Cleanup of a troubled rental house on Edge Street is now underway after a fire Sunday.
The Maple Ridge Fire Department requested this week that garbage be removed from the house at 12038 Edge Street as soon as possible and that the building be secured until it’s either torn down or repaired.
By Wednesday, a three-man cleanup crew wading through the junk, at some points chest-high, cleaning up the litter, quickly filling one container that had been brought on to the site.
If a decision is made to tear down the building, that’s no longer a simple process, explained fire chief Dane Spence.
First a hazmat assessment must be done and any hazardous material in the building, usually asbestos, has to be removed before demolition crews move in to level the place.
While Spence said the property wasn’t identified as a problem for the fire department, it has received four calls there in the past four years.
One, in March 2007, was about a drug overdose.
Another, from March 2008, involved a burning complaint, while the fire department has a record of an assault there in June 2008.
Sunday’s fire was the most recent incident.
The house may have had some suites inside.
“There was evidence of some squatting. It looked like there were at least two suites,” Spence added.
Maple Ridge Coun. Al Hogarth, a realtor, has been managing the property for the past few years and evicted the renters on Oct. 31.
He said it was a lengthy effort to get the three residents to follow clean-up orders.
“I did what I had to do under the Residential Tenancy Act, because they weren’t complying with any request. They were totally against everything within the rental agreement that they signed.
“It was a long and dusty road … thanks to our liberal Residential Tenancy Act.”
He said under the act, tenants can be evicted with a month’s notice for not following bylaw regulations.
He had to provide notice each time he visited.
“The antics that were going on there. I can’t kick people out because they have friends come to visit them.”
The tenants were in there for quite some time, Hogarth added. They would clean the property up, then it would get messy again.
“I was over there constantly.”
He said they were told to clean up four times. “This last time they didn’t. They realized they had to go because I had had enough.”
Ridge Meadows RCMP say there have been four calls at the property in 2011, two resulting in no action.
But a call on March 23 of this year resulted in police seizing crystal meth, cocaine and heroine from the residence, with no charges resulting from the seizure.
The only file still active is the one concerning Sunday’s blaze, which is being investigated as suspicious.
Current assessment records say the owner of the property is Topia Ivy Club Maple, with a Burnaby mailing address. A director of that company lives in Maple Ridge.
The company also owns the two lots immediately to the east of the house that caught fire.
According to Maple Ridge bylaws director Liz Holitzky, the property had two bylaw complaints concerning illegal suites, one from 2006 and one from 2010, then in 2007, a complaint of a homeless person on the property.
There were also eight complaints under the untidy-unsightly premises bylaw, five of those initiated by the district under its policy that allows bylaw officials to initiate investigations in the downtown, without waiting for a complaint from the public.
Each time, letters are sent to the property owner to clean up. If they do so, the file is closed.
There are no open files on the property, said Holitzky.