Following an ordered evacuation Wednesday, July 25 th by Whistler’s Fire Rescue Services, the municipality is ordering the owners of six illegal crawl spaces in Nordic Estates to return the properties to their original condition.
Rob Whitton, Whistler’s fire chief, said that to ensure compliance, the municipality’s building department will also inspect every single unit at 2010 Castle Drive to determine exactly what construction was done without permission. Following the inspection, homeowners will be required to restore the spaces.
To date, no fines have been issued.
The illegal suites were brought to media attention last week after Fire Services ordered the units be evacuated and posted Do Not Occupy and Orders on the doors to the crawl spaces.
However, according to Scott Schober, managing partner of Whistler Resort Management, the property management company had known about the suites for at least a year and has been working with the strata council on the issue.
“There were concerns that the insurance provider was going to remove the insurance on the strata corporation because of these illegal suites. They sent up an inspector to do a report, and when the report came back, it was rated very high for danger for liabilities, fires, etc., because of all the electrical work that had been done on these units,” said Schober.
Under the direction of the strata council, Schober then took the report to the municipality.
“The fire chief got his hands on that document and said, ‘We’re going right now to do an inspection.’ He did not want to take any chances. He said, ‘This is a life and safety issue, we’re going immediately.’ And we were off and running,” said Schober.
Whitton said it is fortunate there was no incident in the illegal suites, adding that if there had been, it could have been severe.
He said all three crawl spaces he inspected were cramped and inappropriate for what they were being used for.
“The one that I did get into, it was very, very cramped as far as the living room area. The bed was actually located above the bathroom in an area that was no more than about three feet high, and a piece of an aluminum ladder that would have been cut off was used for the access,” said Whitton.
He said that the unit also had a washer and dryer by the bathroom, as well as what looked like a full sized stove and refrigerator.
Both Schober and Whitton agreed that there are most likely other illegal crawl spaces in Whistler.
“I have heard stories of people living in crawl spaces, but I’ve only been here five years. In that time though, I have been dealing with a number of areas of non-conforming construction and over crowding, or occupancy-load issues,” said Whitton.
He added that five years ago, the Fire Rescue Services Department found a home in Panorama Ridge that contained a total of 80 beds, including 24 beds in the attic alone.
According to Whitton, the fire department is not taking any immediate actions to locate other illegal suites in town. However, he hopes that any property management companies who know about illegal construction will come forward.
“I believe it is incumbent upon them to come forward and let us know, so that we can deal with it accordingly, so that we can make sure people are staying and living in safe places,” said Whitton.