A high-profile B.C. landlord has been handed a $115,000 penalty for refusing to fix the leaky roof on a Surrey apartment complex, despite numerous orders to do so.
According to the provincial government, the punishment handed to Gurdyal Singh Sahota and his company Waterford Developments is the first ever administrative penalty given out by the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Tenants at Kwantlen Park Manor in North Surrey have complained about moisture and mould in their suites for years and the RTB has issued several orders for Sahota to fix the roof, but to no avail.
Sahota's fine for failing to do so includes a $5,000 one-time penalty plus $500 for each of the 220 days that the roof was left unrepaired since the latest order. The RTB has had the legal right to fine irresponsible landlords a maximum of $5,000 per day since 2008.
Official complaints about the building came from resident Sue Collard, who told ctvbc.ca that the penalty is a testament to the hard work of housing advocates in Surrey.
"After more than two years of battling this issue through, I'm happy that they did it," she said.
She says that only minor, "cosmetic" repairs have been completed at the building this year, and water is still leaking into the walls.
"They've been doing the minimum to make it appear as though they've been complying with the order," she said.
Collard, who is also the Whalley chairwoman for the low-income advocacy group Acorn, has lived at Kwantlen Park for almost seven years and says she plans to keep living there at least until the necessary repairs are complete.
"I'm a stubborn old coot," she said.
In the past, Kwantlen Park residents have also complained about insect infestations, electrical problems and structural damage in the building. Collard says that pests aren't currently a problem, but little maintenance is being done because the building has lost its property manager.
She's pushing for Surrey to bring in a bylaw governing standards of maintenance, similar to one in place in Vancouver that allows the city to go after negligent landlords.
The Sahota family is well known throughout Metro Vancouver for problems in several buildings they own. In 2007, the roof of one of their East Vancouver properties, the single-room occupancy hotel known as the Pandora, collapsed and caused a flood in several units and common hallways.
The tenants of the building were given just a short time to grab everything they owned after the City of Vancouver ordered the Pandora closed. The RTB awarded them damages totalling about $170,000 because of Sahota's "reckless disregard for the welfare of the tenants," a decision that was later upheld in B.C. Supreme Court.
Sahota has until May 15 to pay the fine.