Tenants at the Rusty Anchor Inn in Port Alberni have won a reprieve from an eviction notice that would have seen them lose their housing within three days.
The eviction notice delivered to tenants Jan. 21 and signed by building owner Chris Ashby said: “We are sorry to inform you that due to safety issues occurring Friday night, as well as several other safety risks, the Rusty Anchor Inn is giving eviction notice to all of its tenants.
“Please have keys returned and personal items removed by Jan. 23.”
In November, one room was severely damaged and others smoke and water damaged after a blaze at the hotel that fire officials said could have been caused by human error. And last Friday, firefighters doused a small fire in the hotel lobby that appears to have been intentionally set.
The tenants still have to move but the deadline for them to leave has been extended, Ashby said in a telephone interview on Jan. 24.
“We’ve decided to allow them to stay until the end of the month now,” he said.
The hotel has 20 rooms and there are six to 10 tenants on the rental role. Two are reported to have found other accommodations, Ashby said.
Ashby decided eviction was his only option after discussing recent fires with his insurance adjuster.
At the hotel, the building manager led a walkabout and showed a News reporter the extensive damage to rooms.
Doors damaged by the fire no longer lock and have to have padlocks, which doesn’t bode well at night, she said. One entrance door no longer locks properly. The room damaged by a November fire remains behind safety tape.
Some tenants still live in the hotel and are finding accommodation. It’s not them causing the problem, Ashby said.
Squatters descend on the hotel at night and use several un-rented rooms.
Locked doors have been kicked in. Now room doors are drilled shut but there are signs of attempted forced entry.
There are crack pipes in some rooms. Empty alcohol bottles in another. And in one room, where the plumbing had been turned off, a toilet overflows with vomit and feces.
“If people knew what we had to clean up they wouldn’t be so quick to criticize,” Ashby said.
Despite having temporary locks on the doors and nightly patrols there is still a lack of security, he added.
There is also no resident building manager at the moment because the manager’s suite was damaged in the November fire.
“If there was another fire and someone was killed or injured then I’m responsible,” Ashby said. “The company would look at my due diligence closely.”
Ashby says he plans to repair the damage, which he estimates will cost $80,000 to fix.
The rooms will be available for rent afterward.
“As soon as they’re liveable everyone can move back in them again,” he said. “I don’t want people to be gone, I want them to live there again.”