Maryland Street apartment fire sparks lawsuit against property manager

A Winnipeg property manager and an electrical contractor failed to take proper care and keep adequate insurance at a Maryland Street apartment building destroyed by fire last year, a lawsuit alleges.

The building at 426 Maryland St. had been the site of multiple fires before a large blaze on Jan. 8, 2020, damaged it so severely that the City of Winnipeg ordered it to be demolished.

On Aug. 24, 2021, the numbered company that owned the building filed a statement of claim seeking an unspecified amount from property manager Patrick Penner, along with the companies Harpenn Construction Ltd., K & P Properties Inc. and Thor Electric Ltd.

“The plaintiff states that as a result of the fire, it has suffered loss of past and future rental income of what it would have received had the apartment complex not been completely destroyed and returned to habitability,” the statement of claim says.

A statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court. A statement of defence has not been filed in the case. 

CBC News requested comment from Penner but did not receive a response. Other defendants listed in the statement of claim could not be reached Friday afternoon.

After two fires in January 2019 forced about 50 residents in the three-storey, 29-suite building to evacuate, the owner signed a contract with Penner and K & P Construction to manage the building, with Harpenn acting as general contractor to make repairs. 

Around 50 people were forced to flee the building after two fires in January 2019. The building remained vacant after that. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Penner or someone acting for those two companies then hired Thor as a subcontractor to do electrical work on the building, starting around October 2019.

That work caused the fire on Jan. 8, 2020, the lawsuit alleges.

The fire quickly spread through the building and forced the evacuation of nearby residences as firefighters tried to bring it under control.

A few days later, “the City of Winnipeg unilaterally deemed the apartment complex to pose a hazard and directed the entire apartment complex to be demolished … without any reasonable notice to the plaintiff or any notice whatsoever.”

The statement of claim goes on to say that the contract required Penner and the companies to have sufficient vacant building insurance in place, and made them responsible for the quality of work performed by any of their subcontractors. 

“The plaintiff says that the defendants are liable for any resulting loss to the plaintiff that would not have occurred but for the negligence and breaches of the defendants, including, but not limited to, complete destruction of the apartment complex and failure to have appropriate insurance coverage thereon,” the statement of claim says.

The owner is seeking payment for the damage to the property, breach of contract, loss of income and other damages.

A court date for the case has not been set.

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