Delta, White Rock take swift action against illegal builders

Surrey has more than 70 legal files on hold.

While neighbouring cities are dropping the hammer on people putting additions on their homes illegally, Surrey continues to face unauthorized building at a level staff describe as” rampant.”

Conservative estimates are that the city has placed more than 100 stop-work orders on illegally constructed homes.

But when it comes to taking legal action, it’s unclear how many cases the City of Surrey is pursuing.

City solicitor Craig MacFarlane said last week he was unable to determine right away how many of illegal building cases are before the courts.

“I’d have to get back to you on that,” MacFarlane said.

MacFarlane still hasn’t returned Leader calls for clarification.

In Delta, Director of Community Planning and Development Tom Leatham said it’s that municipality’s policy to act quickly.

“That’s the message we’re trying to send. ‘We will move swiftly and harshly when we find you’,” Leatham said.

“Our policy is to jump on them real fast, and not let it slide. Word tends to get out when you come down hard on a few of them, you know, ‘you’re not going to get away with this so easily’.”

Delta begins with a graduating scale of enforcement that starts with a call from an inspector telling the homeowner to put the building back to the condition it was in on its last city approval.

If that order is followed by silence, the file goes to the legal department.

There are other options, but Leatham prefers to take legal action because the results come quickly.

“We’ve been pretty successful in getting injunctions,” Leatham said, adding the court typically gives the homeowner 60 days to tear down the illegal addition.

White Rock also prefers to act quickly.

Paul Stanton, director of planning for the City of White Rock, said the municipality mainly uses two avenues for illegal building.

“We have two recourses, either civil litigation or the other is to go through Section 57 of the Community Charter, post a notice on title (of the land), which will make it difficult for them to refinance or to sell the property,” Stanton said. The only remedy for the homeowner at that point is to restore the property to its state on last approval.

While illegal construction is not a runaway problem in White Rock, it happens from time to time.

“It happens on occasion. It’s part of why we have a bylaw enforcement function and a building inspection function,” Stanton said, adding the notice on title has achieved a much higher level of compliance than civil litigation.

In Surrey, staff acknowledge the problem is rampant.

Just weeks before the last civic election, Surrey council agreed to a request from a group called Surrey Residents Association, which wanted all legal action against illegal construction put on hold. The city placed more than 70 lawsuits in abeyance.

About six months after that council decision, building inspectors and bylaw officials said they felt as though their jobs were being viewed as some kind of joke, according to the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 402.

“When you’re trained to do a job, then you’re trained to ignore it for whatever reason, it really is demoralizing,” Laurie Larsen said at the time.

Larson, also a school trustee with Surrey First Education, said she last week she hadn’t heard any further complaints from the building department.

“Either it isn’t an issue, or other things are more important, or they’ve just resigned themselves to the fact that nothing can be done.”

If it’s the latter case, she said, it would be quite unfortunate.

Meanwhile residents continue to complain that illegal construction continues at breakneck speed in this city.

Newton resident Andrew Houghton said when he called a building inspector to complain about illegal building in his neighbourhood, she replied that the situation was “rampant across the city” and that there was nothing she could do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

White Rock acupuncturist suspended for ‘scare tactics, excessive fees’

30-day suspension for Jun Hua (Davy) Hua issued Aug. 18

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

Latimer Road the latest Surrey school to report COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read