Owners of abandoned houses like this fire-damaged one in Langley Township would have 30 days to make them inhabitable again or face demolition under new rules proposed by Township Councillor Charlie Fox.

Get tough with owners of derelict homes, says Councillor Fox

He is proposing stiff fines if abandoned homes are not torn down within 30 days.

It’s time to get tough with owners of uninhabitable houses who let them become magnets for squatters, vandals and illegal activity, Langley Township Councillor Charlie Fox said Monday.

Fox is proposing new rules that would fine property owners $500 a day starting 30 days after a house has been declared uninhabitable by police, fire or Township inspectors.

If a property owner fails to act, Fox said the Township should exercise its existing legal authority to designate a derelict property a nuisance and have it demolished at the expense of the owner.

Fox introduced the proposed new regulations at the evening council meeting, saying they are aimed at developers who buy up properties to build new projects and leave the existing houses to fall apart.

There is one example not far from his own home, Fox said.

“Over a year ago, there was a fire in a house and the house is still standing [unrepaired],” Fox said.

Other councillors were reluctant to go as far as Fox wanted.

“I just find this a little heavy-duty,” Councillor Bob Long said, suggesting Township staff should see what other municipalities are doing.

Councillor Kim Richter agreed, saying she would like to know if the policy was legally feasible.

Councillor Bev Dornan wondered whether the 30-day time limit would be too short to be enforceable.

Long and Richter convinced a majority of council to delay a decision on the Fox proposal until staff could investigate further.

Fox and Councillor Grant Ward voted against the delay.

Councillor Steve Ferguson was not present in council chambers for the vote.

Neighbouring Surrey mounted a campaign against derelict houses six years ago, giving owners the choice of repairing them or having them demolished.

During one three-month period in the summer of 2007, the city applied to tear down 40 such homes.

A Surrey city staff report pointed the finger at some developers, saying the  number of derelict houses in the city had “risen significantly with the increased development of properties [that] are purchased, then sit vacant while the prospective developer proceeds through planning, rezoning and development permit processes.”

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