The City of Vancouver announced today (July 27) that it has filed 60 charges in B.C. Provincial Court against the owners of the Balmoral Hotel on East Hastings Street.
The Balmoral, assessed at almost $9 million in 2016, is owned by the Sahotas, a notorious local family that has made news regularly during the past couple of decades for neglecting upkeep and living standards in several DTES residential hotels and apartment buildings in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
The charges allege violations of the city's Standards of Maintenance Bylaw. If the owners are found guilty of all infractions and the maximum fine of $10,000 is applied for each one, that would mean a total penalty of $600,000.
A then-landmark fine of $115,000 levied against Gurdyal Singh Sahota by the Residential Tenancy Branch in 2012 because of conditions in a Surrey apartment block was waived by the province after Housing Minister Rich Coleman's office said it had worked out an agreement with Sahota to complete repairs within two years.
The family's real-estate empire is estimated to be worth at least $130 million.
In its July 27 release, the city said the new charges are the result of inspections conducted at the 105-year-old Balmoral on January 31, 2017 (18 infractions noted), and on April 19, 2017 (42 infractions).
The majority of violations noted in the inspections had to do with lack of maintenance for walls, ceilings, floors, and plumbing facilities, including toilets and baths.
The city evicted the Balmoral's approximately 150 residents on June 12 due to deteriorating living conditions and structural instabliity. Financial compensation was provided to many tenants based on length of occupancy, and the city claimed to have found alternative accommodations for most of the former residents.
In the release, Kaye Krishna, the city's general manager of development, building, and licensing, said: "It’s critical that we protect this housing stock, which provides much needed affordable housing to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents."
The Balmoral is currently undergoing a contractor's structural review to determine the nature of the work that must be undertaken to make it habitable by city standards.
The city said a summons will be issued to Balmoral Hotel Ltd. to appear in court. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In a June 1 statement, Mayor Gregor Robertson said: “The living conditions in the Balmoral Hotel, a single-room occupancy hotel owned by the Sahota family, are disgusting—no resident of Vancouver should have to live in housing like that. The repeated building and safety violations are putting some of our most vulnerable residents at risk and are a massive strain on City resources."
Robertson went on to say: "We are also looking at what tools a new provincial government could provide us to ensure low-income housing is protected and negligent landlords are held responsible for letting their buildings fall into disrepair.”