Owner of emptied Langford high-rise suing city, design and construction firms

The owner of an 11-storey residential rental building in Langford that has sat mostly vacant for a year and a half since the city revoked the occupancy permit is suing the seller, builder, structural engineer and engineering firm, and the City of Langford for what they claim is negligence causing dangerous defects in the building.

Toronto-based Centurion Property Associates bought Danbrook One at 2766 Claude Rd. in late August 2019 and began renting the units.

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Four months later, in mid-December 2019, Langford revoked the building’s occupancy permit and urged tenants to move out after an engineering report for the municipality confirmed serious safety concerns. At the time, 86 of 90 units were rented. Tenants were temporarily put up in hotels paid for by the city while they searched for new homes. Some struggled to find apartments at a similar price and remained in the building for two months after the occupancy permit was revoked.

Months before Centurion bought the building, a structural engineer who was not involved in the project raised concerns related to its seismic and structural integrity, in a formal complaint to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists, according to Centurion’s civil claim. Leon Plett, a structural engineer and principal of RJC Engineers, also expressed concern that the project drawings might have been copied from an RJC project.

The building’s defects include deficiencies in the foundation, lateral system and gravity column, according to Centurion’s claim. They allege the parties involved in design and construction were aware of problems prior to the sale and that the issues “pose a danger to person or property.”

The engineering firm Sorensen Trilogy Engineering Ltd. and its lead structural engineer on the project, Brian McClure are named in the suit, along with the builder, Langford-based DB Services; the seller, Loco Investments; Margaret McKay, the director of both DB Services and Loco; and the City of Langford.

Centurion is suing for damages relating to remediation work needed to bring the building up to code and address safety concerns, estimated at more than $1 million as well as lost rental income estimated to be about $200,000 per month. Just over 18 months have passed since the city revoked the occupancy permit. Centurion reimbursed tenants any rent paid for the period after the permit was revoked.

Before purchasing the building, Centurion contacted the city, which issued a “comfort letter” in late June 2019 to Centurion that did not mention the engineer’s complaint despite being informed by the association in early April 2019, Centurion says in its civil claim.

Langford denies they were made aware of defects related to the building when the engineering association contacted the municipality in April 2019 for documents.

“By letter dated April 4, 2019, EGBC wrote to Langford to advise that [it] was currently conducting an investigation in relation to the building regarding potential violations of the Engineers and Geoscientists Act,” Langford said in its response to Centurion’s civil claim. The letter “did not disclose the existence of the dangerous defects, nor did EGBC advise Langford that any safety concerns or dangers existed.”

The city says it was not aware of problems when it wrote a comfort letter to Centurion, and did not become aware until Dec. 3, 2019, when the association shared details of the complaint.

Centurion alleges DB Services encouraged parties involved in construction to “fast-track” their work, which led to Sorensen Trilogy Engineering failing to obtain a required independent review of its building design work.

The narrative outlined in Centurion’s civil claim lines up with the details in documents and emails related to the engineering association’s investigation obtained from the City of Langford by the Times Colonist through a freedom of information request.

Centurion claims they demanded that DB Services pay for all remediation work required, but the firm only installed temporary shoring.

DB Services denies defects exist and that construction was fast-tracked. It also claims a warranty did not transfer to Centurion in the sale.

Sorensen Trilogy Engineering says DB Services was to be fully responsible to Centurion “for acts and omissions” of the firm and McClure, and that neither DB Services nor Centurion paid for the liability insurance required by the contract, which would have protected Sorensen Trilogy.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

An investigation by the engineering association is ongoing.

Danbrook One remains unoccupied.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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