Building owner gets bill for previous owner’s unpaid city fees

Building owner gets bill for previous owner’s unpaid city fees
By Laura Barton
Welland Tribune
Link to article: Building owner gets bill for previous owner’s unpaid city fees

New owners of a property at 224 Mitchell St. in Port Colborne will be negotiating with city staff in the hopes of reducing fees on the property accrued by a previous owner.

The costs, amounting to just more than $44,000, were accrued when Port Colborne Fire and Emergency Services took over care of the building after it was deemed unsafe.

Last summer, the fire department discovered a number of fire code violations, including too many occupants, in the two-storey home.

Because of that, fire Chief Tom Cartwright enacted a section of the Ontario Fire Protection and Prevention Act, deeming the property an immediate threat to life.

From there, Cartwright, with the help of the Office of the Fire Marshal, Niagara Regional Police, Niagara Region community services, Red Cross and Port Cares, moved the residents out of the building and boarded it up.

The previous owner was then supposed to be renovating the building to bring it up to code, but that didn’t happen.

While waiting for notice from the previous owner’s lawyer saying the building was up to code, it came under the care of the fire department and, for liability reasons, the department had to ensure that it wasn’t broken into or vandalized. With that watch came a cost.

Cartwright told city council on Monday night that for 72 days between the end of September and early December, his staff went out to the property four times a day.

The final charge is totalled from the just more than $459 a day cost plus $10,000 worth of expenses on top of that.

The old owner is expected to foot this bill, but because he hasn’t, the charge was added on to the building’s property taxes.

Now, the new owner, Ray Khanna, owner of Kingsway Investments, is having to deal with the charge and will have to settle it before he’s able to resell the property.

Aldo Martino of Jaamss Investment Corp. attended Monday’s meeting to speak on Khanna’s behalf.

He said Khanna took over the property through power of sale and didn’t know about the charges attached to the property until he inspected it.

“We found to our surprise that there was an outstanding invoice payable to fire department for hard cost and inspection,” Martino said.

He said it was the old owners who allowed the violations that caused the need for the fire department to do its daily inspections

Since taking the property in early December, Khanna has been working to remediate it and working with the fire department to bring it up to code.

“We understand the need for safety and security,” Martino said. “We’ve done whatever we can to accommodate that.”

Because of that, he said Khanna doesn’t want to pay for the previous owner’s neglect of the building.

Council agreed that it’s unfair for the new owner to be penalized for the old owner’s mistakes. However, waiving the charge entirely isn’t an option because then it would fall on taxpayers who have no onus on the situation.

As a result, council instructed city staff to meet with Khanna to negotiate the cost. The final fee will ultimately be subject to council approval.

Cartwright said the previous owner will still have to appear in court over this issue.

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