May I respond? Thank you! Please note that in this instance I will not be responding from so much from a "spiritual" perspective as from a professional one. I am a Certified Housing Manager (Washington D.C.), have managed low-income housing, including senior housing (Section 8 and Section 202) in the U.S. for 22 years, and have a law degree. Please note, I am offering what I am based on my credentials as a U.S. housing administrator and not as a form of "legal help" (don't want any issues about "practicing without a license, etc., so I need to include that disclaimer), so PLEASE do not take this as a "this is what you should do." I am not familiar with Canadian housing law, so I am not sure what you CAN do. To know definitively what you CAN and SHOULD do, you should consult with an attorney (perhaps with Legal Aid or some similar non-profit that helps with seniors, housing, etc., if you have that available. I can tell you what I would do, however, if I were in your situation and the apartment was in the U.S. (and particularly in California):
1. I would immediately sit down and document every date that the fire department has had to respond to an incident of this type... for my neighbor AND any other residents. I would do this no matter what so that I would have a record should anything ever get out of hand. It will help me (or perhaps my family). (NOTE: I would also WRITE to the fire and/or police departments and ask for copies of any incident reports. Keep in mind, it is highly unlikely that I will get them from either source since I am not a party to the incidents, but that’s okay.)
2. I would review my lease (which should be the same as my neighbor’s) for any clause addressing safety and/or hazards, and damage to the property. Here (in California), the leases for most rental housing with more than 16 units (and certainly subsidized housing which most senior housing is) contains some kind of clause that says the resident “agrees to do nothing that presents a safety hazard or will cause damage to the property.” Smoking and/or leaving the stove on, or some other open flame, while drinking to the point of passing out, could be a violation of this clause. Note, I said “could.” It would depend on various factors, including how often the fire department has needed to respond for such incidents, whether others have the same problem, etc.
1. I would try to meet and speak with my neighbor (alone or perhaps with 1-2 others) regarding my/our concerns. I would show her every date I had and tell her how she’s putting herself, me, and everyone else at risk and ask her does she really want it on her conscience if she caused a fire that killed someone, let alone burned down the whole building.
If my neighbor received the concerns in a good way and gets it… and it appears the risk is past, GREAT! Matter settled. If NOT:
1. I would send my neighbor a letter(which may be signed by others with the same concern) setting forth:
a. My/our attempt to speak with her about the matter and the date;
b. Setting forth the dates that emergency crews had to respond; and
c. Reiterating my/our concerns; and
d. Requesting her to cease and desist from putting my safety at risk OR RISK not only me complaining to the Landlord but taking her to civil court for an injunction and possibly money damages. (NOTE: Yes, if nothing else worked, I would sue her… not for money… but to ask the court to do something to order her to quit risking my life and that of other residents. Now, the court can’t police here, of course, so I would also ask the court, in the alternative, for money damages in the hopes that this might get her attention. I would donate any award to the resident associated, etc., or some other thing that might help make the building safer, etc. But that’s me…).
Again, if my neighbor received the concerns in a good way and gets it… and it appears the risk is past, GREAT! Matter settled. If NOT:
1. I would send the LANDLORD a letter (and include a copy of my letter to my neighbor, as well as send a copy of the letter to the landlord to my neighbor) and tell them of my concerns. I would include the lease clause(s) that are being violated AND dates the fire department/police had to respond and the circumstances. (NOTE: I may even speak to other residents and see if they want to sign/send the letter with me.)
2. I would tell the landlord in the letter that I/we INTEND to (because I/we may not NEED to, yet):
a. Contact APS; and/or
b. Draw up a petition and speak with other residents who fear as you do; and/or
c. Seek legal advice and action; and/or
d. Withhold rent until the matter is resolved...
... if nothing is done in, say, 30-60 days. (NOTE: Of course, it would be up to me as to what constitutes “resolved” because it might not come down to having her lease terminated. It’s unlikely that an eviction could be processed in 30-60 days under these circumstances, if at all, and I really wouldn't want that, anyway. I’d just want her to stop risking my life. But at least I will have documented my concern… which might compel them to do something.)
3. I would also ask for copies of the incidents reports and give them 10 days to provide them. Again, I most probably won’t get them, as I am not a party to them; however, my asking puts my landlord on notice that I am quite serious.
If my Landlord (and perhaps my neighbor) receives the concerns in a good way and gets it… and it appears the risk is past, GREAT! Matter settled. If NOT:
1. I would contact Adult Protective Services (APS) or some similar agency and let them know my concerns… for my neighbor, the other residents, and myself. I would file a report with them and ask them to look into the situation. In California, they would be obligated to at least investigate the matter. Here, my neighbor would most likely be assigned a case worker who would get her “number” fairly quickly (people who drink as you indicate she does can’t hide it for too long). I would let them take it from there and give them, say, 30-60 days.
If APS does not respond, if they don’t make some kind of progress (i.e., get her some in-home help, have her moved to assisted housing, etc.) within 30-60 days, or if you don’t have an APS agency in your area (sorry, I am not familiar with the Canadian social service system and so don’t want to assume):
1. I would contact Legal Aid or a similar agency/an attorney and give them a copy of my letter and ask them for help. NOTE: I would NOT actually withhold my rent until I received the go-head from an attorney; however, I would TELL the landlord that I INTEND to do so if the matter is not resolved. (Remember, this is only if there is a safety/hazard clause in your lease.)
Anyway, that’s what I would do. I realize it seems like a lot of steps to go through, but I have learned that processes such as this tend to work best. It shows the Landlord… and the court (should it come to that)... and perhaps God... that one is not trying to be mean or arbitrary but rather is really are trying to work the matter out between the parties first. It goes a long way toward showing one’s true motive (i.e., just wanting everyone to be safe).
In your case, I hope you are able to speedily resolve this matter in a manner that is best for ALL, your neighbor as well as yourself, your other co-residents, your landlord, and your emergency response people.
I bid you peace.
A slave of Christ,
SA, on her own…