Tenants of Mascot Tower ‘insulted’
Tenants locked out of their homes for over a week have said they feel "insulted" by a lack of information, receiving repetitive emails and being forced to learn what is happening to their home through news reports.
Tenants and owner-residents of the building have been advised they will be granted access to the building on Sunday but it comes more than a week after complaints over a chaotic lack of communication.
During a tenants' meeting on Thursday night last week, questions were raised about the process of evacuating and communicating to tenants, with one tenant telling news.com.au the communication has been "really insulting" and that the meeting became "quite heated".
One renter reportedly said that when access was finally granted to her home, she'd be walking in to "dead fish".
Sunday will be a big day for the tenants and owners, who have been warned they won't be able to live in the building for "at least a month". A renter told news.com.au that Opal Tower residents haven't seen inside their apartments for six months.
"How do we pack for a month, or a year," she said.
The lifts will be turned on so residents can attempt to move out their belongings. Some are keen to access their furniture, like beds and cots, so they can move on with their lives.
The residents who held leases in the Mascot Towers complex attended the meeting on Thursday that ran parallel to a highly publicised strata meeting for apartment owners.
Those who owned properties in the building overwhelmingly voted in favour of forking out for a one million dollar levy to pay for emergency remedial works to the building's slabs and joints. But no timeline has been established for moving the residents back in, beyond engineers conceding that it will take more than a month.
The tenants, who kept away from the apartment owners who convened at the Holiday Inn in Mascot, met at the nearby Stamford Hotel and had a heated three-hour meeting with Owners Corp media liaison Patrick McGuire, and a lawyer representing the owners, along with two representatives from the Department of Fair Trading.
A source told news.com.au all the tenants were "emotional" as they received directives not to record the meeting or take photos, and were advised against speaking to media.
Many of the tenants from the troubled towers are eager to get access to the building and retrieve their belongings so they can hastily begin the process of terminating their lease.
But their hopes were hosed down last night by building representatives, who offered little new information.
Last night they were informed that the building has a "red zone" and a "green zone" that would inform future access, but offered no information about where these zones would be in the building.
A representative for the building last night advised tenants of these different zones in the building, but last night said "he couldn't say which apartments, which areas. He just said there will be a red zone and a green zone."
"Lots of people raised issues last night, for example that the communication has been really insulting.
"We're not getting as much information as the (owners) and we're just pretty much getting the same email being sent over and over again," the tenant told news.com.au.
"A lot of the tenants are actually finding out a lot of the stuff through the news and broadcasts, so they're quite upset about that. So it was quite heated."
A renter told news.com.au there was a couple who was "distressed" at the meeting because of pet fish trapped in the apartment also has a car in the garage that was on loan from a car dealership.
This couple cannot retrieve their own car back from the dealership until they get that vehicle out of the garage which has been sealed shut.
Many homeless tenants in the building are still discussing the terms of their lease and their tenancy with their leasing agents, despite the building being uninhabitable.
This is because the emergency evacuation process meant many residents left with almost no personal effects, and haven't been able to return since.
The process of ending a lease is complicated by the fact that bond and rent cannot be returned without the return of apartment keys, and the tenants in Mascot Towers are uneasy returning keys without collecting their belongings.
This is a precarious situation for lease holders who have items trapped in their homes, as handing back the keys means saying goodbye to everything inside their homes for a long period.
"They said (we) aren't to take any furniture, it's just personal belongings," one tenant explained.
The tenant said their stress is heightened after they'd heard residents from the Opal Tower have not re-entered their home for six months since being evacuated in December last year.
Many of them are desperate for precious minutes to access the building to grab what they can before they're locked out for an unknown period.
There was also dispute about how many people could be brought into the building, and requests have been made of building security to be "more sympathetic" with reports of guards "counting down" and desperate residents running around trying to get what they could at previous supervised visits, according to the tenant.
The ten-storey building has had its elevator system shut off since the emergency evacuation last Friday, and this presents its own set of problems for tenants and other residents hoping to remove bulkier items through the fire escape stairwells.
"As two people you can only carry so much down the fire exits. But it's hard, those questions are premature, maybe, because we don't even know if we can get back in the building.
"It's hard for the tenants in the room … I feel for the owners. They're losing a lot of money, I've read a lot of stories saying a lot of them are going bankrupt.
"But I don't think there's a lot of sympathy in the room because I don't think the tenants think they have as much of a say, or control over what happens to … their lives at the moment."
Tenants have also pushed to be kept up to date and have regular meetings on the state of the building for as long as their possessions are kept locked in the towers, saying they should be kept abreast of the situation with the same regularity as the owners.
They have also begun discussions to elect a Tenants Representative, similar to how the Owner's Corp have nominated their own representative body.
They left the meeting on Thursday with no scheduled time to meet again and learn more, while owners were told they would reconvene with the building's engineers in one week.
Tenants who cannot occupy their homes in Mascot Towers are entitled to negotiate having their rent reduced or completely waived, according to the Department of Fair Trading. Outstanding rent will be negotiated depending on the extent of the damage, and how much the tenant has been able to use the property.
Tenants are also entitled to serve a notice terminating their lease, that can specify a later date. In this case, rent paid in advance must be refunded. Tenants who can't reach an agreement are able to lodge complaints through Fair Trading's free tenancy complaint service.
"NSW Fair Trading continues to offer information and support to tenants of Mascot Towers. Fair Trading encourages tenants to speak with their landlords and managing agents directly regarding rent abatement and termination and to make any agreements in writing.
"Tenants are encouraged to negotiate concerns with their landlord or agent, including the release of their bond. If the two parties are unable to reach a mutual agreement, enquiries can be made to Fair Trading by contacting 13 32 20 and selecting the Mascot Towers extension. Complaints can be lodged online at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au."