The Province: Vancouver city councillor wants slumlords to face criminal charges as well as fines

New provincial fines for delinquent landlords are great, says Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, but for best results charge them criminally.

Jang was pleased with a $115,000 fine imposed Tuesday on notorious landlord Gurdyal Singh Sahota, a slumlord millionaire who has been the target over the years of a number of Vancouver city crackdowns.

Sahota, who owns tens of millions of dollars worth of properties, was singled out for the first administrative penalty handed out by the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch.

“From our perspective, it’s about time,” said Jang. “I’m glad to see that the Residential Tenancy Branch is stepping forward. But we used to just impose a fine – that didn’t work.”

Jang said the city has found it’s most persuasive to get a court order enforcing the city’s standards of maintenance bylaw.

“If they fail to comply, it’s essentially contempt of court,” said Jang. “It’s a criminal offence – it’s not just a fine. 

 “They would get a criminal record, and that could prevent them from traveling out of the country.”

The Residential Tenancy Branch gave Sahota the $115,000 penalty with regards to Kwantlen Park Manor in Surrey, but Sahota and Waterford Development have lucrative holdings in Vancouver.

A Province news team visited three of those dwellings yesterday - a $9.3-million Tudor mansion on Selkirk Street and two side-by-side homes on prestigious Angus Drive – but no one answered the door at any of the Shaughnessy homes. 

Spokesman Tom Page of ACORN called for widespread enforcement of municipal bylaws to prevent landlords from preying on tenants. 

“This [fine] is a landmark – it’s never happened before, so it’s a big thing,” said Page, who represents the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

“But it’s done nothing to help the people at Kwantlen Park – they’re still living in substandard conditions.

“There a dozens of substandard buildings in Surrey alone.”

Page said ACORN won’t rest until landlords feel the pressure to make buildings safe for tenants.

“We need the local and/or provincial government to enforce laws,” said Page. “Everybody should be able to live in a safe and healthy environment, especially children.

“This is our goal – this is what we’re after, and we won’t stop until we get it.

”That’s the way we do things – we don’t stop.”

The Residential Tenancy Branch previously ordered the Sahota family to pay a different form of fine.

The Sahotas paid tenants of their property at 2131 Pandora Street $170,000 after that property was damaged following a ceiling collapse.

A search of property and corporate records show the Sahota clan own at least $55-million worth of properties in Vancouver, Whistler and Surrey.

The single-occupancy homes are owned mostly in the names of Gurdyal Singh Sahota, Parkash Sahota, Paul Sahota and Ranjit Sahota.

The multi-unit properties are owned by companies, directed by Sahota family members, that have their registered office as 6626 Angus Drive in Vancouver.

The Sahota’s most valuable multi-unit property is the Balmoral Hotel at $6.65-million in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Original article available at: http://www.theprovince.com/business/Vancouver+city+councillor+wants+slumlords+face+criminal+charges+well+fines/6339149/story.html