calgary — not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

They're two of about 125 people who, until last week, occupied Kensington Manor.

Residents of the seven-storey apartment building in the northwest community of Kensington were forced suddenly from their homes last Thursday evening after undisclosed structural issues affecting the entire building were brought to the attention of city officials.

"It's the worst nightmare scenario. It's literally something you read about happening to people in Fort Mac when there was a fire… and you're like, 'oh my God I can never imagine being in that situation,'" said Seymour.

"And then suddenly you're going from sitting on the couch to being in that situation."

Since their hasty evacuation and subsequent move into a new place, Seymour says she's been rather depressed by her living situation.

"We have two lawn chairs and a little one-foot tall Christmas tree I bought at the dollar store," she said. "That's all we have to our names right now."

Even walking through her neighbourhood is difficult for her. "I can see my home and I can see my stuff in my windows and I can't get it," she said.

Running Room employees unload some of the store's merchandise as the rest of the apartment building is evacuated Thursday night. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

What grinds Seymour's gears about this situation the most is the way Kensington Manor's property management company — National Equity Management — has communicated with residents.

Seymour said they've received two emails, but when she and other tenants have attempted to reach the company by phone, their calls have gone unreturned.

"Their head office has not been very cooperative with us all," she said. "They've not responded to any of our phone calls over the past few days."

Don Lowe, president of National Equity Management, said everybody has his email and he's already sent out two updates.

Seymour said the company offered tenants $250 as a "gesture of goodwill," but the funds haven't yet been made available.

"A bunch of us have been asking if it's been made available and nobody's been responding, and then now they're claiming it's been available the whole time, but their own people yesterday told me they were still working on it," she said.

"I really feel like it could be handled better by the people who did this to us."

A different experience

Becca Gould, also a former resident of Kensington Manor and an employee at the Running Room, which operated on the ground floor for the last six years, said her experience has been much more positive.

"I've been able to go back to the building and pack up my stuff," she said. "I've talked to the landlord there and he's been nice enough to give me only 30 minutes each night to pack up my stuff because I've been able to find a place to move to for three months."

Gould immediately moved into Sundance Apartments after it was offered up by National Equity Management to tenants from Kensington Manor.

She said they even waived the damage deposit.

That's something Seymour — who chose not to stick with National Equity Management — hasn't had the luxury of.

"I wasn't really prepared to come up with first month's rent and a damage deposit and all the money to buy myself new socks, and toothpaste, and a shower curtain and all these expenses that have come up have just been astronomical," she said.

A sign outside Kensington Manor states that the building has been declared unsafe for occupation. (Mario De Ceccio/CBC)

Gould agrees the money offered to tenants by National Equity Management — the $250 goodwill gesture and 25 per cent off November's rent (roughly $525) — isn't enough.

"No, it's not," she said.

Lowe said technically "no one" is allowed in the building, but the city made it clear that due to the haste of the evacuation, if medication, textbooks or work-related items were needed, they could be retrieved on a limited basis.

"The resident must be accompanied to and from the unit and should be out in about 20 minutes," he said.

Lowe added tenants need contact the building manager to set that up.

Management looking for 'green light' to start move outs

In an email, Lowe told CBC News he met with the city's safety codes officer and the building engineer Wednesday afternoon to confirm that once the shoring of the building is complete, and has been inspected by the city, former residents will be granted access to the building so they can retrieve their belongings.

"If the city agrees to the above then our next task will be to coordinate the orderly move-out of 60 units in a seven-storey building with one elevator," he said.

Lowe said the meeting was "very important" because if the city gives them the green light, they can begin the planning and logistics for the move-outs right away.

Following the meeting Lowe said he believes tenants will be able to start moving out next Wednesday — but it was still being discussed.

Shoring on schedule

Dennis Terhove, supervisor of the city's Safety Response Unit said shoring for the building has been ongoing since the evacuation.

"Completion of that is still expected to be the end of next week," he said, adding that shoring would need to be signed off by the building's engineer and a city inspector.

Terhove said a city inspector is checking on the building and its shoring progress every couple days.

As far as the original cause of the structural damage Terhove said it might never be known.

"There's always that possibility, I imagine," he said.

Terhove said charges are still possible if the city's investigation finds fault.

"But that's just pure speculation at this point," he said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the building was managed by North Equity Management. In fact, it's managed by National Equity Management.

    Dec 01, 2017 8:19 AM MT

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