Residents living in Midland’s Queen Street area are up in arms over a suspected “drug house” in their tranquil neighbourhood.
About seven neighbours in the Queen Street/Hannah Street area told MidlandToday that the goings-on at one property has caused them a great deal of angst as they deal with loud “deviant” behaviour, fights and junkies roaming the area at all hours trying to get a fix.
From attempted car break-ins to being surveilled at all hours by those visiting the two-storey red brick house, the neighbours are calling on police and the building’s landlord to act now.
“The police have told us many times that we don’t need to worry about these people, but I have seen the wrath of their unhappy customers and I have no interest in going toe to toe with any of them,” explains one neighbour, who didn’t want to give her name over fear of possible retaliation.
She says she and her husband have installed cameras around their home, which have shown a number of concerning things, including people staring at their front door in the early morning hours and hanging out on their property.
“We moved here to get away from this kind of thing,” she says, adding their feeling of safety and enjoyment of their home has been severely compromised.
“We would move if we could, but now our property value has dropped because of this house.”
Shelley Nicholls' backyard abuts the backyard of the two-storey building in question.
She says there have been fights and lots of uncontrolled, open fires that make her worry about violence along with a potential fire spreading quickly to other homes.
As well, she contends that many are parking in front of her Hannah Street home to make the short walk to the “drug house.”
Nicholls has taken it upon herself to photograph the comings and goings of potential customers and isn’t shy about letting them know what she’s up to.
“I do it in a way so they know I’m taking photos of their licence plates and cars. I just want to embarrass them.
“There’s a lot of foot traffic,” she says. “It never used to be like that. The people that have addictions are desperate people. There are quite a few kids that live in this area so I’m also worried about them.”
Nicholls says things took a turn for the worse when the tenant’s mother moved out of the building last summer with things really coming to a head in November. Since then, she says she and other neighbours have been living in fear of what might occur.
Shelby Butzer says the “drug house” has a direct impact on not just the enjoyment of her home, but also her business since she runs a hair studio out of it while another neighbour, Tim Blanchard, says he and his wife have been affected by the goings-on at the house and have seen people regularly lurking around their car and other vehicles.
A knock at the door of the house in question by MidlandToday didn’t receive a response.
And while the current situation has been tough on neighbours, it’s also been difficult for the property’s landlords.
Sandra and Jim, who declined to give their last names, live outside the county and purchased the property as a rental along with another one on Bay Street.
And while he’s had no issues with the Bay property, Jim says the problems on Queen and the constant texts from neighbours have created angst for him and his wife as well.
“It’s a house that somebody’s not paying the rent on and we’re trying to have them evicted,” says Jim, who notes they’re fatigued with the situation and feel let down by the province’s Landlord and Tenant Tribunal, which he says has offered no help to aleve the situation.
“We’ve spoken with police about what we can do about it. I cannot walk into the house, it’s against the law.”
With their backs seemingly up against a wall, Jim notes provincial housing legislation favours disruptive tenants over good landlords.
“Short of the rules being changed, I’ve done everything I can. I’ve contacted the Landlord and Tenant Board, I have spoken with the tenant. This was a good tenant for a year when he lived with his Mom.”
But if the house is indeed a drug house as the neighbours believe, Jim says he understands how the neighbours feel and would welcome a police raid.
“We, landlords, are virtually handcuffed. I’m doing everything I can within my legal rights,” he says, noting he’s explained this all to the neighbours who constantly text or call him.
“The Landlord and Tenant Board is the problem.”
The board was established to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants and give them information about their rights and responsibilities.
According to a recent report from the province’s ombudsman, a backlog of cases at the Landlord and Tenant Board has grown to 38,000, due in part to the pandemic and freezes on evictions, and it is taking an average of seven or eight months — sometimes up to two years — for a hearing to be scheduled.
But Jim also wants the neighbours to know that if they text him at 2 a.m. to tell them about something unsavoury is occurring, there’s really nothing he can do about it.
“I think it’s a little unrealistic,” he says. “If there’s a problem and you feel unsafe, pick up the phone and call the police.”
He also wants to dispel the myth that all landlords are wealthy, only in it for the money and don’t care about their tenants.
“Please understand I’m a family person, I have kids. It’s not like I’m hiding anything from my neighbours,” Jim explained, noting he and his wife both work hard and don’t live in opulence. “I drive a (expletive) Kia!
“The neighbours get pissed off with what’s going on, but the system allows this situation to occur. There are many places we’ve reached out to for help, but there’s no help coming.”
Southern Georgian Bay OPP Const. David Hobson declined to say whether the specific house in question is on the police’s radar.
“I can’t tell you whether it’s an ongoing investigation,” says Hobson, who pointed out police recently raided a home on Robert Street that’s located at the south end of Queen Street.
“We’ve investigated a number of mischiefs and calls for service on Queen Street. I really can’t comment any further.”
But Hobson says the OPP are well aware of the citizens’ concerns.
“We are answering complaints and conducting investigations along with conducting RIDE checks and general patrols of that area.”
As well, Hobson says he encourages residents with credible information about criminal acts or who fear for their safety to continue calling police and asks anyone with information who wishes to remain anonymous to contact Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or online.