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Evicted tenant claims housing is ‘substandard’

A former tenant of the condemned Albert Row housing in Sandys has accused the West End Development Corporation of leaving her “out in the cold” after she was ordered to move out of her latest accommodation.

However, Wedco chairman Ray Charlton responded that the proper recourse would have been to plead her case before a judge.

“Normally if things are not up to par, she could request relief from paying rent through the courts; there is no other way that is acceptable,” Mr Charlton said.

“In my opinion, the Wedco management do a great job in trying to assist those having difficulties with payment.”

Eviction is initiated when tenants fall three months behind in their rent or owe more than $5,000.

“Wedco is not the Bermuda Housing Corporation,” Mr Charlton added. “Its responsibility is not to offer low-cost housing.”

The woman, who asked not to be named, acknowledged that she had fallen thousands behind in her rent but told The Royal Gazette: “My issue is that I was put in substandard housing and they haven't addressed it.”

The woman said she moved out of her Boaz Island Village home on Easter Sunday after being taken to Magistrates' Court.

The dilapidated housing of Albert and Victoria Row was earmarked years ago for renovation, and for a while they were considered for demolition.

In the meantime, new prefabricated units were built nearby as alternative affordable housing.

“Even before they moved us out I was saying it wasn't right for Wedco to charge us rent because the houses were in such poor condition,” the woman said. “I did some renovations to the place myself, but upstairs the floors were falling in. It was a safety hazard.”

She said she resided at Albert Row for 30 years, but was relocated with her family to Boaz Island after her former residence was condemned.

However, the new housing came with issues of its own: cabinets in need of repair, bathroom fixtures corroded and foul odours caused by sewerage backing up.

“The sliding doors downstairs had no locks, so they were just closed and they couldn't open — if there was a fire we would have had to jump out the window. There was a hole in the vent for the washer and dryer, so birds were getting in. The fire alarms weren't working and when it rained, water would come through the ceilings and run down the walls. Water would also come up through part of the floor, and after Hurricane Gonzalo the house became even worse.”

She said she was paying $2,200 a month and eventually had to go on Financial Assistance, but had it terminated after she was found to have taken a trip to the United States — though she said the journey had been for medical treatment.

She moved out last month into private accommodation, and has meanwhile agreed to pay Wedco $500 a month after being taken to court — but hopes to appeal the ruling, arguing that because of the poor condition of the Boaz Island housing, Wedco had not fulfilled its side of the lease.

Mr Charlton said it was difficult to respond specifically to an anonymous complaint, but noted that some units at Boaz Island had been damaged in hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in October 2014. “To my general knowledge, Wedco management have addressed those issues,” he said.

Former tenants of the Victoria and Albert Row housing were given options ranging from the prefabricated units to Prince Albert Terrace and Boaz Island, depending on availability. Mr Charlton said many had been reluctant to move into the prefab units, known as Victoria Place, until the rents were lowered.

“After the election, when I became chairman of Wedco, we held at least three meetings with the tenants,” he said. “They were told what housing was in stock. They had to register with Wedco and express their interest in other units. It was first come, first served.”

As for the old houses themselves, Mr Charlton said that there had been “some interest” expressed in Albert Row — but that Victoria Row, despite its historic value, could be unsalvageable. “It received further damage during the hurricanes, and to be quite honest, it might have to be razed,” he said.

Victoria and Albert Row in Sandys. The unhappy woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was moved out of this area (File photo)

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Published April 15, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 15, 2015 at 9:10 am)

Evicted tenant claims housing is ‘substandard’

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