Southern Alberta man evicted by health order stemming from father’s unpaid back taxes

NEW DAYTON, ALTA. — A New Dayton man has found himself literally out in the cold, after being evicted from his family home, an action the mans neighbour described as heartless.

“How do you throw a man out of his home at this time of year?” asked Paches Zahorejko, who questioned why a tax dispute that had been going on for years with the County of Warner had suddenly become urgent.

“Why are they doing it in the winter time, at Christmas time, during a pandemic?” added Zahorejko.

Zahorejko’s neighbour Cory Duncan had probably lived in the hamlet of New Dayton longer than any other current residents. He had lived in the same house, previously owned by his parents, for the past 48 years, until he was served with an eviction notice on December 3.

“It’s intimidating when two bylaw peace officers show up, waiting to evict me,” said Duncan.

New Dayton, Alta.

Tax dispute

The action stems from a tax dispute that began several years ago, after Duncan’s father passed away. Duncan said his brother and half-sister were executors of their father’s estate, but have little contact with him, and were not interested in settling back taxes due on the property.

“The county has sent them letters of taxes notices, and they just return to sender. They don’t open them or look at them, they just send them back,” said Duncan.

He said he paid a lump sum on the taxes in 2018, but that didn’t stop the county from listing the property in a tax sale, to try and recover the unpaid property taxes.

“I wanted to make payments this time, to get everything squared up, and they just said all of it or nothing,” added Duncan, who claimed the county declined to set up a payment plan.

He said the county listed the property in a tax sale last October, but no one was interested in buying it.

The County of Warner said it can’t comment on private financial matters with individuals, but said during the process Alberta Health Services was asked to look at the property, and AHS issued an unfit for habitation order.

In an email, Shawn Hathaway, County of Warner chief administrative officer, confirmed the county was dealing with a tax sale issue with a resident. He also confirmed the county had received no offers for the property during the tax sale.

Zahorejko said if the county wanted to evict Duncan, they should have done it in the spring, or summertime. “I don’t understand this kind of stuff. Nobody in the County of Warner wants that house, so what’s the urgency?”

Hathaway said “it is important to remember the public health order on the property” and that the house was deemed “not fit to inhabit.”

The order was issued by Stephen Kirkpatrick, executive officer, Alberta Health Services. It states:

* Floor throughout house is missing sections allowing for direct access into the below crawlspace area.

* Ceiling in falling into the house, evidence of makeshift repairs present, but these are also falling into the house.

* Finishing issues throughout the home including, but not limited to: 1. Floors 2. Walls 3. Ceiling 4. Kitchen food preparation areas 5. Washroom facilities

Evicted

Duncan said the floor laminate was removed years ago when his father removed a wall to make the living room bigger. He said while some ceiling tiles were missing, he didn’t consider it a health risk.

“So it’s not pretty, it keeps the water off my head and keeps the snow off me. That’s all I care about, staying warm and in a safe place.”

Duncan questions why AHS was called in the first place, adding he had been living in the house for over 40 years and had never been sick because of it.

“I had all the basic essentials. Now I don’t.” he said.

Duncan, who works as a landscaper, said his job ended earlier than normal this year due to COVID-19 and it was unlikely he will be going back to work until spring.

“I have limited funds. So that makes it harder for me to find a place, or anywhere to live right now.”

Zahorejko said in his opinion, it demonstrates a lack of heart by county officials.

“What’s worse, that place he was living in … or underneath a gosh darn bridge in Lethbridge, or living in his car?”

Alberta Health Services provided a copy of the order, but declined to do an interview.

A spokesperson confirmed that when AHS is made aware of someone in need, their teams will connect with local municipalities to see how they can support people to transition to safe housing.

They did not respond to a question about whether the homeowner had been provided with time to make the necessary repairs.

The County of Warner said it had provided the resident with a list of contact numbers provided by the Family Community Support Services, an agency they partner with.

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