"People are scared" - Tenants, lawyers mulling class-action lawsuit following 235 Gosford fire
Jim Laferriere made it out of the five-alarm blaze at 235 Gosford Blvd. last month with just the clothes on his back.
And now he fears what he, his son and dog are going to do now.
"I survived that fire, but I may not survive this stuff," he said. "This is not right."
Laferriere and several other displaced tenants appeared with lawyers from two firms Tuesday in front of reporters to voice their frustration with property management company Ronkay Management, which they accuse of neglecting the hundreds of people still out of their homes.
Lawyer Darryl Singer says they have three demands: long-term housing, promised financial assistance to be paid and transportation for kids to get to daycare and school.
If not, he says they are prepared to begin a class-action lawsuit.
Fellow tenant Gavin Krase read a statement on behalf of the residents.
"At a bare minimum, we'd like answers," he said. "Why has there been such a lack of communication and compassion?"
Ronkay has not responded to comment since the news conference, which included a surprising revelation.
As Singer and tenants were speaking, other lawyers discovered Ronkay had filed what's called a Form 1 the day before and while he doesn't know the reasoning as to why, called it suspicious.
"Typically Form 1s are used to add or change directors," Singer said. "It could mean is they're trying to somehow, the people behind the corporation are trying to shield themselves from any sort of liability."
BREAKING: As lawyers and tenants were holding a news conference about the situation at 235 Gosford, lawyer Darryl Singer learned Ronkay Management filed a form that he says could mean they’re trying to shield themselves from liability. Ronkay has not responded to comment. https://t.co/Vh3bwsz6YZ pic.twitter.com/FmhnGRBNvG— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) December 3, 2019
Laferriere said he had been holding back speaking publicly, but things have reached a breaking point.
"The only reason I had a roof over my head is because of my employer," he said. "These guys (Ronkay) I don't know, they're supporting us or getting back to us at all."
Krase said communication, whether it be by email to some tenants or the Facebook page the company said up, has been inconsistent.
"Some people were told they have to leave basically this week, other people have been told it's for December, people have been told it's for December and January," he said. "They're very confused and people are scared."
When asked why that could be, he said one theory is that the company is trying to get rid of people who are paying lower-market rent that have been living there for a long time, but stressed that's just a theory.
When asked about the situation, Mayor John Tory said the company has been speaking to the city
"They're getting better organized now, the landlord is, in terms of how they communicate, they have some outside help to do that, which we strongly urged them to do," he said. "We're going to make sure that those responsibilities are properly carried out."
But Singer said the company is saying one message to the city and another to tenants.
"When Mayor Tory and councillor Perruzza come, they say what they need to say to get the mayor's office to go away," he said. "Then they turn around and do whatever they want."
On the Facebook page set up by the company, the most recent post was from Monday, saying residents of units 801-807 are now safe to be temporarily re-entered so tenants can collect small essential items.
Tenants have been leaving frustrated messages on the site, some of which are not being responded to online.
"We're just seeking some clarity on the transition payment. These questions are due to a lack of clarity and inconsistency with some tenants receiving it and others not," one post said.
"Hello, I understand that this is a terrible situation for everyone including both Tenants and Management. What I don't understand is the lack of information that you are providing to the Tenants. We shouldn't be getting our information from the NEWS," another says.