Dozens of Kelowna tenants being evicted for being 'beacons for social disorder'
The City of Kelowna is well into its third year of cracking down on the most egregious problem homes in the city.
“It’s not just for your everyday sort of complaint,” Ken Hunter, the city’s bylaws services supervisor and chair of the Property Standards Compliance Team, told iNFOnews.ca. “We take the ones that are, sort of, beacons for social disorder.”
The team includes the bylaw, planning and building services departments from the city, the RCMP and fire department. It's been meeting monthly since June 2020.
“We don’t take just any property,” Hunter said. “We have a triaging matrix, which considers the history of the property, the impact to the community, the complexity of the issues and the severity.”
The properties they tackle often have a history of complaints, are in a “distressed” state and often have criminal activity associated with them, whether that be illicit drug or sex trafficking, or stolen goods.
Bylaws and police officers often respond to numerous complaints at these homes and the fire department may also be involved.
“They tend to detrimentally impact the immediate area and they affect safety and the sense of safety and the health and welfare of folks,” Hunter said.
“The biggest one we encounter is actually zoning, where there’s illegal occupancy and there’s illegal suites so, what you’ve essentially got is a boarding house, mixed in with criminality. Then you’ve got trouble and all the unwanted behaviours in a neighbourhood that occur from that.”
To date, the team has taken action against 31 properties. Of those, 25 have been resolved and six are pending.
There are a variety of tools the team can use including $500 per day tickets for most violations, which starts adding up quickly so landlords tend to pay attention.
“Just like any other thing with bylaw infraction, we’re looking for voluntary compliance first,” Hunter said. “Then we can get into daily ticketing and, if offences continue to occur, we may consider taking them right into provincial court and issue them a summons and, depending on the circumstances, we may go to Supreme Court and issue them with an injunction.”
Along with fines – which can reach as high as $50,000 if they go to court – administrative penalties have been levied under the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw that go on the property’s tax bill. If the city has to go in and clean up the property themselves, that cost is attached to the taxes.
Ultimately, the city can issue a remedial action requirement, which was done on a Rutland house owned by Janusz Grelecki. He's been ordered to demolish his house and restore the property.
He’s appealed that to the Ombudsperson. The city is still waiting to hear the outcome of that investigation.
“Because the suites they’re occupying are Illegal, and they’re not safe, the only way the ownership can bring them into compliance is to evict the tenants and go in and make the proper modifications to bring the property up to legislative standards,” Hunter said. “That’s where the criminal element usually likes to congregate in those kinds of living arrangements.”
There are often eight to 12 people living in these buildings who get evicted.
“It solves the immediate problem in the neighbourhood and, for each one we clean up, that’s one less available for that kind of use,” Hunter said. “When we stay on these things, they’re going to have to find lawful accommodation.”
The team doesn’t track what happens to the tenants once they’re evicted. Hunter acknowledged that could contribute to Kelowna’s growing number of homeless people but not always.
“When you think of these folks, they’re not necessarily the people you would see at our outdoor temporary overnight sheltering site,” Hunter said. “A lot of them can live quite affluent lifestyles. It’s just a matter of cheap accommodation.”
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