Landlord laments lack of attention to rental property

Finlayson Arm Road grow-op fire remains under investigation

The saga continues for the owner of a Langford property damaged in a marijuana grow operation fire earlier this fall.

While investigations into the fire and other activities at the duplex located at 1079 Finlayson Arm Rd. are still underway, the property has been deemed unsafe for occupancy since the Sept. 16 fire.

“I blame myself. I should have visited the property more,” said owner Vadim Melamed, who purchased the property in 2001.  “I’ve had the same tenants living there since 2008. They were taking good care of the property.”

Melamed said his tenants originally treated the property like it was their own and did a great job with such things as landscaping. He stopped visiting the property as often and even gave them a break on rent. As for the marijuana grow operation discovered at the property, he had “absolutely no knowledge.”

On Monday, Langford council voted to file a notice of bylaw infractions on the property’s title. Mayor Stew Young said the decision was made for “protecting the public more than anything.” He said the notice was to make anyone interested in buying the property more aware. He couldn’t remember the property coming before council before, at least in recent memory. “If it came to council, it’s an issue that requires attention.”

In a report to council, City staff recommended the notice be filed after confirming violations of building and plumbing bylaws, the nuisance (controlled substance) bylaw and the Langford zoning bylaw.

That report also outlined details of the September fire, noting that Langford Fire Rescue found a badly burned man on the upper floor of the building, where he was allegedly rendering hashish oil. The report also stated that the property was later discovered to have been used as a marijuana grow operation in different areas of the building.

The property has a history of various bylaw infractions taking place before Melamed owned the property. In the 1980s and 90’s, staff wrote, the Capital Regional District bylaw officials found the duplex had illegally been converted to a fourplex. It was eventually returned back to a duplex by way of enforcement.

On April 17, 2007, Langford bylaw enforcement and building department staff inspected the property and found it did not comply with zoning bylaws. The property owner was ordered to remove all electrical outlets (stoves) in two illegal suites on both upper levels of the dwelling, essentially converting the building back to an allowable duplex.

“It was a fourplex and I converted it back to a duplex and got all of the permits in 2008,” Melamed said. Part of that process involved connecting floors with a staircase and removing the extra kitchens, he said.

A current investigation of the property by City bylaw enforcement and building inspectors has found that the property has again been converted to an illegal fourplex. The property has now been deemed unsafe for tenants and power to the property has been shut off. Under the nuisance bylaw, the property needs to be professionally cleaned and certified before allowing occupancy for tenants.

Melamed said his current tenants “didn’t turn it into a fourplex, but they subletted a portion.”

In the meantime, he said he is working to remediate the building and has hired an electrician to repair the electrical damage and is scheduled to have the power reconnected. When that happens, he said, he will be able to repair the remaining fire damage.

“This grow op was a complete surprise,” he reiterated.

West Shore RCMP continue to investigate the fire.