Maple Place Towers: Walls come tumbling, Burnaby Now

Siding ripped off during wind storm

Dan Hilborn, staff reporter, Burnaby Now

Tenants of a problem-plagued residential highrise in North Burnaby are seeking answers after large portions of an outside wall of their building blew away during the massive windstorm that swept through the Lower Mainland on Feb. 4.

"I want to know is it even safe to live in here?" asked Cathy Aoyama, a new resident in the Maple Place Towers, located on Halifax Street near the Burnaby Mountain golf course. "No one will give us any answers."

The building, which is owned by Cressey Development and managed by Nacel Properties, currently has work crews covering up the gaping holes that left the bedrooms in at least nine suites open to the elements.

"I can see right into the suites," said Aoyama, who is thankful her own apartment was spared the worst of the damage.

A tenant meeting was organized for last night, and several tenants are considering plans to file for arbitration with the Residential Tenancy Office in an attempt to resolve a string of complaints with the building.

Aoyama, who said she is hoping to get out of her lease, said the problems may not have occurred if Burnaby had a building standards and maintenance bylaw similar to those in New Westminster and Vancouver.

Kris Anderson, a spokesperson for the non-profit Tenant's Rights Advocacy Coalition, said the ongoing problems at Maple Place are compounded by the fact that the provincial legislation regulating the landlord-tenant relationship are weighted in favour of the building owners.

While it might be possible for angry tenants to simply move out of the building and argue their case after the fact, tenants could just as easily be left on the hook for breaking the lease without authorization, he said.

"It's pretty difficult to break a lease in B.C.," Anderson said. "The problem here is that there is a pretty immediate need, and the Residential Tenancy Office doesn't move quick enough for the resolution that the tenants want.

"A tenant could break the agreement, but there is no guarantee the landlord can't go after them for rent for the remaining term of the lease.

"The other side is municipal responsibility," he said. "There is a definite need for a standard of maintenance bylaw in Burnaby. There's a lot of older buildings in the city, especially around Metrotown, and a lot are not being adequately maintained. I think the city could certainly be doing more."

Aoyama said she has been in contact with about half a dozen tenants who have a variety of complaints about the building, including their treatment both before and after the siding blew off the building this month.

A female tenant in one of the worst affected suites said she's afraid to sleep in her two-bedroom apartment, which now has one bedroom completely sealed off while workers replace the outside cladding on the walls.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said the management company offered her a "pitiful compensation package" - a $200 reduction in her $1,200 monthly rent.

George Humphrey, the chief building inspector for the City of Burnaby, said there is little his office can do except to oversee the repair work that is now underway.

"This is really not that different from the leaky condo issue," Humphrey said. "We don't have regulations in Burnaby dealing with the maintenance of buildings, but the code does kick in when structural repairs are necessary, and that's what happened here."

Humphrey said the city is now ensuring that the repairs are being done properly and that the safety of tenants is being looked after.

Meanwhile, Mayor Derek Corrigan said the city is reluctant to bring in a standards of maintenance bylaw for rental buildings because of the conflicting jurisdictions involved and the possible added costs it could bring to the city.

"There has been some hesitation to jump in because it's a pretty complicated issue," said Corrigan, who noted that the landlord-tenant relationship is already covered by provincial Residential Tenancy Act. "We're hesitant to take on new responsibilities because there's always a cost attached and nobody likes tax increases."

Aoyama, meanwhile, said the siding problems are not her only complaint with the building. She said she and other residents have experienced rent increases that appear to be greater than those allowed under the provincial regulations, mould, broken elevators and a lack security at the buildings.

Anderson, the tenants' advocacy spokesperson, said renters can take their complaints to the province's Residential Tenancy Office, but they will only win their case if they provide meticulous documentation of all their problems.

Attempts to contact Nacel Properties for comment were unsuccessful.

published on 02/22/2006 by Burnaby Now


Maple Place Towers (Burnaby) - wind storm damage


(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Maple Place Towers is a rental complex located at 7351 and 7361 Halifax St., Burnaby. This two tower complex was developed in the early 1980s by Cressey Developments. The towers were constructed by Cressey Construction. Construction was completed in 1985. The towers have been operated and "maintained" by Nacel Properties Ltd., a Cressey corporation which manages the rental side of the Cressey Group.

Maple Place Towers is currently undergoing significant restoration due to damage caused to the walls during the February 2006 windstorm. Residents of 7351 Halifax were shocked to be woken at 3 a.m. to the sound of portions of the exterior South wall panels being ripped off and crashing to the ground. The building was immediately evacuated for fear of complete structural failure.

(Some of the debris from the exterior wall collapse)

The following picture shows the prominent "shadow effect" on the same face of the wall which experienced the windstorm damage - this shadowing appears on the West corner of the South wall, while the panel damage occured on the East corner of the South wall:

What this type of shadow pattern - which is the outline of the studs behind the stucco - indicates is the very real potential for the same catastrophic damage to occur with the panels at the West corner of the building as had happened with the panels at the East corner.

Restoration work is currently underway at 7351 Halifax:

These photos show the placement of new Densglass (yellow panels) on the new steel studs. The old studs and attaching screws had to be removed and replaced because of loss of strength due to leaks and rust.

The following photo clearly shows the extent of the windstorm damage to the East corner of the South wall, as well as the shadow effect on the West portion of the South wall extending from the ground to the top of the tower:

The building permit for the building envelope repairs is dated February 15, 2006. The permit was applied for by Cressey and the professional in charge is Mark Lawton, P.Eng., of Morrison Hershfield. Morrison Hershfield Managers Inc. is included on the Homeowner Protection Office's (HPO) registry of licensed renovators; however, the company in charge of the actual reconstruction - ConPact Systems (2004) Ltd. - is not.

The other tower in this complex, 7361 Halifax, while not experiencing the same catastrophic damage in the windstorm, is undergoing the same type of restoration work as a preventative measure: