British Columbia

Landlords ordered to pay for roof collapse

The B.C. Supreme Court says a Vancouver family must pay some former tenants nearly $170,000 in damages, after the roof of their building collapsed, flooding their apartments.

The B.C. Supreme Court says a Vancouver family must pay some former tenants nearly $170,000 in damages, after the roof of their building collapsed, flooding their apartments.

The building, located at 2131 Pandora St. in East Vancouver, had to be permanently evacuated after the city ordered it closed in October of 2007.

With the help of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, the tenants filed a claim with the province's Residential Tenancy Branch seeking compensation for items lost because of mould, and for their displacement.

The branch found in the tenants favour over a year ago, but the Sahota family, which owns the building, appealed the decision to the B.C. Supreme Court.

In her ruling Madam Justice Gerow upheld the previous decision, saying the Sahota family recklessly disregarded the welfare of the tenants.

The judge found the family did not replace the roof even after there had been significant leaking into the building and found that the Sahotas delayed replacing the roof even after it collapsed in one apartment.

The Sahotas' lawyer Derek Creighton called the decision disappointing and said they have not decided yet if they will appeal.

Creighton said the flood was the result of vandalism, and therefore his clients are not responsible for what happened.

"The judgement of the arbritrator that was problematic was his finding was that the flooding was caused by the lack of maintenance which is just not accurate," said Creighton.

But Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre said the tenants are cautiously optimistic that this latest decision will finally mean they will see some compensation. 

"They've had to deal with appeals by the landlords, by the Sahotas, for well more than a year now and so what it means is that their damage awards have been upheld and so now it's just a question of trying to get the money out of the landlords," she said.

Sabrina Druuna, the executive director of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, said this latest decision should send a message to landlords.

"It's been three long years. These tenants are victims of a crime. It is a crime not to keep up your obligation. It is a crime to have your building fall in on tenants, and at this point we're totally ecstatic that the judge was able to see it in the eyes of the tenants," said Driuna.

Former tenant Roberta Dickson said in the months before the roof collapsed she and her roommate Frank Sowers had to take turns sleeping each night, so the other could block the leak.

Dickson said they complained to the landlords — but nothing happened  —until part of the building's roof collapsed. 

Dickson lost everything she owned and she's hoping this latest court decision will help her get some things back.

"I'd buy some clothes, we'd pay for our furniture," she told CBC News.

 

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