Tenants remaining in a Surrey apartment owned by a notorious landlord, who received an unprecedented fine last year for letting the building deteriorate, have been given eviction notices.
The notices were given on the Easter long weekend to tenants in about a dozen of the suites that remain occupied out of 31 at Kwantlen Park Manor, 12975 106 Ave.
In March 2012, the Residential Tenancy Branch fined landlord Gurdyal Singh Sahota $115,000 for ignoring several orders to remove mould and repair water damage. A controversial 25-page agreement dated Aug. 22 between the branch and Sahota waived the fine at the end of two years if the landlord met all the terms, which included finishing work on the property and offering tenants a settlement package.
Bill Barnard, a tenant of the building since June 2009, said he was one of the tenants given eviction notices on the weekend. He’s supposed to be out by June 1.
“They say that the roof they have to replace makes it unsafe for us,” he said, standing out front of the building. “We lived here for a year without a (new) roof and there was no problems ever. Now they’re telling us we have to vacate without any compensation.”
Barnard said a year ago tenants were offered two months rent, return of the damage deposit and help with moving if they decided to leave. He was one of the tenants who chose to stay, hoping the renovation and repairs wouldn’t be “long, drawn-out and ridiculous” as they have become.
Sahota could not be reached for comment.
On Tuesday, the three-storey apartment building looked like it was undergoing extensive repair work that looked nowhere near completion.
Barnard said he feels the landlords haven’t treated him with dignity and respect. He can’t even get anyone to answer his questions, he said.
Barnard pays $750 a month. He said he’s on a disability pension and hasn’t worked in 35 years. He said most of the other tenants are on welfare and simply don’t have the money to move into another apartment unless they receive financial help.
Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for housing, could not be reached for comment.
The $115,000 penalty against Sahota was considered precedent-setting because it was the first administrative penalty under the Residential Tenancy Act.
Sahota and his family own several hotels in the Downtown Eastside including the Astoria, Balmoral and Cobalt. They have been called “the worst slum landlords in the city” by poverty activists.
The building’s legal owner is listed as Waterford Developments. The land title says its 2013 value is $2,273,000.
Former building manager Sue Collard started the process of getting the landlord to repair leaks, rot and mould in the ceilings by going to the Residential Tenancy Branch in 2010. Collard has since moved to Fort Langley but still has the right to return to Kwantlen Park Manor once repairs are completed. She can’t believe how long repairs are taking.
“It’s one big stinky fish,” she said in an interview out front of the building. “Why is it taking a year to fix the balconies? It’s quite clear the Sahotas have a history of letting their buildings decay to a considerable degree. Why should the tenants be penalized?”
Joe Trasolini, the NDP housing critic and MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam, said the situation facing tenants at Kwantlen Park Manor is shameful.
“This is really a very clear case of irresponsible landlord keeping tenants in deplorable conditions and the provincial government being on the side of the landlord,” he said out front of the apartment building.
Article by Kevin Griffin for The Vancouver Sun