The Vancouver company that owns View Towers, Westsea Construction, has had previous disputes with tenants, including a drawn-out court case in Richmond in which the company went after leaseholders for millions of dollars in repairs in a leaky condo case.
In December 2012 a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that about 160 residents of Sussex Place in Richmond had to pay an outstanding sum of $1.889 million to property owners and managers, Westsea Construction Ltd., Capital Construction Supplies Ltd. and Sussex Square Apartments Ltd.
The Sussex Place residents claimed the management company of the condo was to blame for the $2.4-million repair bill caused by rain water leak issues.
Victoria Harbuz, who owns several units in the building and was embroiled in the legal battle for three years, said many of the residents were retirees who could not afford the massive repair bill and were ultimately forced into foreclosure after the court ruling.
“You can’t even imagine how much stress we had,” she said. She said in the early days of the repair work, residents were getting massive bills and the company refused to provide invoices. “They asked us basically to send a blank cheque to them,” Harbuz said.
The residents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the case in the courts and after the judgement against them, also had to pay the company’s legal costs.
“They treated us very badly, they don’t care what happens to people,” Harbuz said. “This is all about the money.”
Capital Construction Supplies also owns View Towers at 1147 Quadra St., according to land title documents. The company is now called Capital Management Ltd., an Edmonton-based property management firm owned by Julie Trache.
Displaced View Towers residents have received letters signed by Westsea Construction, a Vancouver property management company also run by Trache.
Victoria poverty advocates have slammed Westsea Construction for forcing out tenants of View Towers following the May 15 fire that displaced 70 people.
Many displaced residents were asked to sign mutual agreements to end tenancy to secure their damage deposits and half month’s rent — something they later found out they were not legally required to do.
Some long-term tenants have also discovered they’ve been kicked out despite little to no damage to their suites and are facing higher rents at other downtown apartments.
Others have been told if they want their furniture, they need to pay to have it professionally cleaned to ensure there’s no asbestos contamination. One woman, Rebecca White, was given an estimate of $20,000, which she cannot afford.
Coupled with the fact that there are dozens of vacant suites in View Towers that were not offered to displaced tenants, many people, including Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James, have raised the concern that longtime renters are being kicked out so the company can renovate and then raise the rent — often called renovictions.
Dozens of people attended a rally outside of View Towers last week demanding answers from the company.
Westsea built View Towers in 1970, a 357-suite apartment with commercial space below.
According to its website, Westsea Construction has developed and managed property since 1947. The company owns several buildings across the Lower Mainland — two in West Vancouver, one in Surrey and Sussex Square in Richmond. In addition to View Towers, Westsea also owns Orchard House, a highrise condo building at 647 Michigan St. in James Bay.
Leaseholders at Orchard House also balked after receiving a bill for thousands of dollars in 2010 for remediation work to the exterior of the building and the parkade.
When reached by the Times Colonist requesting comment about the View Towers residents, Trache refused to comment. The building manager at View Towers, a man named Terry, has also repeatedly declined to comment.