British Columbia

Strata fight forces Langley couple out of unsafe townhouse for 2 years

Barb Mykle-Hotzon and her husband haven’t been able to live in their Langley townhome for two years because of a compromised foundation. She has been trying to get her strata to do something about it but so far has come up empty.

City of Langley issued do-not-occupy order in 2017 for 2 townhomes at Bridle Run development

Terry Hotzon and his wife Barb Mykle-Hotzon inspect their townhome in Langley B.C., which has a damaged foundation. The couple blames their strata corporation for not acting soon enough to deal with the problems plaguing their suite and the one above it. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Barb Mykle-Hotzon says her home, which has been gutted by repeated attempts by engineers to find foundation problems, is "ground zero."

Mykle-Hotzon is the owner of a 25-year-old townhouse in the Bridle Run development of Langley, but she and her husband, Terry Hotzon, haven't been able to live there since 2017.

That's because the foundation of their unit, and the one above, are so compromised the walls have begun to shift, buckle and crack, ripping large fissures through the drywall.

The situation got so bad the City of Langley ordered Mykle-Hotzon and Hotzon, both 58, and their upstairs neighbours out of their units in 2017.

Terry Hotzon and Barb Mykle-Hotzon inspect a crack in the subfloor of what was once their kitchen. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Terry and I... documented over 120 points of damage in our suite alone," Mykle-Hotzon said, walking through the empty townhouse.

"It has taken an incredible emotional and financial toll on us. We don't know what else to say."

Terry Hotzon and Barb Mykle-Hotzon live in this fourplex of townhomes in Bridle Run, a Langley, B.C. townhouse development. The couple's unit, on the left on the ground floor, and their neighbours above them, are no longer liveable. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Mykle-Hotzon said the couple's saga has dragged on for so long because their strata will not approve work to fix the foundation of their fourplex unit. Bridle Run consists of 14 separated fourplexes for a total of 56 units.

Tony Gioventu, an expert on strata housing with the Condominium Home Owners Association, says this story is an example of how people can be left in dire straits when their strata fails to uphold its responsibilities.

Gioventu said the only recourse for Mykle-Hotzon and her husband may be to ask the courts or the Civil Resolution Tribunal to order the work to be done. They also could appeal to the City of Langley to issue an order to carry out the repairs, he added.

The damage was first noticed in late 2014. The strata hired engineers in August 2015 who found problems with the earth settling below the foundation.

Mykle-Hotzon said the strata council was then supposed to hire engineers to approve remediation work after monitoring the situation for a year.

But Mykle-Hotzon alleges that didn't happen until March 2017, months after it should have been done.

Barb Mykle-Hotzon shows off some of the problems in her townhouse:

Barb Mykle-Hotzon and her husband have been out of their Langley townhome for almost two years due to a bad foundation. 1:39

In that time, the strata council was disputing whether or not it was responsible for the work at all or if it fell to the owners of the two affected units. Mykle-Hotzon hired her own engineers during that time who found structural damage as well.

By September 2017, Mykle-Hotzon said the damage was getting worse. She and her husband called the City of Langley to ask if it could help. The city looked at the structure and issued a do-not-occupy order.

'We're frustrated'

Mykle-Hotzon said she and her husband bought the townhouse in late 1998. It was a lovely home, she said, but in 2014, something strange began happening: the doors to her patio wouldn't close.

"We just thought we needed a new French door," she recalled. "Then we noticed the crack [in the drywall]... That was significant."

The damage mounted. Floors pulled away from the walls, a kitchen backsplash cracked and windows began to shatter.

The couple went to the strata. The foundation is common property, a strata's responsibility, she said, so she expected quick action. Instead, she alleged the strata delayed a resolution by missing deadlines and not taking required action. 

Terry Hotzon hops across a gap in his townhouse's foundation. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We're frustrated," Mykle-Hotzon said. "There's no timeline at all. They've given us nothing in writing as far as their plan is concerned for the repairs."

They've been renting a townhouse from a relative since 2017, still paying the costs of their townhouse: the mortgage, bills and, of course, the strata fees.

Units unsafe

The strata council for Bridle Run, the downtown-area townhouse development, was asked to comment Tuesday but did not before CBC News' deadline. They were to vote Wednesday night on whether or not to provide comment.

The City of Langley confirmed it has issued a do-not-occupy order for two units at Bridle Run over the settlement of the building.

Next steps

Gioventu, of the Condominium Home Owners Association, said while townhouse strata corporations must maintain the structure of the buildings, not all owners will support the spending that entails.

"When it only affects one or two people, strata communities tend to ignore them," Gioventu said. "People have this sense that when they're in a strata, especially if it's townhouses, that each person is responsible for their own unit but they're really not."

The townhouses have been under a do-not-occupy order for two years. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Mykle-Hotzon said she doesn't want to have to sue her neighbours but she and her husband are tired of the ordeal.

"We own this home [but] we have no say," she said. "Basically a random group of volunteer neighbours hold what happens in our home in their hands."

With files from Belle Puri and Ethan Sawyer

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