Gurdyal Singh Sahota and his company Waterford Developments is the first landlord to ever get an administrative penalty given out by the Residential Tenancy Branch.
SURREY – An notorious Indo-Canadian slumlord has finally been hit with a massive fine of $115,000 by the provincial government and now other municipalities such as Vancouver are considering big fines and jail time for the offender who has repeatedly let his building run into despair and refused to do the required repairs.
According to the provincial government, the punishment handed to Gurdyal Singh Sahota and his company Waterford Developments is the first ever administrative penalty given out by the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Residential Tenancy Act legislation was changed in 2008 to allow fines to be handed to landlords if they do not follow orders from the Residential Tenancy Branch. Nearly four years later, the first is handed out.
Sahota will pay $115,000 for repeatedly ignoring calls for repairs and maintenance. That includes a $5000 one time fine and $500 per day for the 220 days of inaction.
“It seems it’s taken the government an extended period of time to use this tool,” says NDP Housing Critic Shane Simpson. “I believe this probably shouldn’t have been the first instance when this was done. There are other cases where it would have been warranted.”
Simpson adds it is important to get tough with fines but he wants the province to take it a step further. “I think we should let British Columbians know who these landlords are who aren’t acting in a responsible way.” He says that could prevent prospective renters from falling victim.
Meanwhile, the province says these fines are levied in the most extreme cases and when the landlord refuses to respond to RTB reports. Others can be dealt with through dispute resolution.
The Surrey landlord’s payment is due May 15, 2012. According to the Ministry responsible for housing, the Residential Tenancy Act allows for an agreement to be reached that permits a reduction or cancellation of the penalty if the landlord meets certain conditions. That has yet to happen.
Sahota is fined for refusing to fix the leaky roof on a Surrey apartment complex, despite numerous orders to do so.
Tenants at Kwantlen Park Manor in North Surrey have complained about moisture and mould in their suites for years and the RTB has issued several orders for Sahota to fix the roof, but to no avail.
Official complaints about the building came from resident Sue Collard, who told ctvbc.ca that the penalty is a testament to the hard work of housing advocates in Surrey.
“After more than two years of battling this issue through, I’m happy that they did it,” she said.
She says that only minor, “cosmetic” repairs have been completed at the building this year, and water is still leaking into the walls.
In the past, Kwantlen Park residents have also complained about insect infestations, electrical problems and structural damage in the building. Collard says that pests aren’t currently a problem, but little maintenance is being done because the building has lost its property manager.
The Sahota family is well known throughout Metro Vancouver for problems in several buildings they own. In 2007, the roof of one of their East Vancouver properties, the single-room occupancy hotel known as the Pandora, collapsed and caused a flood in several units and common hallways.
The tenants of the building were given just a short time to grab everything they owned after the City of Vancouver ordered the Pandora closed. The RTB awarded them damages totalling about $170,000 because of Sahota’s “reckless disregard for the welfare of the tenants,” a decision that was later upheld in B.C. Supreme Court.