Anyone wishing to visit Unit 3 at 44 Drury St. – the basement apartment occupied by Linda Chong – takes a risk.
The steps leading down from a parking lot at Drury and Thomas St. are not only unsightly, they are dangerous, says Chong. The stairs have uneven risers; while the top step is 7” in height, the remainder are of varying heights, ranging from 9 ¾ inches to a full 11 inches.
And they tilt.
The handrail too, is uneven – 54 inches tall at the top of the steps, 35 inches at the bottom.
Chong has complained to the building department, but Director of Engineering and Development Peter Loukes says that the town’s hands are tied.
“The building department has determined that since the stairs are not attached to the home/building itself but rather connect the parking lot to the yard, that the Building Code (for things like rise, run, tread width, riser height, handrails) do not apply; therefore they have no legal authority under the code to demand that the property owner replace them,” Loukes wrote.
There is another access to the apartment, along the side of the house, that the owner (2513000 Ontario Ltd.) has described as the primary access. The staircase has been described as a “landscape feature.”
“This would be considered more as a landlord/tenant issue,” Loukes noted in his response.
Chong, who is on ODSP, feels the wonky staircase is part of an ongoing effort to force her to move out. She said that she has received numerous eviction notices, many with demonstrably false claims, such as non-payment of rent.
“ODSP pays directly,” Chong pointed out.
So far, she has been successful in fighting eviction, but it has taken a toll. “I’ve got to waste all my time” responding to the allegations, she told Bradford Today.
The municipality became involved as a “facilitator,” Loukes said - attempting to encourage the property owner to change the stairs. “The Town has been working with the property owner to encourage him to voluntarily have them rebuilt, and he has indicated his willingness to do so.”
In fact, on Dec. 16, representatives of both the Building Department and the property owner came out to survey the situation, and assess the work that needed to be done.
But when workers arrived early in January to work on the steps, there was apparently an interaction that ended with police being called.
Chong said she confronted the workers because she was not given any advance notice that they would be working on the steps, “and each time, they make it worse.”
A representative of the property owner, who declined to be identified, told Bradford Today, "We tried three times, with three different contractors. She wouldn't let us do the work."
The representative claimed to have a direct court order, dating from back in August, forbidding Chong from interfering with or restraining the action of the contractors attempting to complete work at the building.
"She is being evicted, okay?" he said.
The conflict has made it harder to resolve the issue.
“We’re trying to find a way… to come to a reasonable solution,” Loukes said, but at this point, the current interpretation of the zoning bylaw and building code doesn't provide much help: the steps are on private property, they are not considered to be the primary access to the suite, and there has been no building permit issued or requested, that would give the town leverage.
“We have gone through our due diligence and done everything we can,” Loukes said.
BWG By-law Enforcement was also contacted for comment.
Manager of Enforcement Brent Lee, responding by email, explained that his department "relies upon the expertise and interpretation of the building department in determining the applicability of the Building Code and its requirements. The Enforcement Division has been working with the owners and tenant of the subject property to comply with local by-laws and develop mutually agreeable solutions to any concerns."
He declined to comment further, since the Enforcement Division "is currently in litigation with the owners of the property," on an unrelated matter.