Brian and Cate Noakes, left, Paulette Walker, and Paul Morehouse are unhappily facing eviction by the Town of Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Brian and Cate Noakes, left, Paulette Walker, and Paul Morehouse are unhappily facing eviction by the Town of Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Renters disappointed, angry with Lake Cowichan council over building fight

There may be common ground that would save them from being thrown onto the street, renters say

Renters in suites in a commercial building on South Shore Road are saying they feel unwelcome in town after a Lake Cowichan council decision last week to evict them from their homes.

Councillors voted July 25 to force Gilbert Beaudry, the owner of the building to remove his tenants, rip out his suites, appropriately rezone his property and then rebuild the three suites so they can be shown to be up to the building code.

Brian and Cate Noakes and their neighbouring renters, Paul Morehouse, and Paulette Walker, sat and listened to the debate in the council chambers last week.

After the decision, they all left, saying, “This is a sad day.”

In a letter sent to the Gazette afterwards, Cate Noakes stated that Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest “led the council on July 25 to punish the new owner of 87/89 South Shore Rd. for the misdeeds of the former owner. The mayor refused to accept the independent safety report requested by the council on June 27 and instead advised to evict five tenants (including three senior citizens) who have lived in the building for over a year.”

To read her letter, see page 5.

She also said “the independent safety report stated ‘the building is in good-to-above-average condition and appears to have been well maintained’ and recommended a sprinkler system to be installed and a few fire safety improvements to allow occupancy.” The new owner, who planned to move his [accounting] business from Nanaimo to Lake Cowichan, “has done everything asked of him except evict his tenants and cause undue stress and hardship.”

Council also refused to acknowledge any minor changes to fix any shortfalls recommended by various town and government inspections prior to the sale of the building, Cate said.

“My husband and I moved to Lake Cowichan from Ontario in April 2016… We have been welcomed in the community and established ourselves by shopping and banking locally and registering with a town doctor, dentist and optometrist. Our daughter and son-in-law also live in town. We had no idea that the apartments were illegal until after we signed the lease. There is no affordable housing in town and we cannot afford another major move. We have nowhere to go,” she said.

Council voted 4-1 in favour of putting a notice on the title of the property: a move that surprised her.

“We are stunned by the vindictiveness of the council, who are demanding that the apartments be demolished,” Cate said.

In an interview at the Noakes home on Saturday, July 29, with both Noakeses, Morehouse, and Walker, it was even clearer that they are disappointed and even frightened at finding themselves suddenly facing eviction with nowhere to go.

Cate was upset, saying, “We love it here. We’ve established ourselves. We’re being treated like criminals. We can’t afford it but we’re contemplating getting a lawyer.”

Brian explained that this is not the first time the town has heard about the rentals.

“We first moved in April 2016. When we got here and got signed in, and we found these were illegal, we said, that’s unsatisfactory, Pete [former property owner Peter Richmond] you’ve got to fix this. You need to sort this out. I’m not going to pay you the rent that I’m paying you and not have garbage pickup and not have the same rights as everybody else that’s renting in town.

“So he apparently went to the town. We had building inspectors, fire inspectors, and electrical inspectors come through here. They went through everything here.”

Then the building was sold in 2016 and current owner Gilbert Beaudry came on the scene.

“Poor Gilbert was told the inspectors had been through and that he shouldn’t have any problem with these suites because the town needs more rentals. He was basically led down the path, which is too bad, because he’s a really nice guy,” Brian said.

Morehouse said that at a previous meeting he’d attended, a councillor had said “their intention was not to get rid of rentals. But they wanted an independent inspection. So he got that.”

It appears that one way to solve the problem of concerns about a lack of windows in these suites is the installation, “at a cost of $40,000 to $70,000, of a sprinkler system for the whole building, which would make it incredibly safe here,” Brian said.

“But, they won’t look at the report. It went from being a safety issue [at the June meeting] to becoming a rezoning issue [at the July 25 meeting]. They completely changed the agenda on what the problem was.”

Morehouse and Noakes said they’d heard that there was concern at the town about the need for a four-inch pipe to come off the South Shore Road water line to the building to supply a sprinkler system with water.

Cate added, “Gilbert is looking into other options as well. He really wants to make it work.”

Brian said, “This directly affects us. We just want to say: This is ridiculous! We’ve got a very good landlord who’s willing to do everything possible, including spending 70 grand to put in a sprinkler system to keep his residents here. So much so that if they wanted to come in here and put the sprinklers in, he’s got an empty apartment right next door. We would move in there, they would come in and make it to code, come in check it out. Then we would move back into here, Paul and Paulette would move in there and then they’d fix up their apartment.”

Cate is frustrated.

“They’ve just said we have to be evicted. They haven’t even looked at that option. They told him it had to be demolished. There was no common ground at all.”

Compromise ideas aren’t helpful, it seems, according to Brian.

“Now, it’s become a zoning issue. So, it’s irrelevant if we move over there while they put a sprinkler system in. They don’t care. They want all this hard work that’s in here torn out, [and] us kicked out on the street, with no place to go. The whole thing is, they are punishing the wrong guy. Why aren’t they going after [the previous owner]? The town didn’t do anything about it then. They haven’t done anything until now.”