A Halifax tenant who fought renoviction says her apartment is now being condemned due to mould.

Stacey Gomez told reporters outside her apartment on Church Street on Monday that she’s being forced to leave her home of almost five years.

“I was notified on Thursday that there’s a pending order to have my unit condemned by the municipality due to high levels of mould detected in an air quality test. So, once they come, I understand that I will be asked to leave, or told to leave, immediately,” Gomez said.

“At any moment now, that could happen.”

When it does happen, Gomez doesn’t know where she’ll go.

Gomez has been resisting renoviction since May, when her landlord, Marcus Ranjbar, moved to renovict all tenants in the building. Gomez didn’t believe the work to be done was significant enough to justify eviction under the provincial Residential Tenancies Act. She refused to sign the form, and Ranjbar applied to have her evicted.

A symmetrical Victorian duplex under construction is seen on a cloudy day. Green shingle siding is being covered with white board and batten.
Scaffolding is seen around Stacey Gomez’s building on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

In September, a residential tenancies officer ruled in Gomez’s favour, allowing her to stay in the apartment. The officer ordered Ranjbar to pay Gomez $837.91 for the loss of “some enjoyment of her unit.”

Ranjbar appealed to small claims court. The case was on hold while Gomez and her lawyer argued for a public hearing. She said on Monday that request was granted, but the court has yet to schedule a hearing.

Halifax says apartment ‘unsafe due to air quality issues’

Last week, Halifax Regional Municipality told Gomez she’d need to leave.

“I cried. It’s just like a big upheaval in my life,” Gomez said.

“Then I just had to regroup and think about what the next steps would be. So yeah, I’ve just been in packing mode since that time.”

HRM spokesperson Klara Needler confirmed there was air quality testing completed at Gomez’s apartment.

“The building is deemed to be unsafe due to air quality issues. For the owner, this means the building must be vacated, and the issues addressed, before the units are reoccupied,” Needler wrote in a statement. 

The municipality also issued multiple orders to fix the unit in August, punishable by daily fines of $237.50. But it hasn’t fined Ranjbar.

“When violations have been identified, the property owner is given the opportunity to remedy the violations, which sometimes results in an extension of deadlines. Extensions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and based on individual circumstances,” Needler wrote.

Gomez said Ranjbar failed to take any action to fix the mould issue, although he’s known about it for months. She cited an environmental assessment submitted during the residential tenancies hearing. There was a pipe that burst during the renovations, Gomez said, leaving a “gash” in her ceiling.

“There was never any work to repair that and then when the inspector came in August, he even said, it looks like it’s still wet. So he’s definitely contributed to the problem,” Gomez said.

“I think I can just see that the actions weren’t taken and due to negligence by the landlord. this is the situation that I’m in right now that I’m going to have to immediately leave my home for an undefined period of time.”

Pario Engineering and Environmental Sciences found “water intrusion” in the unit in a November 2021 environmental assessment. Pario recommended Ranjbar identify and rectify the source “to prevent further mould and fungal growth, which represent a risk to residents.”

Landlord calls claim he hasn’t tried to fix mould ‘unjust’

Ranjbar said the mould is why he’s been trying to evict Gomez. He said he first received test results showing mould in July.

“We did bring it up at tenancies, we pleaded with the tenancy officer. We told her we offered her money we did everything we could. We did everything we could on our side of things,” Ranjbar said in an interview.

“I feel like it’s very unjust to for [Gomez] to now come and say that I didn’t try to abate the problem this whole time.”

Ranjbar said he always keeps his buildings in “top shape and top maintenance,” and he’ll now bring in a contractor to conduct mould remediation on Gomez’s unit.

Gomez doesn’t believe her tenancy should end due to the remediation.

“As indicated at the hearing, I would be open to leaving if there are major repairs that need to be done and then to come back, but still however, retain my tenancy,” Gomez said.

Ranjbar said it will be up to the small claims adjudicator in the case to decide whether Gomez’s tenancy is up.

The Residential Tenancies Act says, “A landlord may give to the tenant notice to quit the residential premises where … the residential premises have been made uninhabitable by fire, flood or other occurrence.”

The Halifax Examiner asked the provincial Department of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services what rights a tenant has when their unit is condemned. Spokesperson Susan McKeage did not reply by 5pm Monday. We’ll update this post with their response.

Update, Oct. 24 7pm:

McKeage sent the following statement:

if a tenant’s unit is designated not to be liveable by a municipal building inspector, the tenant needs to vacate.  The order to vacate is through a municipal building inspector not through the residential tenancy program. If a tenant believes that their landlord is not following the rules set out in the residential tenancy program, they can file an application for a hearing to have the issue addressed . Tenants’ insurance may also assist in a situation like this. Tenants’ insurance is always strongly recommended.  Tenants with insurance should check with their insurer to see what help is available to them.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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