KFHC responds to allegations of mistreating tenants

According to tenants, a standing floor fan is the only thing that’s been put in place to help with the wet carpet at KFHC-run Rideaucrest Towers, where a hot water tank malfunction led to water damages on Saturday, Jul. 31, 2021. Photo by Michelle Dorey-Forestell.

In response to an article on recent issues at Rideaucrest Towers, as well as an earlier issue that saw tenants’ rent taken out of their bank accounts early, Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation (KFHC) has reached out to Kingstonist.

KFHC Board Chair, Denise Cumming noted in her email response, “As a volunteer Board Chair, I have limited knowledge of the operational details you’ve asked about.” She added that the corporation is in a state of transition, “having recently acquired the properties formerly owned and managed by Town Homes Kingston. One of our transition steps will include reviewing policies of both THK and KFHC.”

“Tenant input is very important to us,” said Cumming. “KFHC has created a tenant advisory council but this group has been unable to meet during the pandemic. (Some of the participants do not have access to the technology needed for “remote” meetings.)  With the recent move of the province to Step 3, management is looking ahead to holding in-person meetings of this council.  We believe this council will help to ensure that tenant concerns are understood fully by the board.”

In earlier conversation with KFHC tenants, it was clear that not all tenants have been made aware of the existence of this advisory council. When asked if there was a tenants’ association that they could contact or participate in, one KFHC tenant answered, “Absolutely nothing. They won’t let us have anything like that. Then they’d have to listen to our suggestions.”

Another tenant participating in that interview stated that she had talked with their building manager multiple times and did not note that a tenant advisory council was ever mentioned. “[The building manager] just tells you what they think you want to hear and nothing ever gets done.” Both tenants’ names are being withheld at their request.

Cumming did note that the tenant advisory council is “currently on hiatus, so there is no process for tenants to address members of this Council at the moment.”

“Once Public Health approves in person meetings again, KFHC will move forward reconstituting this Council and will ensure that tenants from our newly-acquired Town Homes Kingston properties are also represented. The membership of the committee will be advertised to the tenants through the KFHC tenant newsletters.” Previously, KFHC had two groups, with five people in each — one representing the north end, and one comprised of tenants from its properties near Van Order Drive. KFHC planned to bring these groups together and form the tenant advisory council, however, the pandemic has put those plans on hold, Cumming explained.

The Board Chair continued, “Our board regularly receives reports on tenant service requests and will be receiving regular reports on complaints in the months ahead. As part of the THK/KFHC transition, we are looking at the policies of both corporations, including those which affect building maintenance and capital investments. Our review will help us understand what changes, if any, need to be undertaken.”

When asked which bank had made the error of removing tenants’ rent a week early, Cumming said, “Our corporate banking information is confidential. The recent error involving early withdrawal of tenant rents from tenant bank accounts was a  banking error made by our KFHC Finance team – not by the bank. Our staff triggered the withdrawal process a few days before the end of the month. As soon as the error was discovered, our staff team worked with the bank to return the funds to the tenants’ accounts promptly. All affected tenants were phoned and advised of the error.  Cheques to cover NSF (insufficient funds) charges were couriered to affected tenants the next day.  All affected tenants were mailed a letter of apology on July 30.”

This statement differs from the response given by Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, Chief Executive Officer of Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation, who said in an email, Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2:37 p.m., that “The bank pulled the tenant’s preauthorized rent payment early in error.” Furthermore, some KFHC tenants spoken to as recently as this week have indicated they’ve still not received notice of the banking error, and on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, Kingstonist was contacted by two KFHC tenants, one of whom received the notice regarding the banking issue by mail on that date, and another — a resident of Rideaucrest Towers — who said they have still not received any written communications on the matter.

Regarding the complaints over the flooding issue at Rideaucrest Towers, Cumming said that a $200 charge for an after-hours non-emergency plumbing call “was a policy put in place by Town Homes Kingston. As far as staff can recall, there has never been an instance of a tenant having to pay this charge. This policy is under review.”

However, multiple tenants claimed to have been told when they called KFHC to report the flooded floors that they would be charged $200 if their call was not deemed an emergency, and this caused them to hesitate and not go any further in the reporting process.

Cumming confirmed the tenants’ allegations that “there was a failure of a hot water tank.” She added, “The tank has since been replaced. There are no related mould issues that we are aware of.”

Again, tenant reports stand in contrast, noting that little has been done to alleviate either the humidity and damp carpet in the hallways, or the moisture between the floors. This has caused concern with tenants that mould could grow under these conditions. And on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, Kingstonist was contacted by a resident at Rideaucrest Towers who stated that plumbers were currently at the building removing the water tank in question, refuting Cumming’s assertion.

Kingstonist has attempted to contact KFHC CEO Mary Lynn Cousins Brames for additional clarification, but she is currently out of the office until Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.

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