Ballard Fine Homes guilty of fake occupancy permits despite no knowledge at the time

CHEK

Editor’s Note: Ballard pleaded guilty to three counts of permitting occupancy without a valid permit. The permits had been forged by a management contractor without the company’s knowledge. While the company has learned of two other incidents, additional suspected infractions have not been the subject of any charges or disclosure.

A company that builds homes on central Vancouver Island has been sentenced for forging occupancy permits.

Ballard Fine Homes owner Don Ballard pleaded guilty on behalf of his company Tuesday to three bylaw infractions, even though he says he knew nothing about it happening.

The non-criminal offences involve his company’s forging of occupancy permits for three Qualicum Beach area homes in 2022.

“This is the first case we’ve ever seen of this type,” said Sandeep Uppal, the prosecutor for the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN).

The faked permits convinced homeowners to move into their new homes without the RDN’s knowledge or final inspection.

“By allowing homeowners to occupy homes without occupancy permits, Ballard Fine Homes and Darren Geaudrault exposed the public to safety risk if not a theoretical safety risk,” said Uppal.

The RDN first alleged Ballard Fine Homes had issued the fake permits in June of 2022.

Rick Long and his wife had moved into their new Qualicum Beach-area home and asked the RDN for their garbage and recycling cans. After sending his occupancy permit, he was shocked to hear it was a fake.

“A little bit panic. RDN showed up a couple days after that and said you may be evicted out of the house so that was a little stressful for my wife and I,” said Long.

The couple were able to remain in their home, and the occupancy permit arrived weeks later.

The regional district then started looking at other houses built by Ballard Fine Homes. They soon realized that this had been approximately 20 forged occupancy permits within the span of 11 years.

Ballard Fine Home’s lawyer says they were only aware of a fraction of those before Tuesday’s court hearing, and Ballard, on behalf of his company, pleaded guilty to three, even though he says Ballard had no knowledge of this happening.

He and Ballard both said in court that an independent contractor forged the permits.

“Immediately after he discovered that these permits had been forged, Ballard Fine Homes terminated its contractual relationship with Mr. Gaudreault. Mr. Ballard contacted the affected homeowners to apologize and ensure everyone that he would do everything in his power to rectify the situation,” said Josh Bloomenthal, Ballard’s lawyer.

Darren Gaudrealt, who was at the courthouse Tuesday, declined to comment to CHEK News. He’s facing related charges.

With the plea deal for Ballard Fine Homes, Don Ballard is also providing authorities with an audio recording in which Gaudrealt allegedly admits to falsifying the permits.

Geaudrault’s trial is set for March.

When given a chance to speak to the judge, Ballard said in part,” This never should’ve happened, and while he wasn’t a direct employee, I accept responsibility for his actions.”

Ballard Fine Homes was fined $6,000, the maximum penalty at the time of $2,000 per count and ordered to pay an extra $3,000 as a portion of the RDN’s more than $50,000 legal bill.

The province has since increased the maximum penalty for forging a single occupancy permit to $50,000.

Long agrees Ballard contacted him after the fake permit for his home came to light, and Ballard worked with them until the occupancy permit was issued.

“The house is beautiful. We’re happy to be here. Unfortunately, these circumstances happened, and we just have to move on,” said Long.

Ballard’s lawyer says Ballard Fine Homes has since changed how it operates, and the owner is now personally ensuring proper occupancy permits are issued before homeowners move in.

READ ALSO: Cowichan Valley homeowners allege contractor took deposits without finishing renovation jobs

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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