NEWS

City takes years deal with 'eyesore' house

08/06/2015 05:09 EDT | Updated 08/06/2016 05:59 EDT
The column supporting the roof and balcony at 441 Pacific Avenue lurches out unnaturally. Nearly every roof shingle curls skyward. Municipal notices plaster the door.

The house is an eyesore and has attracted attention for that reason for years, according to residents in The Junction area. Neighbours said it has been empty for the past eight years and now it's also dangerous.

But it will take years for the city to deal with the derelict house.

"The owner is somewhat AWOL. The property is falling apart and it's taking my house with it," said Jack Krasowski, who lives in the house attached.

By contrast, flowers line the walkway to Krasowski's house, the porch framed by landscaped bushes, painted and arranged with outdoor furniture.

Three years ago, Krasowski said he contacted the city looking for help. He said every time he called he'd get a different person, different departments and the process started all over again.

Lengthy process

In August 2013, he received a response from his local councillor's staff. Sarah Doucette's office liaised on his behalf with Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) about the house.

"While they have issued notices and orders to have 441 Pacific repaired and maintained, they have gotten no response.  At this point they have no option except to go to Court," reported her office at the time.

The process, the email said, "could be lengthy," and recourse could range "from fines to orders to comply with MLS's orders, etc."

Doucette's office is now revisiting the file after CBC contacted the councillor. Doucette said bylaw amendments will be considered in October 2015. She said they need to change to consider community impact and shorten the length of time the city requires to act when there's an abandoned property.

In the meantime, weeds in the backyard have become dense and now stand nearly two metres high. The back door of the house gapes open, a side window has been kicked.

"The roof is probably 20 years past its due. It's completely porous and every time it rains it pours through my kitchen. I run around with buckets," Krasowski said.

"I keep feeling like I'm on a little treadmill with the city with this process. And I can't sleep at night when I lie in bed and I wonder and worry about what is going to happen next with this house."

The name of the owner as listed on bylaw violation notices posted on the property is listed as Edward Schneider. However, the city's revenue services said the property owes taxes but did not provide further information about the owner's identity, citing privacy issues.

Krasowski has persisted in his attempts to have the house next door fixed, and researched on his own.

He said with back taxes owed, after three years of due process, the city can "issue a certificate of arrears that gives the owner a year to comply or make restitution." It can even take possession of the house.

But none of that has taken place. "I don't know why we can't move forward to get this properly fixed," said the frustrated neighbour.

Mark Sraga became aware of the problem when CBC News contacted Municipal Licensing and Standards. The MLS director of investigation confirmed taking possession of the house is a possibility but said the situation is complicated.

Sraga's department oversees bylaw infractions, like waste and debris on properties. Toronto Building supervises structural problems and Revenue Services is in charge of property tax issues and launching the legal process to take possession.

This house, he said, falls under all three departments. He also believed MLS charged the homeowner for a property maintenance infraction in 2010 but is the process of investigating those details.

In July 2015 Toronto Building installed a crisscross of two by fours on the front porch and two braces supporting it. The city's emergency notice on the door informed the absentee owner that the fix was mandated because that part of the roof and front porch are dangerous, and that the homeowner owes the city thousands of dollars for the repairs. Ann Borooah, Chief Building Official and Executive Director, Toronto Building said this was initiated after a 311 call received in June 2015.

Since CBC's investigation Borooah said MLS is taking the lead on the file. Sraga said the city would give the homeowner 72 hours notice that the home will be secured and grass and weeds will be tended.

"We have to get a contractor lined up by the end of next week we should be in a position to take action in that regard and with the roof issue it will be the latter part of August beginning of September before we can act on that."

Sraga explained the city would pay for these repairs and would add them to the tax bill to the homeowner for reimbursement. If the bills continue to go unpaid, the city can go to court to pursue ownership. A process that could take years.

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