Slumlords Should be Fined, Housing Activists Say

Worst slumlords should be fined, activists insist

Living standards of skid-row hotels come under fire as tenancy branch has failed to use monetary club

By Andy Ivens, The Province, January 17, 2009

The B.C. government should fine Vancouver's worst slumlords until they bring their skid-row hotels up to basic living standards, housing activists said yesterday.

Since March, the Residential Tenancy Branch of B.C. has had the power to impose fines of up to $5,000 a day on landlords who break the law by allowing their rental properties to hit rock bottom.

It has never been used.

Laura Track of the Pivot Legal Society and Wendy Pedersen of Carnegie Centre Action Project (CCAP) named the Sahota and Laudisio families as being owners of the seven worst single-room-occupancy buildings in the Downtown Eastside.

The Sahota family owns:

- The Regent Hotel, 160 East Hastings St.

- The Balmoral Hotel, 159 East Hastings St.

- The Cobalt Hotel, 917 Main St.

- The Astoria Hotel, 769 East Hastings.

The Laudisio family owns:

- The Brandiz Hotel, 122 East Hastings St.

- Powell Rooms, 556 Powell St.

- Lucky Lodge, 134 Powell St.

Pivot and CCAP said many of the buildings are infested with mice, rats and cockroaches.

They said the landlords have entered their tenants' rooms without proper notice, verbally abused them, evicted them without due process, illegally retained damage deposits and charged illegal guest fees.

"These landlords need to know there is some accountability to what they're doing," Track, a lawyer with Pivot Legal, told The Province.

A Balmoral resident named "D.J." and her partner pay $750 a month for a one-bedroom apartment "that's got rats, mice and cracks in the walls and ceilings and other problems. When I ask someone to come and do necessary repairs it often takes weeks to get the problem fixed."

Track said there is a role for the City of Vancouver to play.

It has a standard of maintenance bylaw that allows city work crews to make needed repairs and bill the landlords who allow their buildings to deteriorate for the repairs.

"They have really let things slide and I think that has empowered the landlords to think there are no repercussions for allowing their buildings to decay like this," said Track.

Attempts by The Province to reach the hotel owners for comment were unsuccessful.