ST. LAZARE — Burned out of his Leduc St. home March 22, Allan Bassenden is being ordered to demolish what’s left of the house.
The family is also being reminded they’re not permitted to live indefinitely in the trailer on their property.
Bassenden, his wife, Joni Malley, adult daughter Nathalie Gagnon and granddaughter Bianca, left homeless after their house and its contents were destroyed, moved into the trailer after his insurance company refused to pay the claim.
The town’s edict came in the form of a Jan. 3 letter informing them that what’s left of the structure poses a danger, violates the town’s building code and must be taken down by the middle of next month.
The letter also reminds the family of Bylaw 160, which prohibits residents from living in a trailer on their property for more than two months after a principal residence has been destroyed. Bassenden has until Feb. 10 to inform the town in writing of his plans to remove it. In the meantime, the town’s fire department plans to inspect the trailer to see if it meets safety standards.
Bassenden, who has has since taken both his insurance company and the town to court, questions why the town waited until midwinter to put its foot down. “Last week, Mr. [town manager François] Vaillancourt called me to tell me they are planning to hire a contractor to give an estimate to clear the burned-out house away,” he said adding that the town will pay to have it done, then bill him.
Bassenden says he doesn’t have the estimated $5,000 to $10,000 and still hasn’t found work due to an infection in his foot. “I can barely walk,” he added.
He says he doesn’t have a Plan B if the town evicts him from his trailer but isn’t worried about the inspection. “Everything is up to code,” said Bassenden, who hired an electrician in October to connect the trailer to Hydro Quebec…”a $280 hook-up charge and I owe them $1,000 by the end of January… but I know they can’t cut me off in the winter.”
Town of St. Lazare communications director Geneviève Hamel confirmed the demolition notice and said the fire department will conduct their inspection sometime this week.
Bassenden’s insurer advanced the family $10,000 to cover emergency costs right after the fire, but soon cancelled their coverage and rejected their claim, citing Bassenden’s admission he was running a business repairing cars in the garage in violation of his homeowner’s policy.
Bassenden is disputing this and suing both the insurance company and the fire department for $800,000 plus $120 per day until the case is settled. He claims the fire department did not act quickly enough to put out the fire and that the fire hydrant closest to his home was not working, forcing firefighters to hook up to the next one further down the street.
In October, the town responded to Bassenden’s allegations in the Montreal media by defending its firefighters, noting the response was done by the book and denying his claim that one of the hydrants was not working.
The town has turned a blind eye to Bassenden’s trailer because neighbours supported his claim and kept him supplied with electricity.
THE HUDSON ST. LAZARE GAZETTE – JULIE CADIEUX – January 18, 2012