Opinion: Burnaby struggling to crack down on this rotting zombie house

Chris Campbell

This column is about something I call “zombie” houses – unoccupied single-detached houses that have been left to rot by absentee landlords.

These homes are a visual blight on our communities, as well as a safety hazard.

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But problems still persist, including one disgusting house in North Burnaby.

The City of Burnaby is trying to crack down on a house located on Grant Street, just west of Kensington. You can see from the photos attached to this story that the house has been left to decay.

According to a staff report presented to council Monday, “staff believe the home to be unoccupied at the time of submission of this report.”

The house has a long history of problems, said the report.

“Since 2000, the property has been the subject of fifteen (15) complaints received from five (5) separate complainants. Thirteen (13) of these complaints were related to the unsightly state of the premises and two (2) were in regards to building bylaw complaints. At this time there are two (2) open complaint files on the property.”

According to the report, it’s not just a matter of being “unsightly” – the house is also considered a safety hazard because the large rear carport is falling apart – “due to a lack of maintenance and repair” - and there’s a backyard swimming pool that is unsecured.

So, it’s a bad situation at a house with a long history of problems – should be easy to deal with it, right?

Not so fast.

The staff report recommends that council declare the house a “nuisance” and order the owner to demolish the carport, erect a fence around the pool and generally clean up the “filth” on the property. The owner would be expected to do all of this within 60 days upon receiving notice from the city.

The problem is that the owner of this home has been ordered to clean up the property before. The report lists several notices issued to the owner in 2018 and 2019, but further inspections found non-compliance.

At one point in 2019, the owner did hire someone to “trim overgrowth” on the property, but the other issues weren’t addressed and the “vegetation that had been previously trimmed had grown back without apparent effort to address the overgrowth.”


You might not care about a house being “unsightly,” but it’s bad for communities to have rotting zombie houses. It’s also expensive. Taxpayers fork over for all of these inspections and reports.

The city is definitely taking all of this seriously, but this case shows how difficult it is to force compliance.

Absentee landlords seem to thumb their noses at cities.

Hopefully, this latest report will get the situation addressed. Our community will be the better for it.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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