CTV: New claims of neglect made against infamous landlords

BC ACORN rallies for Healthy Homes in New Westminister.A notorious B.C. family of landlords is facing new allegations of neglect from tenants in New Westminster who say they went without running water for two weeks.

Residents of the building at 1210 Cameron Street say they've also dealt with mouldy floors, leaky ceilings and rodents, but owners Pal and Gurdyal Sahota aren't doing enough to fix it.

"There's mice in just about every unit. They're in the walls; you can hear them. In the basement, there's rats, there's various bugs, silverfish, cockroaches, bedbugs," renter John Dykema told reporters at a tenant rally Thursday.

Other tenants have reported electrical fires because of water from leaking ceiling spilling onto wires. Broken pipes were fixed Wednesday night, but residents believe that was only done because the landlords knew a protest was planned for the next day.

Last month, Gurdyal Sahota was handed a $115,000 fine for refusing to fix the leaky roof on one of his properties in Surrey despite several orders to do so over a period of 18 months. It was the first ever administrative penalty given out by B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch.

But Dykema says that sort of penalty may not be enough incentive for problem landlords to fix things up.

"The fines have to be greater. They may have to look in to criminal charges for this neglect and people living in substandard conditions. This is like a third world oasis in the middle of plenty," he said.

The Sahota family is well known for serious problems in several buildings they own throughout Metro Vancouver. In 2007, the roof of one of their East Vancouver properties, the single-room occupancy Pandora hotel, 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.

The Sahotas could not be reached for comment Thursday.