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Owner of derelict South Surrey home billed $19K for cleanup

‘We are in the trenches with trying to survive,’ says Maureen Sutton MacDonald
The back-side of a home located at 132 Street and 15A Avenue. The City of Surrey last month billed the owner $19,300 for cleanup work. (Sobia Moman file photo)

The City of Surrey has billed the owner of a derelict South Surrey home more than $19,000, after a deadline to clean up their site by March 31 was not met.

But Maureen Sutton MacDonald, a senior, says she is not to blame for the condition of the home and property, including the abundance of items inside and extensive mould.

Explaining that she had inherited the home and its multitude of possessions following the death of her mother in 2009, Sutton MacDonald said she and her husband cut short their trip to Portugal after the hot-water-on-demand pipe at the home failed during January’s extreme cold. It resulted in thousands of gallons of water running unchecked for three days, which ultimately resulted in mould.

“It’s just been horrible,” Sutton MacDonald told Peace Arch News.

“How can a pipe breaking be our fault? It’s how you handle it, but how can I handle this? This is unquestionably unfair.”

A city contractor was tasked to clean up the site in early April, following neighbourhood complaints. The undertaking was not the first time the city has stepped in at the property. A cleanup was also conducted five years ago.

READ MORE: Owner of run-down South Surrey property given till March 31 to clean up

The invoice for the latest work, totalling $19,300, covers five hours spent at the 13191 15A Ave. property, as well as “costs associated with handling and disposing of garbage and hazardous materials, equipment expenses, staff time and more,” a statement from city officials explains.

The tab will be added to Sutton MacDonald’s tax bill “for the next calendar year” if it is not paid, the statement adds.

Sutton MacDonald, noting she ran for Surrey city council and the role of Green Party MLA in 1996, said she has been overwhelmed by the current situation. Compounding it, she said, is the fact she and her husband have been told they have to leave the White Rock apartment they have been renting by June 30, due to the mould count resulting from bringing items from the house to clean.

She said rather than anyone offering to help – as people do for each other during natural and other disasters, she noted – she and her husband have had to fend for themselves. On top of that, their house-insurance provider “reneged” on their coverage, citing the fact the house was not checked daily during their absence.

“We are in the trenches with trying to survive,” she said.

“If we had an earthquake and we were all in it, we would all be helping each other.”

Sutton MacDonald said she did not reach out to PAN for “a pity party,” but rather a focus on how she’s survived, and what she’s achieved in her 71 years. She named world travel, dabbling in politics, winning a B.C. bread-making competition and amassing collectibles – including gloves worn by Muhammad Ali – as among highlights.

She also wants others to learn from her experience with hot-water-on-demand, and the need to ensure there is a turn-off valve. While the systems are “a pleasure… sometimes, they blow, and you have to be in the know,” she said.

Sutton MacDonald’s property went up for sale at the end of March. As of Tuesday (May 16), the listing – posted to with a price of $1,699,900 – was still active.

“House has no value,” the description notes.
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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