Abolghasem Abdollahi is the latest slumlord millionaire the City of Vancouver building inspectors have set their sights on. But, in spite of the city’s claims, they still weren’t having much success when I last checked.
The city’s target is the Abdollahi’s Lion Hotel in the 300 block of Powell Street. He picked up the 70-room SRO back in 2007 for just over a million dollars and from the look of the graffiti and filth covering the entry way doors alone, he hasn’t spent a whole lot of dough on it since.
According to one of the tenants I spoke with, a fellow named Pharaoh who lives on the third floor, there has been no decent heating in the building nor has there been regular hot water since he moved in last February. In fact, in parts of the building, there has been no heat at all.
Last month, while Vancouver was in an unusual November deep freeze, Abdollahi received three orders from the city to immediately fix the situation.
On Monday when I spoke to the city’s director of property use inspection, Andreea Toma, she said this is not Abdollahi’s first rodeo. He has a history as a non-compliant slumlord. He was a partner in the notoriously decrepit Clifton Hotel on the 1100 block of Granville.
In 2013, the 73-room SRO hotel had a 105 violations related to safety and maintenance lodged against it; it was classified as the second-worst building in the city’s rental property database. All 45 tenants were eventually evicted so Abdollahi could renovate. The building is still empty.
But Abdollahi’s recalcitrance has not been forgotten. Toma says the “other experience and other behaviour” with Abdollahi at the Clifton has led to this. “That is why we are taking a hard line [on the Lion Hotel].”
The first order regarding the Lion that was delivered both verbally and in writing on Nov. 16 also went to the crown prosecutor to see if charges could be laid. The second, four days later, was to inform Abdollahi that he had neither moved to fix the problems nor had he provided portable heaters to tide the tenants over. The third order on Nov. 25 reiterated the point that there were, as yet, no portable heaters, nor had Abdollahi made any moves to get things repaired.
The city said if the situation persisted for another (shiver) 60 days, they would send in their own repair folks and bill the landlord.
The orders were delivered to the hotel and to Abdollahi’s residence on a quiet wooded cul-de-sac just below Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver.
My own onsite inspection of Abdollahi’s residence was hindered by the fact that there was a German shepherd snoozing on the front porch. I can tell you, though, that there was no graffiti on the front entrance.
Oh yes, Pharaoh told me that in the past few days Abdollahi did drop off some portable heaters. But plugging them in tended to cause circuits to blow until he figured out some kind of work around. And the showers were still freezing.
Toma pointed out that while Abdollahi did install a new heating system a few years ago in the Lion, he was cutting corners. The unit he installed was woefully inadequate, designed for a single family residence, not a commercial building with dozens of tenants.
Then, on Tuesday just after 5 p.m., the city issued a news release, an update on all those orders: “Today, heat and hot water were fully restored throughout the Lion hotel.” Well, maybe not.
Twenty minutes later I was on the phone to two more tenants, Jeff and Ron. Guess what? Nothing had changed. Hot water was sporadic if at all and as for heat — what heat?
I thought that maybe these systems may take time to get going, so I called Jeff again early Wednesday morning. Still no heat. Still no hot water.
He did say city inspectors and plumbers were expected later in the day. Hope springs eternal.
And according to the city news release, that won’t be the end of it for this slumlord. “Staff continues to keep pressure on the owner.” There are still fire, safety and health related issues to deal with.