A Maple Ridge landlord accused of plotting a murder continues to rent out properties in the municipality without a business licence.
The District of Maple Ridge revoked Jagdev Singh Athwal’s licence in 2009 after repeated problems with one of the properties he owned – the notorious Northumberland Court townhomes on Fraser Street that have since been demolished.
Despite having no licence, Athwal is still doing business in the district by renting out multiple properties including houses and apartments. A recent council report pegged the number of rental units he owned at 30.
Athwal also owns six units in Gordon Towers, the building at the centre of the murder plot allegation.
Police allege Athwal counselled one of his tenants to murder a man who managed the high-rise, located on 222nd Street at Dewdney Trunk Road.
Liz Holitzki, director of bylaws and licensing for Maple Ridge, explained the licence that was revoked in 2009 was “site-specific” and only applied to Northumberland Court.
When asked if Athwal could operate other strata rentals without a licence, Holitzki indicated council would address that after the summer break.
“In our existing bylaw, we don’t deal with individual houses. We deal with condo units like Northumberland was – where there were multiple units within one building,” said Holitzki.
She noted the issues around Northumberland Court happened before she started working for the District of Maple Ridge but couldn’t say why Athwal was still allowed to rent multiple units in Gordon Towers without a business licence.
The district is currently reviewing its bylaws and staff have recommended a change that would require anyone who rents out more than one property to apply for a business licence. Staff are also compiling a list of owners who operate more than one rental property in the municipality.
“If that bylaw passes, then we would be looking back at Mr. Athwal again,” Holitzki said.
“I just want to make sure we are not just targeting him.”
However residents of Maple Ridge who lobbied hard for the district to take action against Athwal are accusing council and staff of being soft on him – once again.
Tyler Ducharme, who spearheaded the now-defunct Maple Ridge Coalition of Concerned Citizens, wonders why the district continues to allow Athwal to do business without a licence.
“It’s just a disappointment. If revoking it wasn’t going to work why did we play that charade?” he said.
However Maple Ridge councillors indicate they’ll get to the bottom of the issue once council meetings resume in September.
“I certainly will be asking the question,” said Coun. Mike Morden.
Coun. Al Hogarth did not know the current status of Athwal’s licence but believes he would require one to do business as a property manager.
“I think it would be something that would be worth following up on,” said Hogarth, a local realtor.
“I think our bylaws [department] does a good job trying to keep track of things.”
Hogarth however noted that there are other factors that can make it hard for the district to enforce its bylaws. They include the Residential Tenancy Act and rights of property owners.
“You’ve got all kinds of rules and regulations that sometimes collide,” he added.
“I am not defending anybody at this point in time, I am just telling you the way it is. Civil liberties, all of that stuff, enters into it.”
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin did not return a call for comment.