Landlord ‘helpless’ against bad tenants

The RCMP's street enforcement unit executed a search warrant at a house on St. Anne's Avenue, near 223rd Street on Thursday.
— image credit: Monisha Martins/The News

A rental property in Port Haney, managed by a councillor for the District of Maple Ridge, was raided by police Thursday for the third time in less than a year.

Five people were arrested at the heritage house on St. Anne’s Avenue, at 223rd Street, after police executed a search warrant.

One woman is facing a charge of drug trafficking.

Built in 1938 by Joseph Turnock, the Cape Cod style home is slowly being destroyed by tenants and their unwanted guests, lamented Coun. Al Hogarth, a realtor and property manager whose been trying to resolve problems there for the past nine months.

According to him, the tenants who rent the house have been intimidated by others who’ve turned it into a crack shack.

“We give notices and try to get rid of these folks, but they are not the easiest type to deal with,” he added.

“It’s not the tenants, but the other 10 or 12 folks who tend to show up and take over the space.”

Hogarth said he was threatened while trying to conduct an inspection.

The property has been a target of Ridge Meadow RCMP since last June. A search warrant application details how two anonymous informants tipped police off, leading to a raid on June 21, 2012 and ending with six arrests.

Police were told that "Basement Tony", "Martell" and a woman named ‘Sue’ were peddling pills and an assortment of illegal drugs out of the house.

Undercover officers began watching the house and noted that 19 men and eight women were seen entering and exiting the house in the span of two hours. Most visitors only stayed inside for five minutes.

Methamphetamine, crack cocaine, marijuana, magic mushrooms, Oxycontin, Tylenol 3s, and heroin were seized.

Six months later, in January, the property was raided again.

Coun. Hogarth evicted a man and woman following the second raid, but could do little to keep the drug dealers away.

“To be honest with you, the Residential Tenancy Act really does not help much,” he said.

“That’s my frustration, because I have to follow all the rules and regulations, and even by doing that, you are still left out to dry.”

Since the tenants and their guests pay little attention to repeated eviction notices or written warnings, Hogarth said his hands are tied.

He encountered similar problems with another property he managed on Edge Street in 2011. The house at 12038 Edge Street was repeatedly raided by police and finally torn down after a fire.

“The unfortunate part is it has to get into an ugly situation and cause an issue for the neighbourhood before something can be done,” he added.

“Here we have … affordable housing. But now because of the actions, or inaction [of the tenants], there’s another couple that are now put on the street because of poor judgement.”

Following Thursday’s bust, a “no occupancy” notice was posted on the back section of the heritage home because fire code and building violations were found.

Hogarth hopes that Thursday’s raid by police and subsequent actions by the district’s bylaw officers will keep the unwanted visitors at bay.

“I think the final resolve to it was well executed [on Thursday],” he added.

The district signed a heritage revitalization agreement with the owner last year, to give a five-year municipal property tax exemption.

The home is slated to be turned into a duplex, while a four-storey apartment building with 66 units is to be built behind it.

Hogarth does not know when construction will start.

For neighbours of the crack shack, the cycle of police raids is frustrating.

Tyler Ducharme and his wife believe the raids do little to address the problems that plague the Port Haney neighbourhood.

Ducharme blames the district for allowing crack shacks to fester by failing to enforce bylaws. He believes it doesn’t make sense to locate services such as the Salvation Army shelter next to a drug treatment centre and a pocket of drug houses.

He’s complained to council repeatedly, but says he’s now given up, though still annoyed that the some properties continue to cost taxpayers money due to repeated visits from police, the fire department and bylaw officers.

“The attitude of city hall to the whole area and these type of problems is so lackadaisical and lacking in any meaningful community input,” Ducharme said. “They will not acknowledge what is going on in that location. It’s willful blindness throughout city hall. Unless you show up at council and want to talk about Happy Kitten Fun Day, they don’t want to hear it.”

The district has issued clean-up notices to the property owner, Yang Lee Liu.

Sgt. Daryl Creighton, with the Ridge Meadows street enforcement unit, confirmed that RCMP have notified the home owner about the latest raid.

Based on what officers saw in the house, Creighton said bylaws, fire, B.C. Hydro and Terasen Gas are now involved.

“The RCMP ensure that the homeowner is aware of the illicit activity and then rely on the cooperation of the homeowner to take the proper steps to have the occupants removed.”

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