Yellowknife apartments enter third year without heat
For most Northwest Territories residents, even a few hours without heat in the dead of winter is an emergency.
But for residents of Yellowknife’s Birchwood Apartments, who are beginning their third year without heat, it’s become their new normal.
“We ended up buying our own electric space heaters, and it’s been like that since 2019,” said one resident, who asked not to be identified to discuss the sensitive matter of their tenancy.
“In my unit, it will be ice cold for hours and then suddenly so hot you can’t breathe, let alone sleep.
“I’m scared for my dogs when I go to work – I never know what I’m going to be coming home to.”
While some residents said they received compensation in 2020 for costs they incurred as they ran heaters through the winter, tenants of the building who spoke with Cabin Radio said they have received nothing since.
In the NWT, landlords are not automatically required to offer compensation if vital services are not provided.
The burden of proof is on tenants to provide evidence of the issue and submit an application to a rental officer, who then orders the landlord to pay back the rent collected or offer compensation.
Several residents at Birchwood Apartments said they weren’t aware of this and never submitted claims.
‘No one able to fix it’
The building’s new owner is Kenny Ruptash, who took over the apartment complex in the fall. He says fixing the issue is his top priority.
“We took full control of the properties on the 30th [of November], and we had crews in that day to start rectifying the heating situation,” Ruptash told Cabin Radio last week.
His property manager, Direct Management, said an update would be sent to residents shortly.
But Direct Management and Ruptash are not the focus of frustration for most tenants.
“We don’t blame the current owners, we blame the people that let this drag on for two years – the Eggenbergers,” said the resident. “They have the money to make a million-dollar donation to the hospital, but they couldn’t look after their own tenants. They didn’t care about us.”
Jennifer Eggenberger, reached by phone, firmly denied those claims.
Eggenberger said the heating issue had lasted for years not “out of neglect, but out of no one being able to fix it.”
“We have a serious lack of labour and tradespeople in this territory, and no contractors would come look at it,” she told Cabin Radio.
“We provided heaters. We had plumbers go in and look at things.”
Ruptash, asked how he would solve the issue of finding a contractor, had a simple answer: he owns Nahanni Construction.
“We’re in a bit of a different situation, because we are the contractors in this case,” he said.
In the meantime, tenants are trying to be hopeful that this will be their last Christmas without heat.
“It’s scary, because we just have no control over the temperature at all, and there’s nowhere else in Yellowknife to move to,” the resident said.
“We pay good money to be here. My neighbour, she has young kids. She shouldn’t have to worry about them shivering at night.”
Correction: December 12, 2022 – 10:44 MT. An initial version of this article noted that Kenny Ruptash took possession of Birchwood Apartments on October 30. The correct possession date was in fact November 30.