The Province: Vancouver poised to take building owners to court

A Friday deadline has been set by the City of Vancouver for the owners of a troubled building on East Hastings Street to complete repairs to bring the rental complex into compliance with all bylaws.
But even if the numbered company that owns 3683 East Hastings can do everything the city requires, legal action will likely be taken against it for bylaw violations in the areas of licensing, electrical, fire and building.
Carlie Edwards, the city’s deputy chief building official, said Monday the final decision on proceeding with a court action is up to the city’s legal staff.
“We’ve been gathering up all the evidence,” said Edwards, who explained that such legal actions usually take place after a building’s owner has completed all the work required.
Tenants of the building, which was advertised as newly renovated, moved into the complex before it obtained its occupancy permit. They have complained about conditions and held a noon-hour rally Monday to bring attention to their plight.
The numbered company that owns the building has an address on Homer Street in Vancouver that is home to Zen G Construction.
The Province got a “no comment” when it called the office for an interview.
The numbered company has two directors, Roger Zen and Moreno Zen, who share an address in West Vancouver for which a number could not be found.
Edwards said there is potential for up to $10,000 in fines for each charge the city brings against the building’s owners, but the infractions, if proven, could be even more costly.
She called the situation “pretty unique.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever come across someone who’s done this sort of thing,” said Edwards.
The problems weren’t just paperwork — although some of that remains to be completed.
“The work wasn’t done,” said Edwards. “He moved people in, and that building was not safe enough to have people living there.”
For a period from May 17 to June 17 the building was even on a fire watch, with officials continuously on site because fire alarms and safety equipment were not adequate.
But the building was eventually made safe enough for the tenants — even without the occupancy permit.
“We have confidence in the safety systems in that building,” said Edwards. “If we thought they were under any risk, we would take measures to prevent that.”
The fire watch was an example of those measures.
If the building owners don’t meet the Friday deadline, staff will go to city council to seek an injunction that would force the owners to comply with all regulations.
Article by Frank Luba for The Province