Angus Apartments property owners and landlords have been slapped with $11,000 in penalties in the 14 months prior to a fire on Dec. 28, according to documents issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), which note a pattern of deliberate neglect prior to this week’s incident.
“You [the landlords] have demonstrated a pattern of deliberate neglect and disregard for maintaining the legal health, safety and housing standards of the property, and as such you have jeopardized the safety of the tenants living at the property,” Scott McGregor, director of the Compliance and Enforcement Unit (CEU) states in the latest RTB Notice of Administrative Penalty and Reasons for Decision (NAPRD).
That penalty of $5,000 was issued on Nov. 9, by the CEU after a Dec. 30, 2020 complaint was received and investigated. The investigation determined the owners had contravened the obligations to repair and maintain the building in compliance with sections of the Residential Tenancy Act. The property owners are listed in the RTB decision as Pierre Ka-Ling Wong and Hue Phan Wong, of Vancouver.
“Administrative penalties are imposed to promote compliance only after other attempts to gain compliance have failed,” McGregor states. “I have considered the respondent’s compliance history and the seriousness of the contravention …”
“Since January 2019, the Compliance and Enforcement Unit has levied 15 penalties against landlords. The largest penalty to-date has been levied against the landlord in question,” Tasha Schollen, communications manager for Government Communications and Public Engagement Ministry of Attorney General Responsible for Housing, stated in a Dec. 3o email to The Northern View.
Complaints against the landlords include rat infestations, heating issues, electrical issues, sanitary concerns, no locking building front door, said Paul Lagace, tenant advocate for the Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre. Lagace is representing some of the building tenants in upcoming RTB hearings scheduled for January.
“It’s not just coat of paint or new rugs needed issues, but ‘I may fall through the floor’ type of issues,” Lagace told The Northern View, on Dec. 30.
The Reason for Decision states Prince Rupert City bylaw enforcement officers visited the property at 1127 Second Ave W. no less than 43 times between July 14, 2017, and Feb. 24, 2021, for exterior inspections, and Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department (PRFD) completed 15 out of 16 inspections between June 18, 2018, and May 18, 2021. One of the 16 inspections could not be completed due to obstructions on the property prohibiting access.
“The central focus of the evidence before me primarily concerns complaints received from the PRFD indicating several long-standing attempts by them to ensure the safety of the property dating back to June 18, 2018,” McGregor stated.
“In each of the 15 cases, without exception, there were significant deficiencies noted in the report … For example, emergency lighting cited in all inspection reports; alarm/smoke detector systems cited in 10 inspection reports; sprinkler system cited in 14 reports; fire extinguishers cited in all inspection reports.”
McGregor noted that in each case, the landlords did know about the deficiencies as the PRFD informed the landlords and they were ordered to make repairs. Two of the inspections with unsatisfactory deficiencies occurred after a previous administrative penalty of $6,000 had been ordered on Oct. 29, 2020.
“Although there is no direct evidence any of these fire safety deficiencies resulted in direct harm to any of the renters during the period in question, the continued contravention of your failure to address the issues and concerns and any future compliance with these issues place the tenants at imminent risk,” the NAPRD states.
The director of the CEU said the scope and magnitude of the current contravention related to fire safety, as well as the overall general disrepair of the building, are directly and negatively impacting the health and safety of the tenants who pay rent to live there.
According to BC Assessment, the property was purchased by the owners in 2005 for $43,750, and was valued in July 2021 at $533,200.
McGregor notes in the decision that no evidence was submitted to show the property owners benefitted financially from the contraventions.
“However, the only logical inferences are that you [the landlords] have benefitted financially by collecting rent, but not using the money collected to maintain the property, while the assessed value increase by approximately $487,000 in the 35-month period in issue,” he stated.
Tenants living in the building were low-income and vulnerable, some with addiction and mental health issues, Lagace said. Rent was between $300 to $500. While “the place should have been condemned,” Lagace said, tenants were frightened to bring actions against the landlord as there is a less than one per cent vacancy rate in Prince Rupert, and there is nowhere else affordable for many of the tenants on income assistance to go.
“It’s absolutely disgusting. Thank God there are no other landlords, that I am aware of in Prince Rupert to this level,” Lagace said, adding most of the problems he sees are from out-of-town landlords.
“I will nominate them. I will put them up as the candidate for the worst landlord in B.C.,” he said of the property owners.
To read the full decision: Notice of Administrative Penalty and Reasons for Decision
The Northern View reached out for comment from the property owners and PRFD who were not available for comment at time of publication.