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‘Headache’ house causing problems

Jamie Timmins wants the City to deal with the abandoned house next door to him, which he believes has become a potential health hazard. - Brenda Anderson/Langley Times
Jamie Timmins wants the City to deal with the abandoned house next door to him, which he believes has become a potential health hazard.
— image credit: Brenda Anderson/Langley Times

An abandoned house on 208 Street in Langley City has created numerous headaches for Jamie Timmins during the three years he has lived next door to it.

Regular calls to the City have resulted in the home’s overgrown grass being mowed, and complaints to the police have led to the removal of squatters who occasionally pull away graffiti-covered plywood sheets from windows and doors and take up residence inside (most recently last week)

But now Timmins believes the empty building has also become a potential health hazard for his three-year-old daughter and he’s ready to see the problem dealt with, once and for all.

After the toddler proudly presented him with a dead mouse, clutched in her bare hand last Tuesday (Aug. 2) Timmins promptly fired off an e-mail to City Hall, asking them to take action.

“I am not sure what you think, but I am of the opinion that dead mice can not be safe/healthy for a three-year-old child,” he wrote.

His latest concern is that the mice will migrate into his home, leading to further health concerns and costly extermination bills.

The house has been listed for sale at $349,000 for the last year, but Timmins would rather not wait for someone to buy the property and either fix the house or tear it down.

“A friend of mine offered them $250,000 for it, but they just laughed,” said Timmins.

A construction site supervisor by trade, Timmins believes the building itself might now be unsound.

“The side wall looks like it is going to fall down. It is kicking or buckling quite a bit,” he wrote in his latest e-mail to City staff.

“There are a couple of openings in the wall and going down into the crawl space of this house. My cat has got into the habit of going in this house and killing the mice.”

At times when it is evident, he said, he has been worried about leaving his house unattended, even for a weekend, for fear he could be robbed.

Langley RCMP confirm there are 65 police files related to the home, at 5410 208 St., dating back to 2007.

“It’s an eyesore,” Timmins said.

“It’s embarrassing when people come over.

“Tear it down and throw some gravel down, and I’ll be happy.”

Another area resident shares Timmins’ concerns, though for the man who has lived in his home for 27 years, the main issue is the abandoned building’s appearance.

“It is an eyesore and it does attract street people,” he said.

The man said police told him the inside of the home has been gutted by squatters, with pipes and fixtures torn out.

“The last while it’s been quiet, but the City does have to get after them to cut the grass and they should be able to do that on their own.

“Tear it down or fix it up — that would please me,” he said.

In the meantime, Timmins said he’ll continue to contact the City whenever there is an issue. So far, he’s been happy with the response from the municipality, but he’d like to see the problem solved, once and for all.

“They (the City) are just being too easy on (the owner),” he said.

However, the municipality’s powers are limited when it comes to private property, said Langley City CAO Francis Cheung.

Under the community standards bylaw, an owner must maintain their property, which means keeping the grass cut and, if the building is unoccupied, ensuring it is boarded up to prevent squatting.

If certain conditions are not met within a reasonable period of time after a property owner has been warned, the City has the right, under the Local Government Act and the Community Charter, to have the house demolished at the owner’s expense.

“But it would have to be a pretty serious situation,” Cheung said. Overgrown grass and the presence of mice would not be enough to warrant demolition, but if the building was deemed to be structurally unsound, that would be sufficient, he said.

About eight months ago, Cheung said, it appeared that a solution had been reached.

“We were able to convince (the owner) to demolish the house, but the bank said (if he did so) it would pull his mortgage.”

“All in all, the owner has been doing his best to comply,” said Cheung.

Attempts to reach the owner of the house for comment were unsuccessful.

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