A deck collapse last month in Halifax’s south end at 921 Brussels Street sent six people to the hospital. In the aftermath of the horrific incident, Paul Pettipas, the CEO of the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association, told the Chronicle Herald that “in my opinion there was no maintenance done on this deck and the landlord’s responsible.”
That comment sparked the Examiner to conduct a review of landlord Darin Sweet’s properties. Sweet has an interest in 11 rental properties in Halifax—he either owns them directly, or as co-owner with Barbara Sweet, or through his company, H.U.M.A. Developments. H.U.M.A. also owns a rental property in Prospect Bay. Sweet is also a director of a numbered company that owns 5571 Cunard Street, the building that houses The Coast newspaper and other businesses, along with some apartments. The Cunard building is also the mailing address that most of Sweet’s property tax bills are sent to.
All told, Sweet either owns, partially owns, or has an interest in 13 properties assessed at over $7 million. Additional, the Sweet family home at 6240 Oakland Road is assessed at $1,398,700.
See all of Sweet’s properties in the interactive map below.
As in the case of the Brussels Street property, many of Sweet’s properties have large decks or balconies many metres above the ground. There are no court records naming Sweet or either of his companies, and my review of the quarterly reports to Halifax council about bylaw infractions found no mention of the properties either. My past experience as an employee at The Coast is that the building was at times plagued with rats or mice (there’s a furnace room Coast employees have designated “the rat room”) but Sweet addressed the infestations with reasonable speed.
I happened to run into Sweet on the street when I was taking pictures of his Brussels Street property, the site of the deck collapse, but he declined to speak to me. He was telling neighbours they should call him if they encounter future problems with the property.
A neighbour told me that last year, on Saint Patrick’s Day, the property was the site of an out-of-control party involving over 150 celebrants at 9:30 in the morning. “There’s only one toilet,” said the neighbour. “People were urinating outside.”
I got a nervous reaction to seeing the Sweet’s home address….it felt wrong to have that in print….is that just me….?
Septic system design rules are such that a failure should not affect anyone else’s property or watersheds. There are pretty simple ways to test the health of a field. Even if you don’t test, there are usually lots of warning signs before failure.
From what I understand, Sweet is a comparatively decent landlord, at least by the extremely low bar set by Halifax landlords.
Liability for this should absolutely rest with the landlord, however, I’d assume that someone with that much property interest isn’t a rookie, and would have liability insurance for just such eventualities.
On a different tack, how many people have their septic tanks pumped on some sort of schedule? How many septic systems have suffered a failure because it was not properly maintained? How many HRM households have septic systems, and how many are properly maintained? Is there a test available to determine the health of a septic field? Septic systems are one of those ticking time bombs that exists but is rarely reported on; but is very, very expensive to replace when one fails. It has been suggested in the past that HRM should have a septic system monitoring program that a home buyer could check to determine the age and maintenance frequency for a property when it comes on the resale market…. not to mention that a failed septic system, could contaminated the water shed for a part or the whole of a community… has this ever happened?
One might blame the present landlord, if he/she were the one to have had the faulty deck installed; but perhaps the deck existed as a part of the property when the present landlord purchased the property. Was the deck inspected by the city when it was first installed? How old is the deck? Were proper building codes ignored, and if yes, should the deficiencies have been visible for a qualified construction inspector or home property inspector to find? Just a few of the questions that need to be answered. Structures that look and are safe when first built, can become unsafe over time, even when proper building codes have been adhered to. Perhaps all decks should be inspected every ten or so years… we never think much about decks, except when a failure of one hits the news.
I’ve been disappointed by the number of online comments blaming the tenants for the deck collapse. A well built deck simply does not fall off a house. People should not need to worry about their deck any more than any other floor – would be we blaming the students if the living room floor collapsed? When was the last time anybody worried about too many people in their living room, or that they might be dancing?
I agree Darrell. Lots of decks have a bit of give and nobody thinks about it. There were 6 people out there, not 20, which would be a reasonable number for a deck that size. Landlords have a duty of care and shouldn’t be allowed to build structures that do not meet code (which obviously happened here). Unfortunately, some of them do things on the cheap and circumvent the processes that are in place. Personally, they should have the book thrown at them when something happens as a direct result of these types of negligent actions. Also, according to the news reports, the current tenant only moved in recently, so wouldn’t have had anything to do with last year’s party(not that this would be relevant regardless). Renters should not be responsible for the previous tenant’s actions(or their landlord’s) in a case like this. Period.
Would there be the same public response if the deck had held a group of old ladies sipping tea? We have building codes for a reason. Structural problems are not always evident at a glance. Do not blame the victims. A loud party at that address is an entirely separate issue.
Well, I won’t «bait the bull» but I DID send a typical keyplayer Red-neck Rant to Info Morning and the Mayor’s Office in part of which I surmised that although the landlord certainly bears some responsibility, unless brain-dead or drunked-up, a reasonably observant (not necessarily even intelligent!) person would have exercise much more caution before stomping around on an OBVIOUSLY flimsy deck. The uncovering of other drunkfests at that address reinforces my posit.