British Columbia

Tenants left homeless after being ordered to vacate unsafe building as soon as possible

The remaining residents of a Langford, B.C., highrise deemed seismically unsafe were issued a "notice to vacate" on Thursday, after the city chose not to reinstate the building's occupancy permit.

City of Langford is not reinstating occupancy permit for 11-storey building deemed seismically unsafe

The remaining residents of Danbrook One, at 2766 Claude Rd., Langford, were ordered to vacate the building after the city decided not to reinstate its occupancy permit. (CHEK News)

The remaining residents of a Langford, B.C., highrise deemed seismically unsafe were issued a "notice to vacate" on Thursday, after the city chose not to reinstate the building's occupancy permit.

It means those still living in the 11-storey Danbrook One building — many who have struggled to find different accommodation since the permit was revoked just before Christmas — must now leave as soon as possible.

Built in 2018, Danbrook One had its occupancy permit revoked after an engineering report found a number of structural issues including faulty support beams on its first and second floors.

The 90-unit building remains classified by the city as posing a possible threat to residents' safety, said a statement issued Thursday by the building's owner, Centurion Property Associates. 

"Since we do not, at this time, even have a scope of work that may be required to restore the occupancy permit or a timeline for the completion of repairs, and some residents have not as yet relocated, we have to take the unfortunate step of requiring all remaining residents to vacate their units for their own safety," the statement said.

The company said each unit will be provided with $1,000 as a "gesture of compassionate assistance to help residents with relocation." All residents are being reimbursed for their December rent and are not required to pay rent for January.

'I'm really upset. My stomach is just turning'

Resident Samantha Martin says she's thankful the company is "finally stepping up to help," but added that the money "isn't going to soothe anyone's … anger over this."

She and her husband Tad were among a number of residents who returned to their units after two weeks of living in a hotel, paid for by the city. The city also offered to support the difference in rent paid at Danbrook One to rent paid at the resident's new accomodation, for three months, up to a total of $1,200.

Samantha and Tad Martin are two of the remaining residents of Danbrook One. They have been struggling to find new accommodation for themselves and their dogs. (Adam van der Zwan/CBC)

During that time, the Martins struggled to find new housing that would accept their two dogs.

"I'm really upset. My stomach is just turning," said Martin. "Our dogs are our family and that's it." 

She said she and her husband are now scrambling to find a new home that will take them in immediately.

Martin says she's been told the building must be vacated by March 1.

Resident Connor Larmour said he was surprised to learn Thursday that he was being ordered to leave, as his discussions with Centurion staff had led him to believe this wouldn't happen.

He said it's unfortunate that residents had to be told in the middle of January.

"I feel like [Centurion] is under a lot of pressure. They're more or less accepting the fact now that the building's unsafe," he said.

But he said he thinks it is a bit strange that Centurion didn't take action on the building's integrity sooner, given the city was notified last April of a potential problem with the building.

The Danbrook One was flagged as a hazard after Engineers and Geoscientists BC received a complaint about one of its members. (CHEK News)

Engineer approval required for buildings

Greg Romundt, president of Centurion Assets Management, the parent company of Centurion Property Associates, said in an email that to understand the scope of repair work involved, the company "must rely on engineers to provide an analysis [of the building], which is still pending."

"We purchased [the building] from the developer as complete and fully tenanted, and had copies of the occupancy permit, third-party engineering reporters, a comfort letter from the city that there were no known issues, and our own experienced team. This situation we've never seen before," said Romundt.

Earlier this month, Langford's acting mayor Lilliam Szpak told CBC's On The Island that, under the city's legal framework, its staff rely on the project engineer's stamp of approval and depends on that professional integrity to guarantee the building is safe.

The issue with the building came to light after the city was notified last April that Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. (EGBC) had received a professional conduct complaint about one of its members. 

On Dec. 3, EGBC recommended the city get an independent review of the building. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam van der Zwan is a journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. You can send him a news tip at adam.van.der.zwan@cbc.ca.

With files from Ashley Moliere and On The Island

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