St. John’s Coun. Jonathan Galgay says the city will review how it lets people know which properties are not approved for habitation after a CBC Investigates story revealed that a rowhouse recently deemed at risk of “catastrophic collapse” ended up on the rental market.

Galgay acknowledged Thursday that if it wasn’t for that CBC story, tenants could now be living at 73 Long’s Hill.

CBC News Investigates

“They probably would be renting there,” he said.

“It’s a big concern for me. As I’ve indicated to you earlier today, it’s borderline criminal. It’s a high risk for somebody to move in here and potential for a collapse. It’s quite concerning.”

Earlier Thursday, Galgay told the St. John’s Morning Show that council does not have an easy way for citizens to check up on properties.

But that may change.

“This has certainly started a conversation in the city,” Galgay said.

“If you’re unsure about a property or you have questions, you have means to call city council.”

Galgay suggested that anyone with concerns contact their ward councillor or call the city’s 311 information line.

He said council staff will help as well “if they feel that a property is obviously shady.”

'It’s a big concern for me. As I’ve indicated to you earlier today, it’s borderline criminal. It’s a high risk for somebody to move in here and potential for a collapse. It’s quite concerning.'- Coun. Jonathan Galgay

Asked why the city would not simply post warnings on houses advising that no occupancy is permitted, Galgay said: “That’s a good statement. It’s something we’ll have to look at as we move forward.”

But he stressed the importance of not gumming up the system for those owning the hundreds of new houses under construction also without occupancy permits in place.

Lack of required approvals

On Wednesday, CBC Investigates revealed that 73 Long’s Hill was recently put on the rental market, despite a lack of required approvals from city hall.

The new owner of the Long’s Hill home — Mike O’Dea of Downtown Property Management — insists recent repairs have made the home safe, and he has an engineer’s report of his own to prove it.

73 Long's Hill rowhouse St. John's CBC

An apartment in the green rowhouse at 73 Long's Hill was placed up for rent on Kijiji. (CBC)

He initially declined to provide a copy to CBC Investigates, but emailed the one-page letter from engineer Peter Hutton Thursday.

The city has yet to certify the engineer’s letter, or issue an occupancy permit for the house.

Galgay said he has received other complaints about properties in his downtown St. John’s ward owned by O’Dea.

“This property owner is well-known in the city,” Galgay said.

“I won’t tell you how I really feel, because many of the complaints that I’ve been getting in Ward 2 are stemming from this property owner.” 

Pressed about he feels about the Long’s Hill situation, Galgay said he couldn’t “because I’d probably end up in court.”

“But what I would say is that this is a very serious situation — that a property owner is knowingly attempting to rent a property that, as the report had indicated, is a possibility of catastrophic collapse,” Galgay continued.

“If you went into a bar and the bar collapsed and the owner knowingly knew that, there would be lawsuits and there would be a criminal investigation. So to me, this is borderline criminal if somebody had gone in there and been hurt or killed due to the fact that the owner knew. I think the RNC would certainly be called in.”