A recent fire caused extensive damage to this fifth-floor apartment and many others. Firefighters escorted residents to their units to collect essential belongings two days after the fire, but they have bee locked out since due to asbestos contamination. Derek Henderson photos.

A recent fire caused extensive damage to this fifth-floor apartment and many others. Firefighters escorted residents to their units to collect essential belongings two days after the fire, but they have bee locked out since due to asbestos contamination. Derek Henderson photos.

Tenants say they’ve been left out in cold after apartment fire displaces 82 people in Mission

Building comes under new ownership, residents locked out with little communication

Many of the 82 Mission residents displaced from an apartment fire on Oct. 19, say they feel left out in the cold by the former owners.

Since the fire – which took place at Richard’s Court on the corner of 12th Ave. and Horne Street – the building has come under new ownership, the renters have been locked out and some are concerned about the tenant insurance offered under the previous owners, according to numerous residents who spoke with The Record.

RELATED: Apartment fire on Sunday displaces 82 Mission residents

All of these issues are worsened by a lack of communication since the fire, the tenants say.

“[My grandmother] is sitting in a hotel and she doesn’t know who to call,” said Jenefer Tonks, speaking on behalf of her 87-year-old grandmother. “She’s sitting there very stuck, she’s beside herself.”

Northview Real Estate Investment Trust, the former owners, were acquired by their top shareholders Starlight Group Property Holdings and Kingsett Capital, on Nov. 2 for $4.8 billion. It was the biggest acquisition in Canadian history in the multi-residential sector.

But tenants say nobody from Northview told them about the upcoming change.

Kim Hawkins, who lives on the third floor, said she was given an emergency-contact number for Northview to help her find temporary accommodations.

“I phoned it over five times, and not one person has ever got back to me,” Hawkins said. “This could have been prevented if Northview had taken care of their tenants and their building.”

Being locked out of their homes is one of the greatest frustrations among the residents. The fire severely damaged the top floor of the five-storey building, and caused extensive water damage from the fourth to second floors.

Although the wings of the structure were reportedly in good shape, asbestos was released and has contaminated the site.

Firefighters initially took residents up to gather essentials belongings after the fire, and Barclay Restorations, a third-party company hired by the owners, made several trips into the units to help tenants.

The building has been in lockdown ever since.

The company said they are waiting on documentation from environmental engineers to verify it’s safe to enter the building, as WorksafeBC stipulates.

A Facebook chatroom was created by Derek Henderson to share information to try and get answers. Henderson was staying in his friend’s apartment on the top floor at the time of the fire, and was the initial 911 caller.

He and several others even walked into the fire station and talked to the fire chief about their situation, after getting nowhere trying to communicate with the building’s manager.

Henderson said he’s been assured by the restoration company that testing is being done, and understands why residents cannot return due to the safety risk – but many are concerned their property will sustain further water damages from a large hole in the roof.

“[Barclays] were not going to tarp it off. Everyone just wanted to get their stuff before it started raining really hard, and now it’s a little too late for that,” Henderson said. “It’s wide open … It’s going to get wet, it’s going to get moldy.

“We’re also getting no updates other than me forcing them to tell me this information.”

Danny Roth, a communications representative for Starlight, said a new management team is settling in and trying to communicate accurate information as fast as they can. He added the restoration company has been tasked with responding in the meantime.

“The timing of this is tough,” Roth said. “Sometimes the situation doesn’t change from day to day, sometimes it changes from hour to hour … We are trying to balance the desire to communicate with responsibility to make sure that what we are providing is accurate.”

He said no rent will be collected for November, and they are in the process of returning a proportion of October’s rent.

Approximately a year before the fire, the tenants said the managers under Northview encouraged them to sign up for a $10-a-month insurance policy, which would be added on top of their rent payments.

The policy would pay out up to $10,000 in personal-property losses, provide $2,500 in living expenses and has a $1,000 deductible.

“They pretty much forced [my grandmother] to take that insurance, she had other insurance and they said they needed all the people to be on that insurance,” Tonks said. “Ever since I told [the broker] she might be getting a lawyer they won’t answer her calls.”

Landlords offering a particular insurance policy is not a typical situation, as it opens them up for more liability, according to Rob Patterson, a legal advocate for the Tenant Resource and Advocacy Centre.

“Usually they just say, ‘Go find insurance and then show me proof that you paid for it,” Patterson said. “Say a landlord forgets to pay dues, or makes some other mistake in that process, they could be potentially liable.

“I don’t know why a building manager would want to get involved in that relationship.”

Roth said he cannot speak to any insurance policy offered under the previous owners.

The majority of the tenants The Record spoke with expressed dissatisfaction with how the building was maintained under previous management, and some claim it was not up to proper fire codes.


@portmoodypigeon
patrick.penner@missioncityrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Mission

Just Posted

Investigators are on the scene Tuesday (May 18) of a fatal motorcycle collision at Hallert and Bell roads on Matsqui Prairie in Abbotsford. (PHOTO: Shane MacKichan)
Motorcyclist, 64, killed in crash with SUV in Abbotsford

Collision took place Tuesday morning at Bell and Hallert roads

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Dr. Euiseok Kim is the medical director of the new Abbotsford post-COVID-19 recovery clinic. (Submitted)
Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic opens in Abbotsford

New facility following model of first clinic which opened in Surrey

Two small dogs were also discovered by the officer, one had died, and the other was taken by animal control and sent for veterinary care with the BC SPCA. (File Photo)
Body discovered in parked van in Mission with 2 dogs, 1 dead

Remains in state of decomposition, surviving dog sent for veterinary care with BC SPCA

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

The province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory Tuesday

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

The George Massey Tunnel will be closed overnight May 28 and 29 to test the tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals. (Black Press Media file photo)
Overnight Massey Tunnel closures coming May 28, 29

Closure to allow safe testing of tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Cat who chases away coyote asked to join Port Moody, Vancouver police 

Caught on camera Friday, the black cat jumps out from under a parked car and runs the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read