Tenants defy call to leave unsafe tower in Langford

A handful of residents continue to live in a Langford highrise deemed unsafe for occupation more than a month after the building owner asked all tenants to leave.

Most units in Danbrook One at 2766 Claude Rd. appear to be empty, but a bike on an upper-floor balcony, patio furniture and curtains indicate several remain occupied.

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Toronto-based Centurion Property Associates issued a “notice to vacate” on Jan. 16 to the roughly 35 units still occupied in the 90-unit Danbrook One building. That notice came almost a month after the City of Langford revoked the building’s occupancy permit due to problems with the building’s gravity system and lateral system, which affects how the structure responds to an earthquake.

Andrew Check moved out of the building last weekend, about four weeks after receiving the notice from Centurion. That’s how long it took for Check and his roommate to find and be approved for a pet-friendly apartment in Langford at a similar price to what they paid in Danbrook One.

“We started looking right after we got the notice,” said Check, a 20-year-old student at Camosun College. “We were kind of packed up and ready to go.”

The pair have ended up in a building they looked at before moving into their unit in Danbrook One. It was a little out of their price range when they were looking for a place a few months ago, but between his roommate’s raise and Check taking on more hours at his job, they decided they could make it work.

They’re a little bit farther out of town, but Check said he’s just relieved to be out of Danbrook One. “That was not a fun couple of months.”

From talking to other tenants, Check said it sounds as if most are getting ready to leave, although some might be intent on staying as long as they can.

Residents have not paid rent since Langford revoked the building’s occupancy permit on Dec. 20, because Centurion cannot legally charge rent without the permit, said president Greg Romundt. The company cancelled all pre-authorized payments for January onward and reimbursed residents for rent already paid for the period from Dec. 21 to 31.

“We do believe that some residents, although not many, are taking advantage of the situation because we aren’t charging rent. That is both frustrating and unfortunate,” Romundt said in an email.

He said the company does not have an exact count of how many remain in the building, because not all residents have been in touch, but most have indicated they will move out by the end of February.

Romundt said Centurion will have no choice but to evict those who remain.

“We will be moving ahead in very short order to remove any residents that remain against the instructions of the city, ourselves and, frankly, common sense.”

While Centurion does not yet have a remediation plan, Romundt said that anyone occupying apartments could delay necessary repair work.

Danbrook One’s building manager has been living in the building, but is scheduled to move out shortly.

The City of Langford has offered financial support to residents of the building to help with moving costs and higher rents until the end of February. The support was originally meant to end a month earlier, but Langford Mayor Stew Young said they extended the offer because 20 to 30 families still living in the building said they were struggling to find new homes.

Young said residents have now had enough time to find a new apartment and the city has gone “above and beyond” supporting displaced tenants.

“There’s a limit to what the taxpayers of Langford will support,” he said. “It wasn’t a freebie to subsidize [tenants’] rent.”

On Dec. 18, Langford questioned the structural integrity of the 11-storey highrise after being tipped off by the Engineers and Geoscientists B.C. association, which had been investigating a complaint since April.

Two days later, an independent engineering report for the municipality confirmed serious safety concerns, and the municipality revoked the building’s occupancy permit.

About 400 temporary shores were installed in the building on Dec. 23 and 24. However, that work was a “temporary backup measure,” said Romundt.

Romundt estimated the building will not be ready for occupation until late summer or early fall.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

— With files from Cindy Harnett

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