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Calgary tenants told units contaminated with asbestos

Six units at Hunter Estates shuttered, but tenants must keep paying rent, utilities

Six units with Hunter Estates Housing Co-op in Calgary’s northeast have been shuttered due to asbestos contamination.

Jennifer Friesen / Metro

Six units with Hunter Estates Housing Co-op in Calgary’s northeast have been shuttered due to asbestos contamination.

A Calgary mother says she’s been forced out of her townhouse due to asbestos contamination, and she knows of five others in the same situation.

The woman, whose identity we’ve agreed to protect, was renting a townhouse at Hunter Estates Housing Co-op.

She moved into a newly renovated townhouse one year ago, but on Jan. 6 of this year she was told someone would be around to check air quality.  A second check was conducted a few days later.

“On Monday morning I received a phone call from the office at the complex. She told us the test came positive for asbestos,” she said.

Asbestos is a fireproof building material that has been shown to cause a specific type of lung cancer if loose disturbed particles are inhaled. Canada has plans to ban the material by 2018.

The unit on the left is one of six that has been closed up.

Jennifer Friesen / Metro

The unit on the left is one of six that has been closed up.

Metro contacted Hunter Estates, but was directed to the organization’s lawyer. He failed to return calls by deadline.

The woman and residents at five other units met with board members as well as lawyers for the co-op board on Tuesday night.

“They had two legal gentleman there,” she said. “They said we needed to vacate by today (Wednesday) and to take nothing with us except the clothes on our backs.”

She and her two sons spent another night in the townhouse before moving in with family. Neighbours have helped provide them with clothing and they got rid of what they had been wearing for fear of contamination.

The woman said the landlord is not offering up any compensation while they are out of the building, but she has also been told she must keep paying rent and utilities.

A letter from Hunter Estates to the affected tenants said the company would provide alternate living arrangements, but so far none have been put forward, according to the woman.

The letter says remediation work should be complete by March 31, 2017.

Shaun Fluker, executive director of the Public Interest Law Clinic and law professor at the University of Calgary, said what happens in these situations depends on the lease that was signed, but he noted in general the Residential Tenancies Act is heavily weighted to the landlord

“We think the act could a do a better job of at least levelling the playing field,” he said.

The tenant who spoke with Metro said she and her two children went to a family doctor who ordered X-rays on their lungs that day.

“The doctor said we’ll have to keep getting checked over the years,” she said.

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