Three days after being told to evacuate his home, RidgeView Place resident Justin Bergh is just scraping by.
Bergh said insurance company Square One told him they wouldn’t pay out under his “mass evacuation coverage” because the occupancy permit had been revoked due to “pre-existing structural safety issues, and not due to a sudden and accidental event.”
He also hasn’t received any of the money yet from building owners Centurion Apartment Properties Inc. and says he’s had to dip into reserve funds and ask family and colleagues for help, with three nights so far at a hotel draining his finances. Bergh came to Langford from Australia around a year ago, moving into the building with his wife and three kids. Bergh also owns two dogs, making finding a new place to live tough.
He’s looking at some AirBnbs that have agreed to lift their no-dogs policy given the situation and is looking at a potential house in Colwood on Friday.
“I’ve got time off work. My wife’s got time off work right now so we can get through this and try and sort something out. Trying to keep the kids in some sort of routine with their schools and everything else too,” he said, noting that was challenging with them staying in a hotel in Saanich and having to commute back and forth to drop them off at school.
Bergh says he’s seen a lot of people willing to help out and lower rental housing prices, although he’s noticed a couple of landlords and apartment buildings raise their prices knowing there’s a new raft of potential tenants looking for places to live.
“Everything’s out of pocket right now until we can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Centurion initially offered residents $1,000 in a “compassionate assistance gesture,” which has been upped to $2,500 after the company learned “some residents are experiencing some difficulty accessing tenants’ insurance,” the company wrote in a statement.
Residents who have pre-approved payments set up have already received the first $1,000, according to a statement from Centurion. For those who don’t, like Bergh, the first $1,000 will be available for pickup at the Centurion Regional Office before the end of the week, with the second promised $1,500 cheque available early next week.
Justin Bergh came to Langford from Australia around a year ago, moving into the building with his wife and three kids, but they all spent Monday night in a hotel pic.twitter.com/hMjNH6p6UW— bailey (@moreton_bailey) April 26, 2023
Centurion also said they’d bolstered staff to help residents navigate the situation, although Bergh said he’s not noticed much support.
Other families have had better luck. Josh Nietzel and his family have found a new place near McKenzie Avenue in Saanich and were packing up furniture on Thursday as they prepared to move into their new house.
“We’ve been staying at one of my mom’s friend’s house since Monday. We gathered what we could have for our personal belongings very quickly, we got all of them put inside the garage and now we’re just getting all the bigger stuff now like couches and tables and such,” he said. “I’ve been missing a couple of days of school as well … it’s a big mess.”
Nietzel, 18, goes to Belmont Secondary and has had to take days off school and his part-time job at Glenwood Meats.
“It’s really saddening but really disappointing, too. When we moved to this place and we have to pay a crap ton of rent … they didn’t even notify us like a week before about the building not being in good shape. And then just making us leave just like that. It’s really sad but really infuriating.”
His mother Rachel Esporoza said she’d enjoyed living in the building prior to Monday.
“It’s sad because we never expected this to happen … then knocking on the door ordering, ‘You have to leave right now,’ taking some clothes only and everybody was afraid,” she said. “There was a beautiful view in the apartment. It was my favourite because we have many memories there, with the family and everything.”
Community members have rallied to provide support.
A GoFundMe has been started by Langford resident Lisa Foxall and has raised $6,675 towards its $20,000 goal as of this writing. Some have offered up rooms in their house, like retired Sooke couple Mike Foster and Elke Rinzche. The room can’t take furniture or dogs, but they said it’s available for people who need a temporary home.
“We couldn’t imagine being in that situation or itself. So we set a little time to have to vacate your home.”