The city has a program that replaces the service from the water main up to the homeowner’s property line at no charge if the lead concentration is more than 10 parts per billion. Ms B contacted Toronto Water in December 2007 to have her water tested. She did not qualify for the upgrade. However, city staff left her a voice message saying she would be placed on a list to have her water service upgraded in a year.
Acting on behalf of a number of tenants the Toronto Legal Clinics’ Housing committee complained that the rent calculations of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) have a high error rate, but it is difficult for tenants to figure out because of the lack of information. The complainant advised that they have raised this issue over many years with the TCHC. According to clinic staff, the TCHC had acknowledged the problem, but said nothing could be done until a new computer system that would automatically generate the rent calculation, was in place. The Ombudsman’s office discussed the issue with TCHC, which agreed to implement an interim measure to address the complainant’s concerns.
Mr. L received a parking ticket dated December 31, 2007, a day neither he nor his car was in Toronto. He called the city early in 2008 and was told the error would be corrected. In March 2008, he received a notice of conviction, and the parking fine increased from $30 to $46. He called again and was told the error would be corrected.
In 2009, Mr. L went to renew his driver’s license before his March 31 deadline. He was told he had an outstanding fine, now $66, which he had to pay before March 31 or he could not renew his license. He called the city again. Staff agreed to fix the error, but couldn’t commit to doing so before he would lose his license. In mid-March 2009, Mr. L phoned the Ombudsman. Her staff made several calls before finding a staff member who corrected the error by March 31.
In 2009, Ms P arrived home to see a fire hydrant in the middle of her lawn. She contacted the city, wanting to know why she had not been informed ahead of time, and whether the city could move the hydrant to a less prominent position.
City staff told her the new position was marked on a plan that was available to residents in the fall of 2008 at the Public Consultation Office and there had been a public meeting. City policy is to send a notice of such changes and meetings to local residents in an unaddressed letter. They also advised her they couldn’t move the hydrant, unless she was willing to bear the cost – between $5,000 and $10,000. Ms P had not seen any notices and did not know of the 2008 fall public meeting.
Ms M is a single mother and full-time student who receives monthly support cheques form the city. The city mistakenly deducted too much money from her benefit cheques. The decline in income had a serious effect. Ms M tried many times to get the city to make the correction. The city did send her a cheque, but Ms M thought she was owed more and asked for an explanation of the figure.
City employees did not explain the discrepancy in a way that made sense to Ms M and declined to give her other options to pursue her complaint. By the time Ms M contacted the Ombudsman’s office she was borrowing money from family to pay her rent.
Ombudsman staff made repeated calls to the city over the ensuing 10 days, to establish if a discrepancy still existed. Finally, staff agreed to check into the matter.
Mr. E has a Norway maple in front of his home, more than half of which is on city property. In the past, the city has pruned the tree under the boundary line street tree policy. In April 2009, a storm broke a limb, which was hanging dangerously. Mr. E phoned the city for assistance and was told the tree was privately owned and therefore his responsibility. Mr. E left a message to speak to a supervisor that Friday morning. He did not hear from the supervisor that day and, not knowing when he would hear back, he hired a contractor to remove the branch.
On Monday, the supervisor called to tell Mr. E that he could request an inspection from the city as the tree was on the property boundary line. When informed Mr. E had taken matters into his own hands, the supervisor refused to reimburse him retroactively for the private contractor.
One Friday afternoon the Ombudsman’s office received a call from Mr. N. He was in a City of Toronto social services office in a state of crisis. He had been staying with a friend but owed four weeks’ rent. He had no money. He had no ID after losing his wallet. He was diabetic and had not had insulin in two days. The employee had told him he could not get anything without identification.
In this case the Ombudsman had to act fast. Staff told Mr. N to phone his doctor and ask him to fax a note to the city office, confirming he had diabetes. This would let him get insulin. Putting Mr. N on hold, the staff then spoke to the city employee.
Mr. J applied for a rent-geared-to-income apartment in 2000. He was placed on the Housing Connections waiting list. Every year until 2005, when he received a note from Housing Connections, he called to update his status, saying he wanted to remain on the list. He didn’t hear from them in 2006 or 2007. In 2008, he asked about his status. Housing Connections told him he was no longer on the list. He would have to apply again. They could not backdate his application. He would end up at the bottom of the list.
Mr. J came to the Ombudsman for help.
Ombudsman staff contacted Housing Connections. Their staff looked at the electronic records and found they had sent letters to Mr. J every year. He had stopped responding and so was off the list.
After some discussion, Housing Connections finally agreed to search the paper file. They found the 2004 letter was returned, but this had never been noted in the electronic file. If it had, they would have contacted him by phone for his new address. As a result, subsequent letters had been going to his old address.
Result: Housing Connections backdated Mr. J’s application to 2000, restoring him to his place on the waiting list.
In November 2006, the TTC replaced its tokens with a new design. The old tokens were supposed to be good until January 31, 2007. TTC advised people with more than 100 tokens to go to the TTC head office to exchange them.
Ms D had 1,145 tokens. She also had a TTC brochure that said she had until December 31, 2007, to exchange them. She took her tokens to the head office on December 6, 2007. Staff told her the deadline had passed. Ms D wrote to her councillor, and also went to a legal clinic with her complaint. The clinic sent a letter to the Ombudsman on behalf of Ms D, along with a copy of the TTC brochure with the December 31, 2007, deadline.
Ms G uses a wheelchair and does most of her shopping at a centre near her home. In winter, the ploughs have been piling the snow on the slope part of the curb, making it impossible for her to get through. For two years, Ms G has been trying to get someone to come out for a look.
She asked the Ombudsman for help in November. Ombudsman staff phoned the manager of road operations, who said he would go out to see for himself. On November 30, he went to see Ms G, going with her to see the exact route she takes to the shopping centre.
Result: The city staffer said he would make sure it was ploughed properly, so that her wheelchair could get through, and he gave her his direct phone number to call if there is a problem.