Construction delays leave students out in the cold

by uwchevron

Author: Thomas Little

Construction delays at a new high-rise apartment complex in Waterloo has left up to 500 students searching for alternative accommodations.

The building is “One Columbia” (located at 1 Columbia Street West). It is owned by Schembri Property Management and it will be one of the tallest buildings in the Waterloo Region. That is, when it is completed. Unfortunately for students who had signed leases to move in this September, construction delays left hundreds of students with nowhere to stay for the start of the new term (for some, their first term away at university).

The situation, as well as Schembri’s alleged mishandling of it, has angered the prospective tenants; even though construction will be indefinitely delayed, students who chose to simply sign leases for other rental units have found themselves “locked in”, with Schembri withholding their rental deposits. Another complaint is that despite presumably knowing that construction would not be finished for the start of term, the prospective tenants were only notified at the beginning of September, giving them little time to react.

Schembri initially gave the lease-holders two options: either find temporary alternative accommodations or switch your lease to another Schembri property. After several days, Schembri also proposed a third option: stay in one of three hotels and take a shuttle bus to campus. This was a popular option, since as one student explained, “it was immediate and a guaranteed place to stay.” The lease transfer option proved unpopular, mostly because the option given was for 75 Columbia, which is unfurnished.

On Thursday the 4th, a meeting was held by Feds’ Off-Campus Housing service to discuss the options and advise students. But this has still left students frustrated and confused, and significantly, split into two main groups. Talk on a Facebook group for the 1 Columbia tenants indicated, as one student noted, that “a lot of people were so outraged by the delay that they signed new leases with Domus [or] KW4Rent”. They argue that Schembri, by not providing the accommodations agreed to at the time agreed to in the rental contract, has invalidated the rental agreement, and many would rather leave the situation behind than stay in a hotel waiting for the construction to finish. Despite this, Schembri has not offered to officially terminate the contracts and continues to hold deposits (of $1,450 per tenant).

As of the date of publication, Schembri’s website still lists 1 Columbia as “Ready for Occupancy September 2014”.