Vancouver gets tough with slum landlords
The City of Vancouver is prepared to go to court to fight against delinquent landlords who failed to repair mouldy bathrooms, water leaks, cabinets falling off the walls and, worst of all, sewage backing up into suites.
For years, the city has chased after the landlords to do essential maintenance on their buildings, but with limited success, said Will Johnston, director of licences and inspections.
Now, the city is ready to seek court injunctions if the landlords refuse to comply with city orders, he said Thursday.
"We would first order the building owner to carry out the repairs to the building," Johnston said.
"If that wasn't followed through, what we would do is bring a report to council and ask council to give us permission to go to the courts to seek an injunction to get the courts to order the building owner to carry out those repairs.
"And then the building owner would be obligated through the courts to carry out those repairs."
Johnston led a team of inspectors Wednesday to check a three-storey building at 2199 Wall St. in East Vancouver. They determined sewage backup is a major concern for the residents there.
"We're taking that fairly seriously, and so we've asked the owners to carry out those repairs immediately to the building," he said.
The property belongs to the Sahota family, which owns some of the most dilapidated residential buildings in the Downtown Eastside and Vancouver.
"Something's got to be done about slum landlords to make sure they take care of the buildings they are running instead of having a cash cow," said Harvey Williams, a tenant at the Wall Street building.
Lynne Charlson, another tenant, said sewage started to come up into her bathtub, which became half full of smelly waste.
The city has ordered the Sahotas to repair several of their buildings. If they don't, city staff will ask council for approval to seek a court injunction, Coun. Tim Stevenson said Thursday.
In the past, attempts to order the Sahotas to do repairs on their properties have mostly failed. In some cases, the city had to do the work and send them the bill, which the Sahotas then disputed in court.
Stevenson said a court injunction would force the Sahotas to explain to a judge why they aren't maintaining their buildings.
"When these landlords realize just how determined we are, then they will comply," Stevenson said.
The city is prepared to seek an injunction against the Sahotas as early as July if they fail to finish the repairs and maintenance by then.
- The building at 2199 Wall St. is in East Vancouver, not the Downtown Eastside as previously reported in this story.May 29, 2009 3:30 AM PT