Pubdate: Thu, 20 Aug 2009
Source: Aldergrove Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Central Fraser Valley Star Publishing Ltd.


Land owners must be mindful of the people using their property and the
activities taking place on it - or they could end up paying a hefty

Turning a blind eye to your tenants' activities or being the "nice
person" who allows strangers to stay on your land can prove to be a
costly undertaking.

Langley RCMP and Township of Langley Bylaw Enforcement Officers are
reminding residents that when it comes to property violations, the
buck stops with the land owner. If tenants do damage or commit crimes,
it is the owner who faces the fines and foots the bill for
legally-required repairs.

"Landlords may think they are doing their tenants a favour by letting
them pay rent in cash, or allowing them to take on strangers as
sub-leasers, but in the long run they are doing a disservice to
themselves," said Bylaw Enforcement Officer Merri-Ann Gray. "These
suspicious behaviours can be a sign that illegal activity is taking
place. Don't worry about being a nice person: protect yourself."

In the past few years, Township Bylaw Enforcement Officers have dealt
with a number of cases where homes and other structures were
completely destroyed or used for criminal activity because tenants
were running rampant.

Gray has seen homes completely dismantled and kitchens stripped down
to bare 2x4s by renters who ripped down everything from wall paneling
to cupboards and sold them.

In some cases, renters built several additional, illegal living areas
without permission and sub-leased them to others, then used the home
to deal drugs and stash stolen property. In one incident, the new
people who were let into the home turned on the original renter, beat
him, and forced him out.

According to Cpl. Holly Marks of the Langley RCMP, law enforcers have
discovered rental homes being used for everything from growing
marijuana to making pornography.

Members of the RCMP can accompany Bylaw Officers to rental properties
to keep the peace, but will lay charges if criminal activity is found
in plain sight. According to Marks, police often find grow ops, an
abundance of drug paraphernalia, and multiples of items such as TVs,
tools, and pressure washers, which may indicate the items were stolen.

While all this illegal activity is happening, Marks said, it creates a
dangerous environment which compromises the building's electrical
system and its structure, and other agencies such as the fire
department, BC Hydro, and BC Gas must also get involved.

"Often the property owner has no idea what's going on," Gray said, but
ignorance does not absolve them from their responsibilities, legally
or financially.

It is the property owner - not the tenants - who must pay fines if
tickets are issued by the Township, fines that can quickly add up to
thousands of dollars. Allowing garbage to pile up is a property
violation, as is having wrecked cars on the property, an infraction
that can cost up to $200 per day per vehicle, Gray said.

Fines for untidy or unsightly homes can run up to $500 per

On top of that, if renters wreck a home, the owner must foot the bill
for the repairs required to get it ready to be re-rented, and to meet
safety standards. And according to Gray and Marks, nefarious tenants
who are left unchecked can cause a lot of expensive damage very quickly.

In some instances, the cost of remediation becomes prohibitive,
especially in homes that have suffered the entrenched, toxic damage
created by grow-ops or drug labs. Homes can be so badly ruined they
are beyond saving. In such cases, the owner must not only pay for the
rental home to be demolished, they lose their source of income.

To avoid such situations, land owners need to be proactive and know
who is renting their home, know how many people are living there, and
ensure they are doing nothing untoward, Marks said. She recommends
land owners check the references of potential tenants, and limit the
number of people allowed to live in the home.

While 24-hour notice must be given before owners can enter a rental
property, owners can drive by and check for suspicious activity. If
there are a number of cars parked on the property, chances are there
are more people living in the home than was agreed upon.

Talking to neighbours may also shed some light, Gray said, as bad
renters' activities often negatively affect others in the
neighbourhood. Marks pointed out that some neighbours may be hesitant
to talk, for fear of retaliation, but said police and bylaw
enforcement officers can't stop the illegal activity and remove the
tenants if they don't know what is going on. Simply informing the
authorities is the first step to resolving the problem.

As well, land owners should regularly schedule appointments to go in
and check their buildings. Those who own acreage should search their
property and look for stolen items that may be stashed on the land,
and tents which would indicate the presence of squatters.

"We just want people to be aware what is at stake, for their own
good," said Gray. "If you own land and you rent it out, you need to be
responsible and proactive, or you could be left paying a very high

For more information about property violations and land owners'
responsibilities, contact the Township of Langley's Bylaw Enforcement
Department at 604.532.7551 or  
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