Dispute with landlord forces Caritas out of its offices

  • February 25, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - A North York Catholic charity that helps recovering addicts is being “forced into homelessness” after its landlord locked it out of its offices.

Caritas associate director Ramin Deravian told The Catholic Register charity staff and residents were shocked to find themselves locked out of Caritas’ main building at 15 Millwick Dr. on Feb. 19 over a $57,000 unpaid parking lot repavement bill. Deravian said when talks broke down, Caritas found itself locked out of the building it has called home for the past 16 years.

Caritas is a non-profit charity that receives funding from Ontario’s health ministry. For the past 25 years, it has been running a long-term recovery centre for recovering addicts and individuals with mental health issues.

Deravian said the dispute is over an invoice that has been contested by the non-profit group as being “dated” because the repavement was completed in 2007, but the invoice was sent to Caritas last May.

“Our job is to help people who suffer from a specific kind of poverty which is spiritual and emotional. We deal constantly, not with legalities, but address moral and ethical issues,” he said.

Deravian said the lock-out came as a complete surprise and only “became an issue” a month ago, with the owner “basically calling and demanding money.” According to Caritas, the landlord decided to pave the parking lot on its own, but is now asking Caritas to pay for work it didn’t request.

Caritas says it’s been a loyal tenant, never missing its rental payments and maintaining the property. But Mark Zanette of Fermola Builders said the group is “in default” of its lease agreement. Zanette said Caritas didn’t fulfill its obligations under the lease which requires it to maintain the property.

Instead, Zanette said his company “had no choice” but to put in asphalt parking because of safety concerns and in response to Caritas’ complaints about drainage problems at the lot.

“Should something have happened we would’ve been responsible,” he said.

He said Caritas was sent an invoice last May and has known it is responsible for the costs since the repavement was completed.

Zanette said he’s disappointed in the way the dispute is being aired out in the media instead of Caritas speaking to him directly.

“I’m in total disgust, not because of the money. We make money, we lose money. The way they’re conducting themselves (is) against all things that are right,” he told The Register.

He said he would have written off the $60,000 if the group “had come to us in the proper state.”

Zanette said as a practising Catholic, he is disappointed in Caritas’ actions. Before this incident, he said Caritas has been making its payments, even if they were sometimes late.

Caritas has been operating out of its other locations and its residents are being taken care of and housed in Toronto and at its therapeutic farm in King City, Ont.

Zanette said he is willing to work the issue out with Caritas and is awaiting a representative to contact him.

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