Notorious Surrey landlord hit with $115,000 penalty for building neglect

METRO VANCOUVER — The provincial government has slapped notorious landlord Gurdyal Singh Sahota with a $115,000 penalty for failing to maintain a water-damaged Surrey apartment building despite several orders from the Residential Tenancy Branch.

The penalty against Sahota, a wealthy landlord who has long been criticized for allowing his buildings to fall into disrepair, is the first administrative penalty under the Residential Tenancy Act.

The mostly low-income tenants at Sahota’s 31-unit Kwantlen Park Manor have long complained about structural damage and mould in their building at 12975 106 Ave. in Surrey.

Rich Coleman, minister responsible for housing, would not confirm that Sahota was the landlord hit by the unprecedented fine, citing privacy legislation.

But the complainant in the case, as well as court documents related to her petition, confirmed Sahota is the landlord.

Coleman said he had administrative penalties added to the Residential Tenancy Act so the government could penalize landlords for serious, repeated and deliberate cases of non-compliance with orders.

“This penalty should send a message that we are dead serious about this,” said Coleman. “Ninety-nine per cent of the landlords in this province are pretty good, but you do have some repeat offenders and we wanted to be able to go after them.”

The $115,000 fine includes a maximum one-time penalty of $5,000, plus $500 per day for each of the 220 days that Sihota failed to comply with an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Sahota could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The penalty was applauded by tenant Sue Collard, a former building manager at Kwantlen Park Manor, who in 2010 petitioned the Residential Tenancy Branch, alleging that Sahota had failed to deal with substandard repairs and persistent leaks, rot and mould in the ceilings of several units.

Collard said Sahota’s refusal to perform the needed repairs shows “the complete and utter arrogance of some landlords who think they can keep getting away with it year after year without any consequences.”

Collard said she expects the Sahota family will appeal the decision. “I think they will try to drag it out as long as they can.”

Marcie Lisowick, a tenant with a second-floor suite, called news of the penalty “fantastic.”

“I’m hoping it hits [Sahota] in the wallet and it opens his eyes to the fact that this will not be swept under the rug any more,” she said.

A three-year resident of the building, Lisowick said she has “never” seen any repair work being done. Many tenants resort to fixing problems themselves, she said.

“Waiting for the landlord, it’ll never get done.”

Lisowick, who has a 20-month-old son, is also worried about drug use in the building. “You can smell it,” she said. “We come through our hall and I’m like, ‘What is that?’ and people are like, ‘That’s drugs.’ ”

The $115,000 penalty was levelled after the Residential Tenancy Branch determined in a hearing that Sahota deliberately failed to comply with an order to hire a “building envelope professional” to conduct a comprehensive report on Kwantlen Park Manor — and to carry out all repairs recommended in the report.

During the hearing, a dispute resolution officer for the Residential Tenancy Act stated that non-compliance with Residential Tenancy Branch orders is “standard protocol” for the landlord.

In the decision to issue the administrative penalty, the officer concluded Sahota only began to comply with the order after he was notified that he could face stiff penalties.

The Sahota family has owned several other apartment buildings and single-room-occupancy hotels in the Vancouver area. A Sahota-owned SRO hotel at 2131 Pandora in the Downtown Eastside collapsed in 2007 after heavy rainfall, forcing the evictions of 36 tenants. The Residential Tenancy Branch ordered Sahota to pay the tenants $170,000 and their ruling was later upheld by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

Poverty activists have labelled the Sahotas “the worst slumlords in the city.” In 2005, the Sahota-owned Astoria Hotel was part of a Vancouver police department sting operation that uncovered extensive drug dealing, welfare fraud and the sale of stolen goods.

Surrey-Whalley NDP MLA Bruce Ralston said the handling of Kwantlen Park Manor amounts to “an outrageous litany of neglect and evasion. The condition of the building has continued to deteriorate while the Residential Tenancy Branch has taken two years to enforce orders.”

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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