An Open Letter to Vertica Resident Services
Posted by E on December 24, 2014
Christmas season conveys a warm, friendly time when kindness and human connections trump profit and corporate greed. But somehow, I don’t believe that Vertica Resident Services (and the corporate heads and shareholders behind this company, BCIMC Realty Corporation) believe in such traits.
So, against all odds, reason, and even against the Human Rights Comission code, Vertica Resident Services has proceeded with eviction proceedings against my frail, Alzheimer-suffering, deaf mother.
She is 70 years old, deaf, suffering from dementia hallucinations, Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration (she’s going blind). For the last month and a half, she has been living on the 10th floor of Mount Sinai Hospital.
Although the Toronto Housing Commission has been paying the bulk of her rent for at least 15 years, and she has never been late on her rent with one exception, something terrible happened: last November my mother fell and broke her leg while walking on the street. She has been in hospital for the last two months, suffering from dementia-related hallucinations and a broken limb.
I ensured that her rent was paid in full in the meanwhile – in fact, even December’s rent cheque cleared with no problems. AND I sent them the full payment owing, PLUS January’s payment well before it was due.
Everything was in order – or so I thought.
And then I discovered, while examining the contents of my mother’s purse, that Vertica Resident Services was going to court to get her evicted. Which, incidentally, is against the Human Rights Code of Ontario and grounds for a discrimination complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
After I contacted the building manager, Indira Escobar, I discovered that despite having sent them full payment for all rent in arrears, PLUS interest (to cover ONE bounced cheque), Vertica was determined to evict my mother. In fact, Escobar appeared particularly determined to get my mother out of the building. This is the email she sent me, which clearly indicated that Vertica was at fault for dropping the ball on my mother’s case: “Monica Silva went off on mat leave back in Sept 15, there is no documentation of you or even housing has no info on you. Amir (the current Community Manager) has spoken to the nurse and no info was given to him of your mother, due to the privacy laws.”
So basically, because someone at Vertica went on Maternity leave, and Amir Parekh didn’t bother to ask Toronto Housing Authority for my mother’s next-of-kin info, somehow my mother is at fault?
And then the punch line – Ms. Escobar indicated to me, both in writing and in her rather unsympathetic voicemail, that she would NOT process the rent cheques she was given. Uh, not unless we paid $2000 for Vertica’s legal fees (i.e. when Ms. Escobar jumped the gun and skipped due process by initiating eviction papers).
Are you freaking kidding me? What landlord gets to say, “Ahem, I don’t want any money from you – I’d rather get you evicted instead, so we will not be processing any rent cheques from you from here on forward.”
Newsflash, Vertica Management – this is ILLEGAL. Oh, and you might want to read up on your Ontario Human Rights Code, because evicting someone who is in hospital over a SINGLE bounced cheque – and refusing any attempts to process the payment for the rent in arrears – is also illegal. It’s called DISCRIMINATION. You may want to read up on it – it’s on page 85-86 of the Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing.
So instead of celebrating the holidays surrounded by friends and joyful cheer, I will be spending the last week of December preparing to file an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
So Vertica, in case you’re reading this right now and you didn’t read up on your basic tenant human rights, it is actually illegal for a landlord to evict someone who has been languishing in the hospital. Of course, that didn’t stop Vertica Resident Services from instigating eviction proceedings. And it didn’t stop its manager at 57 Charles St apartments, Indira Escobar, from refusing to accept my cheques for the full amount due.
YES – you read that right: Vertica Resident Services is dead-set on putting my mother on the street in the middle of winter. It’s mind-boggling that the building manager at 57 Charles Street would rather REFUSE full payment of rent just to evict my ill, hospitalized mother. If that doesn’t demonstrate a clear instance of mens rea (I’ll let their legal team explain the concept to Vertica and their questionable management group), then what does?
It seems rather fraudulent to me that Vertica has taken all subsidized payments from Toronto Housing Authority up until today, plus kept processing my mother’s rent cheques all the way through December, but suddenly decides to STOP ACCEPTING January’s rent cheque because they’d rather evict than accept rental payment.
By the way, it’s also discrimination to deny rental housing to someone who is a low-income senior citizen who is suffering from dementia. Of course, that didn’t stop Vertica’s Ms. Escobar from implying that somehow she was in a position of authority to determine whether my mother can live alone in their building…or not. “I will call you and discuss if your mother will be able to live alone after her release,” she wrote in the same paragraph in which she stated categorically, “Unfortunately, we can’t process these cheques.”
Newsflash again, Vertica Management Services – you do NOT get to “discuss” or “determine” if my mother is able to live alone after her hospital discharge. You are not a geriatric expert, are you? I didn’t think so. Nor can you get away with such blatant violation of a vulnerable senior citizen’s basic human rights.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s own guide clearly delineates that wrongful eviction due to hospitalization is grounds for a discrimination suit. But maybe Vertica isn’t counting on people actually reading up on their human rights, or contacting lawyers for legal advice.
Simply put, Vertica doesn’t care. Why should it? As soon as they get my frail, 90lbs mother evicted, they’ll get to raise the rent for a bachelor apartment in downtown Toronto to $2000+.
Corporate profit triumphs once again over human rights.
As soon as the Human Rights Commission offices open in January, I will be filing an official complaint against Vertica Resident Services. And I know I will win. Hopefully the additional thousands of dollars spent by Vertica paying lawyers and Human Rights Commission fines will be worth Ms. Escobar’s refusal to process a $458 cheque. And hopefully these fines and bad karma will teach Vertica a thing or two about Canadian Human Rights and more importantly, kindness and understanding.
But that’s little comfort for spending the rest of the holidays full of stress and worry about a parent who is slowly slipping away, and nobody seems to give a damn.
UPDATE: It was not until I contacted BCIMC Realty Corporation and used several social media platforms to expose the incompetency of Vertica’s manager and the injustice of what was going on in my mother’s case that we got results.
It turns out, BCIMC hired Vertica Resident Services to manage the buildings, since the BC corporation (BCIMC) is primarily an investment company for seniors’ portfolios. The irony! So I got as many top senior emails from BCIMC as I could and wrote them a message informing them of how Vertica had dropped the ball, and THEY were going to get sued. I ended my letter with: “It’s ironic that your company invests senior citizens’ portfolios and thus claims to be concerned about the rights of the elderly, but you will illegally throw a frail, hospitalized, elderly woman on the streets over a $458 cheque which she has already attempted to pay back.”
It’s a shame that BCIMC had to be sent this message, considering they hired Vertica Resident Services in good faith to manage several buildings throughout Ontario. And it would be a shame that Vertica might lose their contract with BCIMC if enough of these sort of complaints reach corporate headquarters. However, since Vertica hires managers who don’t open their clients files to see their rents have indeed been paid up until December and would rather use extortion and bullying tactics to get their lawyers’ fees paid instead of admit to an error, this is a consequence that Vertica may have to learn in order to manage their hiring practices better in the future. At the very least, they avoided a major lawsuit through the Human Rights Tribunal – something they may yet have to deal with in the future if they do not keep a close eye on the strong-handed tactics of their Ms. Escobar.
I truly appreciated that Vertica’s Director of Operations did eventually telephone me on Friday afternoon and was actually humane and sympathetic, something that I never expected from them after the way Ms. Escobar had treated me and my mother. I accepted their apology and the fact that apparently they DO want my mother as a tenant in their building. Having said all this, I will wait until the cheque clears out of my mother’s account and I double-check that her possessions haven’t been thrown onto the street before I consider this matter closed.