Balmoral Hotel tenants offered compensation from Sahota family
The landlords of the condemned Balmoral Hotel tell CTV News they’ve put together a compensation package to make the lives of their soon-to-be evicted tenants easier – though advocates are warning to beware the gift.
The few months’ rent the Sahota family is offering could be a carrot for some of the impoverished and addicted people who live in the Hastings strip hotel to take the money now, even though they could be in line for much more money later through a class action lawsuit, advocates say.
“We have to be careful to make sure the tenants aren’t being coerced. Are they signing away their right to come back? Are they signing away their right to get compensation? There’s all kinds of questions,” said Wendy Pederson, a tenant organizer.
“I would tell them to wait it out, don’t sign any papers."
But through an agent, the Sahota family says it’s the least they can do for a group of people who face homelessness if they can’t find another place to live when they are evicted on June 12.
“We don’t think that’s fair, and we think this little piece of money may help remedy their life circumstances,” said George Metrakos of Metro Vancouver Property Management.
The compensation package includes forgiving June rent, paying for some moving costs, paying for cable and telephone hookups, and paying back rent on a sliding scale.
Tenants who are registered at the Balmoral and have lived there for up to five years would receive two months’ rent – some $950. Those who lived there up to 10 years would receive three months’ rent – some $1,425.
The Balmoral Hotel was deemed unsafe to occupy and at risk of collapsing by the city earlier this month, with officials claiming the building owners have maintained unacceptable conditions for decades.
It’s not the first time Sahota properties have been in crisis. Ten years ago, the roof caved in on another Sahota property, the Pandora Hotel. And the Regent Hotel, across the street, is also among those targeted in two class action lawsuits.
A tenant at the Regent Hotel, Jack Gates, said that he was concerned that those signing the contract would get paid at all.
Gates won a judgment of $1,675 against Pal Sahota and Triville Enterprises at the Residential Tenancy Branch for lack of hot water and heat.
But he didn’t get paid until after he had filed a small claims suit to enforce the judgment. The judge filed an arrest warrant for Pal Sahota when he didn’t show up to court, reports say.
“It took a few months to get a warrant for Pal Sahota’s arrest, that had to be made before they paid that money out,” Gates said.
Gates, who is party to the class action lawsuits, said he’d be skeptical of any future offer.
“In my own opinion, I believe it’s not going to happen,” he said. “I would rather see them get what they deserve and that’s the full payout for years of compensation.”
It’s unclear whether there is a plan for the residents of the Balmoral. The City of Vancouver, BC Housing, and the provincial housing ministry didn’t return phone calls.
NDP Housing Critic David Eby said the provincial government should find housing for the Balmoral residents, just as they would help in a natural disaster.
“If there was a landslide that made 150 people homeless, the province would be there, but because this is a building in the Downtown Eastside, it’s different,” he said.
“I don’t understand why BC Housing continues to be so hands-off. They need to be involved and tell people to hold the Sahotas accountable. If they’re not willing to do it, they need to allow a new government in. We can’t have a situation where landlords are allowed to run buildings like this.”