Northumberland Court (Maple Ridge): Rats, rot and mould; Jack Athwall in control


Safety inspections at apartment


By Monisha Martins
Staff Reporter

Sep 06 2006

The dusty white and faded green-blue blocks of Northumberland Court are called the ghetto.

The fences are falling apart. Rats roam the crawl spaces at the Fraser Street property, paint is peeling and weeds are overgrown. A block with four apartments, ruined by fire last year, remains boarded up.

On Tuesday, the District of Maple Ridge completed inspections at the apartment complex after receiving several complaints about poor living conditions at the property.

"The inspections are happening because of safety concerns," said Maple Ridge Mayor Gord Robson.

"It has been the source of many complaints, socially, safety and health-wise."

Condemning the apartments would be Robson's first choice if the district had the grounds.

"Council wants it corrected," he said.

Jack Athwal owns 13 of the 20 units in the complex.

Unit 5 smells damp and mould creeps out of a bedroom on the second floor.

Pat Krips, her two daughters and young grandson used to live there, but moved out. They say the bathroom ceiling is caving, the kitchen sink didn't work and the toilet downstairs was sinking into the floor.

The family's repeated complaints to the health inspector, District of Maple Ridge and Athwal fell on deaf ears.

They moved into an apartment owned by another owner in June.

More of tenants complain of no heat, leaky taps and shoddy wiring.

The former manager of Northumberland Courts, Lorne Riding, quit in March.

In a letter obtained by The News dated March 19, Riding informed Athwal he wanted nothing to do with the complex.

"It is a true, slum, mismanaged, poorly kept, with dangerous situations existing as the electrical connections in crawl spaces, no smoke alarms hooked up, rotten lumber covering some holes, and no covers on other holes and overall eyesores," he wrote.

The complex is managed by a strata council, which is meant to oversee the maintenance of the place. Every tenant and owner pays a $125 monthly fee towards that maintenance.

Since Athwal and his family own more than 50 per cent of the apartments, he had the majority of votes and was elected president of the strata council more than two years ago.

"People are living in a situation that is not safe," Maple Ridge manager of inspection services Pieter Den Uyl said at the site on Tuesday.

"We want to react to that."

Den Uyl admits the apartments not owned by Athwal are reasonably well-kept and without safety issues.

"We just want to make sure they are all safe," he said.

The district will be issuing provincial orders to Athwal to fix his apartments.

Den Uyl said Athwal can be fined $100,000 under the Safety Standards Act if he does not comply.

On Tuesday, Athwal said he would repair his apartments at Northumberland Court if the district found problems with them.

"They will give me a list. We are willing to fix them," he said.

"We will repair it if they find anything wrong. I am for safety, myself."

Assistant Fire Chief Mark

Smitton waits for the door to one of the apartments at Northumberland Court to be opened for inspection.

DANIELA CIUFFA/

BLACK PRESS (Copyright 2006)

http://www.mapleridgenews.com/