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Displaced Langford residents deserve more from company, city, province, says legal advocate

The 11-storey building in Langford’s downtown has twice had its occupancy permit pulled
Ridgeview Place at 2770 Claude Road in Langford. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The building owner, province and City of Langford should be doing much more to help the estimated 130 people who had less than 24 hours to get out of a high-rise rental building that was deemed structurally unsafe, says a legal advocacy group.

“It’s tragic and it’s exposing a gap in our system where there isn’t supports in place to care for renters in the short term,” said Doug King, executive director of Together Against Poverty.

King said the move by Centurion Properties to “frustrate” the rental contracts of the residents at the 96-unit Ridgeview Place in Langford — with just 24 hours notice and less than a week before the end of the month — also sends a message to other landlords who want to terminate contracts for remediation work on buildings.

“Those landlords can then re-rent at market rates,” which are usually higher than what tenants currently pay, said King.

The 11-storey building in Langford’s downtown has twice had its occupancy permit pulled because it failed inspections by the Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia over life-risk structural flaws. Residents were initially ordered out in December 2019. Centurion acquired the property from the original builders and said it made the necessary fixes. Langford re-issued an occupancy permit last April after an independent engineer’s review, but a new inspection by the provincial engineering body last week raised concerns, prompting Centurion to call for an evacuation.

Details of the building’s problems are not being released by the company or the city.

Centurion executives have not replied to emails asking for comment and next steps in remediation.

Policy guidelines from the province’s Residential Tenancy Act state that exceptional circumstances can force tenancies to end unexpectedly, citing floods, fires and earthquakes that leave rental unit unliveable and result in a “frustrated” contract.

The guideline defines a frustrated contract as, “without the fault of either party, a contract becomes incapable of being performed because an unforeseeable event has so radically changed the circumstances that fulfillment of the contract as originally intended is now impossible.”

Centurion used the guideline to terminate the rental contracts.

“The landlord says they have no obligation, but really they do,” said King. “We’ve seen some landlords after fires [in their buildings] put up residents for months. Clearly the landlord is at fault here. This is a [situation] where the landlord should be looking after tenants.”

Centurion offered residents of Ridgeview Place $1,000 “as a measure of compassionate assistance,” a list of hotels, moving trucks for two days and possible suites in other properties it owns in the region.

But King said that money won’t go far when hotel rooms start at about $200 a night.

Centurion and the City of Langford should have been there to answer questions and provide other immediate supports over the past few days as residents were moving out, he said.

The province has provided funds to help set up a 25-bed emergency shelter at the Gordon United Church a few blocks away on Goldstream Avenue, but no one was there on Monday or Tuesday nights. Langford isn’t providing direct financial support, as it did when residents were displaced close to Christmas in 2019, saying it’s the building owner’s responsibility.

Most residents interviewed this week as they were leaving the building with packed cars and trucks said they were staying with friends and family; others had booked hotels.

Still, some tenants said on Wednesday they are not leaving the building because they do not have anywhere to go.

Others are banding together on social media to talk about launching a class-action lawsuit.

Greater Victoria’s rental vacancy rate has historically been one of the tightest in Canada, ranging between 1.5% and 3.5% over the past year.

Ravi Kahlon B.C. housing minister, met with Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson on Tuesday and was planning further discussions with him on Wednesday “to find solutions to help these people.”

“It’s a challenging situation for those families. … I really feel bad for them,” Kahlon said at the legislature on Wednesday. “It’s been a reoccurring challenge for them and many of of them are having some real struggles.”

He said the province has reached out to the Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. “to find out exactly what happened here and what they are doing as far as investigations.” The group is not providing any comment, saying Ridgeview is an ongoing investigation.

“We know this is rare, and that’s what makes this so troubling,” said Kahlon.

Asked if he would be looking into Langford’s building approval process, Kahlon said he believes the building is isolated to a specific engineer and firm. “That’s why the investigation is happening and I can’t comment beyond that,” he said.

A statement from Kahlon’s ministry said tenants can contact the Residential Tenancy Branch for information about the dispute resolution process, and they can also consult a lawyer to make sure that they are aware of all their legal options.

Displaced residents said they don’t have much hope in getting anything from their renter’s insurance. Several residents said their insurance providers would not be reimbursing them for temporary accommodations and some expenses because of the building’s history.

Dennis MacDonald, who lived in the building with his daughter and seven-year-old grandson, said he was insulted by Centurion’s advice to use their renter’s insurance.

“They said, ‘oh just put it through your insurance’ … I didn’t do this, my insurance company didn’t do this … you did this,” said MacDonald. The MacDonalds found a room at the Hotel Zed until a more permanent home is found.

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Centurion is offering tenants a telephone number to call for support: 1-844-830-5736.

The Tenant Resource Advisory Centre is offering free legal representation and advice for tenants via their telephone hotline at 1-800-665-1185 or website,

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