53 students take schembri to the tenant board

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The students affected by the highly publicized Columbia One construction delay by Schembri Property Management have banded together with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services (WRCLS) and the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG) to file a group claim against Schembri Oct. 8.


The ongoing conflict between Schembri and the tenants of 1 Columbia St. began when the company sent an email out days before the set move in date (Sept. 4) telling their renters that the building would not be finished in time and, in the following days, refused to allow renters out of their contracts.


The legal action has three distinct parts according to Alex Diceanu, WPIRG co-ordinator of programming and volunteer support.


The first includes individual expense claims from all 53 students. They are demanding that Schembri return their deposits and the first month’s worth of rent they paid upon signing the lease.


They are also asking to be covered for expenses such as additional moving expenses, food expenses (having to eat out every day due to not having access to a kitchen), and any other additional costs incurred as a result of not being able to move into Columbia One on the agreed upon date.


Additionally, any students who took out more expensive leases elsewhere after it became clear Columbia One would not be finished for some time are asking that Schembri pay them the difference.


Students are also filing for general damages against Schembri and are asking to be paid one month’s rent, which would cost Schembri approximately $20,000.


The last element of the suit is an harassment claim. The group plans to argue that Schembri’s actions in this situation have been an obvious disregard of the Residential Tenancies Act in that Schembri has interfered with the students’ abilities to exercise their rights.  


Diceanu said that the group will be asking the tenant board to apply the maximum penalty in this situation. If the court complies, Gordon Schembri, the company owner, will be fined $25,000 and Schembri Property Management will be fined $100,000 for each of the 53 students.


The building in question remains unfinished and the students involved have not been given a concrete completion date.


Schembri Property Management declined to comment.
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