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Sarnia tenants fight to get back into their apartments after 96 days

Justin Conn has spent the past three months bouncing between Sarnia motels, shelters and the streets.

“It’s been difficult, very difficult,” he explained.

Justin does have a home at Earlscourt Apartments in Sarnia. On Friday, insurance restoration crews were on site repairing the three-story walk-up.

The building was damaged in a fire on Feb. 19 and all tenants left for what they thought at the time, would be no more than a week — they have now out of their homes for 96 days.

Andrew Bolter, a lawyer with Community Legal Assistance Sarnia, is fighting to get them back inside.

“Right now, there is no order or legal process saying to a tenant that they can’t be in their units”

Still, Bolter said the landlord, Equity Builder Ltd. (EB) of Mississauga, is not letting any of the 39 tenants back in.

Earlier this month, EB appealed a divisional court order to let 14 tenants back into their apartments.

Bolter said the 14 lived in units unaffected by the fire.

Matthew Roberts is a tenant at Earlscourt Apt. in Sarnia. May 26, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)Matthew Roberts who fled the blaze with his four-year-old son, is one of those fighting to get back inside.

On April 10, he signed a letter allowing him to enter his unit to collect belongings. Roberts had video taped its condition and found it exactly how he left it.

Upset, he opted not to take an offered $2,000 settlement to leave. He is now fighting to help other tenants

“I won’t give up, not just for myself but for anybody who lives here. I don’t mind standing up and pushing back for the little guys.”

As Justin stands with his mother Grace Daub, she said her son is one of those little guys.

She told CTV News her son battles a medical condition and can’t afford to pay more rent than the $700 he paid at Earlscourt.

“I never would have dreamed it would be as difficult as it has been,” she said.

Andrew Bolter. May 26, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)But the president of Equity Builders told CTV News London his firm is “not trying to lock tenants out.”

In a telephone discussion, Ash Singh stated his team is following the direction of its insurance company and the engineer it hired.

He says the latter has concerns about asbestos being released during the fire.

And while sympathetic to tenants, like Conn, who did not have tenants' insurance, Singh said the fire should serve as a reminder to acquire it.

But Daubs said her son should not be forced to the streets for his mistake or kept out of his home.

“He really wants to be back at Earlscourt. We really just don’t know when or how that is going to happen at this point.” Top Stories

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