Landlord Vinesh Jose Pothokkaran says he is afraid — and so are the contractors he needs to hire — to enter his North End rental property and make improvements ordered by the City of Winnipeg.
Jose Pothokkaran has been told by the city to hire a certified electrician to pull a permit for minor electrical work he did last summer in the duplex he owns at 499 Pritchard Ave. Accompanying the order was a bill for a $1,050 administrative fee from bylaw officers.
"They say they are doing their duty," Jose Pothokkaran said. "They don’t care if I am killed, or not."
Under city bylaws, electrical permits are issued only to certified electrical contractors (with the exception of owners of single, detached dwellings under certain circumstances) to install or replace lights, switches and receptacles.
Jose Pothokkaran said the tradespeople he’s talked to would rather pass up a job than work on his beleaguered property.
"They were all threatened by the tenants and the drug dealers," he said. "They don’t want to do the work."
In the last two years alone, the two-storey duplex has been broken into at least 40 times, he said, and late last winter the main-floor suite was destroyed by intruders who smashed the lights, prompting the work the city took issue with.
“They say they are doing their duty. They don’t care if I am killed, or not.” – Jose Pothokkaran
The landlord says he has been assaulted on multiple occasions by tenants and their acquaintances while he attended to the property; he has received death threats from people he suspects are tied to gangs.
"I am not able to do the work because of the threat," he said. "And I don’t get any security from the cops or the City of Winnipeg."
Since he took possession five years ago, Jose Pothokkaran said he’s invested heavily in the property: it required pest treatment and major renovations; a fire three years ago then set him back thousands of dollars; thieves have made off with appliances and have ransacked the suites; and some tenants have used the property for drug dealing and sex work, he said.
Jose Pothokkaran said he’s repeatedly called police to the address to no avail, and has shared his safety concerns to bylaw officers. At this point, he said he is out of options and money, and the building has sat vacant since October.
"The problem is still there. It’s not over," Jose Pothokkaran said. "I am not in a position to do any work there. I am, myself, afraid to go there.
"Now I am not safe there. My life is not safe."
The city did not accommodate a Free Press request for an interview or describe the nature of the electrical work in question.
The landlord says he swapped a total of two light fixtures in the living room and kitchen and didn't know he required a permit to make the changes.
Jose Pothokkaran has appealed the order to the property and development committee, which meets Monday morning. He's asking to have the fee waived and for more time to find an electrician willing to look over his handiwork.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.