Landlord vows to sue PoCo over $12,000 fee
A Port Coquitlam homeowner said he intends to sue the municipality after his appeal of a $12,000 controlled substance property declaration was denied by council on Monday.
Harvey Douglas, who owns a Mary Hill Road home with his two sons, told The Tri-City News on Wednesday that he is being unfairly penalized. He said there is no evidence the home he rented out was used for the production or sale of drugs and that the charge imposed on him should be waived.
"I am going to take them to court," he said. "This is unjust and uncalled for. It really isn't fair."
Douglas and his sons, Rob and Chris Douglas, purchased the home as an investment property more than a year ago and rented it out. According to Douglas, the tenant, who no longer resides at the home, was a nice person who was easy to get in touch with and always paid the bills on time.
According to the Coquitlam RCMP, however, the tenant was a prolific offender with a history of interactions with police.
In January Mounties raided the home, finding knives, bear spray, the magazine for a Glock handgun and a small amount of drugs. Investigators said they believe some drugs were flushed down the toilet in the 18-minute period between the time officers arrived on the scene and when they gained entry to the home.
Police did not lay charges against the tenant but a PoCo city staff report said there was enough evidence to indicate that drug dealing had been taking place on the property. A do-not-occupy order was issued and the owners were charged $12,000, a fee the city said is required to recover the costs of inspection and staff time.
Typically, the fee applies to homes that have been used as grow ops and require extensive repairs and renovation — as well as testing and city inspections — to make them habitable again.
Douglas said he and his sons have already spent a considerable amount of money repairing the home after the police raid. Floor boards had to be replaced, an atmosphere test was conducted and the electrical and plumbing systems had to be upgraded, he said.
Douglas also noted that during the three months the property was boarded up under the do-not-occupy order, the home was broken into and most of the copper piping was stolen.
The city's $12,000 charge is an additional hardship he said he cannot afford.
"We racked up an enormous bill," he said. "We are up to $25,000, which could easily bankrupt a person."
But during Monday night's meeting, council voted against an appeal that would have waived the $12,000 charge.
Mayor Greg Moore said that the city needs to be consistent with how it applies its bylaws while Coun. Darrell Penner said responsibility for what went on at the property rests with the homeowner.
"I am a landlord and we do extensive background checks," Penner said at the time. "It's part of the due diligence."
Douglas acknowledges that illegal activity may have taken place at the home but notes that none of the residents have every been charged.
But PoCo's bylaw services manager, Dan Scoones, said whether police pursue a person criminally has no bearing on the city's actions against a property. He estimated that in 90% of cases where a home has been deemed a controlled substance property, police have not laid charges against the residents.
"The civil standard for proof is much less onerous," he said. "Just because… there is a decision not to push criminal charges doesn't mean the thing didn't happen."
He noted that police tie charges to a particular person while the city's focus is only on a nuisance property. For example, if the city receives a noise complaint, it does not need to determine which person in the home is responsible before laying a fine.
He also disagreed with Douglas' assertion that there was no evidence of drug trafficking at the property.
"The evidence was there that it was used for trafficking," he said. "That is what triggered the declaration."
• The Wednesday, July 30 edition of The Tri-City News erroneously reported that the $12,000 charge levied against the Douglas family was a fine. In fact, the charge is considered a cost-recovery fee and is not considered a penalty by the city.