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‘Frustrating’: Victoria renters hit by floods after pipes burst blame landlords

Victoria plumber says landlords often don’t know how to shut off water
Victoria tenant Glenn MacDonald with the pipe that burst and caused his home to flood. (Ella Matte photo for Black Press Media)

By Ella Matte, contributor

Jennifer Kortlever came home after work at 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve - following a heavy snowfall - to find her basement suite in Victoria had flooded.

According to her housemate Glenn MacDonald, Kortlever said, “there were three inches of water on the ground.” Macdonald was out of town for the holidays and got a text from her explaining, “the pipes were frozen.”

MacDonald stressed that it was “very important to turn off the water in this scenario.”

Kortlever contacted the property manager, who MacDonald said, “didn’t know how to turn off the water line.” The pipes had burst and Kortlever used blankets to soak up the water and shoveled the water out the door. Then a restoration company came and put in dehumidifiers and eventually took out the floor.

The incident highlighted how little some residents and property owners known about the impact of frozen pipes, Kortlever said, and so she is speaking out to warn others about the dangers.

“This was fairly preventable, so that was kind of frustrating because I asked them (the property manager), ‘Should I shut off the water line?’ and it just seems like a lot of people are unknowledgeable,” Kortlever said.

Kortlever’s housemate Hailey Veness was in Mexico when the flood hit, leaving her feeling helpless.

“I didn’t know if I was going to have a place to stay, but thankfully they had a room upstairs or I would have been displaced,” Veness said. “I don’t have any family living in Victoria, so it wouldn’t have been an easy situation. I would have had to pry the property manager to find me a place to stay.”

The residents are still waiting on new flooring, drywall, insulation and multiple things to get fixed in the basement. In the meantime, everyone living in the basement has put their belongings that didn’t get damaged into a shipping container. The container cost them $700, according to Macdonald who says, “I live in a basement so I’m not made of money.”

He also mentioned his “very expensive bass guitar which is like my child, was damaged in the incident.”

Kaylee Cavanagh, who lives upstairs in the house says the City of Victoria should be more proactive.

“I would have wished that we had been more prepared and the city would prepare property managers and landlords to also be aware of what to do when that happens at their properties,” Cavanagh said. “Because in this case, that property manager didn’t know how to turn off the water, which caused the flooding.”

This was just one of many houses that flooded due to pipes busting during the storm in Victoria.

Eren Tischart a resident in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood, lives in a house that is more than 100 years old and its pipes also burst. The house has copper pipes that are now rubber after repairs were made. They had to use dishcloths and newspapers as temporary insulation because of how much the insulation was damaged.

“I have a whole industry-sized garbage bag overflowing with laundry because of how long we were without the laundry room and that’s not including the bedding and everything,” said Tischart.

Plumbers also felt the pressure.

Justin Logan, who works as an operations manager at 360 Super Techs, dealt with a flurry of emergency pipe repairs, as well as giving over-the-phone assistance because the roads were in no condition to for plumbers go out on calls.

“When the snow hit, it really paralyzed us,” he said. “A lot of backstreets don’t get snowplowed for hours or sometimes days, even if they were plowed we still run into issues with vans slipping and sliding.”

What he wants to see from the city is them being “more proactive with the plows. I know the city only has only so much it can offer, but at the same time, we have service vans trying to get to jobs but there is a lot of blocked traffic.”

Logan agrees that too many people have zero knowledge about what to do with freezing pipes.

“Knowing their main valve to shut off the water to their house in case a pipe burst” is important, Logan said.

Many houses, especially older homes, have valves that aren’t visible at first glance.

“Sometimes it’s hidden in a crawl space, tenant’s basement suites or sometimes you have contractors who have drywalled over it,” Logan said.

Not only did he put the onus on landlords and homeowners, but said, “the city can do a better job.”