Tenant Intimidation Through Pet Eviction

Are certain tenants being targeted for harassment?

Interestingly only the activist tenants have been given notices. The other 11 tenants who own pets have not yet received notices, even though the building owners have stated it is their intention to do so.

Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons rescues cats. He adopted 2 of his 3 feline companions (Muffin, Tigger, and Athena) from tenants who couldn’t keep their pets because of strict no pet policies by their landlords. Luckily Andrew always lived in cat-friendly buildings in the West End. Such buildings are rare finds these days, especially considering the appox. 0.5% vacancy rate. But in 2002, when Andrew moved into the Emerald Terrace Apartments at 2045 Nelson, it was a virtual cat heaven, and Andrew was given permission to keep his pets in a verbal agreement with the building manager.

Leanne Cook

Leanne Cook

Even now, at least 11 other cat owners still live in the 17-story high-rise.

One of those other tenants is Leanne Cook who shares her 1 bedroom apartment with her 2 furry family members, Isahia (pronounced eye-zay-ah) and Mullen.

“They’re my babies, my children. They are my life.” says Leanne

Leanne has lived at the Emerald Terrace apartments for five years. Isahia was found as a stray kitten just after Leanne moved into the building. She asked the resident manager if she could keep the stray and was given permission to do so.

Hollyburn Properties took possession of the Emerald Terrace Apartments on September 21, 2007.

Andrew and Leanne are active members of their West End community and belong to the Renters At Risk  group. They both feature prominently in online pictures of the Renters Rally held in Nelson Park on Oct. 25, 2008. Since the June 2008 Renters at Risk Forum, Andrew has spent considerable time organizing tenants in Emerald Terrace to hold the owners, Hollyburn Properties Ltd., accountable around maintenance and security issues.

On Nov. 24, 2008 their landlord served Andrew and Leanne with “No Pets Policy” notices giving them 14 days to “locate permanent alternate shelter for your pet” or be served with eviction notices.

Emerald Terrace Apartments

Emerald Terrace Apartments

At the time of this writing, no other pet-owning Emerald Terrace tenant has been served with a similar notice. Both Andrew and Leanne are filing with the Residential Tenancy Office to dispute these pet evictions.

“I would never give them up”, expresses an angry Andrew. “Does Hollyburn really think I’ll give up my cats to stay in this building? This can’t be about my cats.”

Andrew asserts the building owner is refusing to honour his existing rental agreement as they are prescribed to do, “This is not a pet issue.”

Staff at the Residential Tenancy Office confirm that new building owners must abide by previous tenancy agreements, both written and verbal, with regards to the pet policy. This practice is known as “grandfathering”. Indeed it is curious that only Andrew and Leanne have received the “No Pets Policy” notices while many other tenants continue to live in peace with their feline friends in the same building.

Renters At Risk Campaign supports Andrew and Leanne’s fight to keep their furry family members at home. Stay tuned for updates on the Emerald Terrace dispute.

NDP MLA introduces bill to protect renters

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Spencer Herbert speaking at the Rally for Renters' Rights

Spencer Herbert speaking at the Rally for Renters' Rights

Vancouver-Burrard NDP MLA Spencer Herbert introduced today (November 27) a member’s bill to protect renters, including his own West End constituents, who are facing skyrocketing rents and eviction notices.

The 27-year-old rookie MLA’s bill is called the Long Term Renters Protection Act.

“In my constituency of Vancouver-Burrard, I’ve heard from many long-term residents who face possible rent increases of 30 percent, 50 percent and even upwards of 100 percent,” Herbert said in the legislature, according to the draft Hansard transcript. “These increases are over and above their annual allowable increase, which they’ve always paid—up to 100 percent. Many of these residents are seniors and people living on fixed incomes. None can afford these increases.”

Herbert added, “This current legislation makes a mockery of renter protection and a balanced renter-tenant relationship. This sort of practice is happening all over the province in this tight rental market. This bill will go a long way to fixing the unbalanced residential tenancy legislation and keep these people in their homes.”

In closing, Herbert said, “No other province allows this kind of thing to happen to renters. We shouldn’t here.”

On November 24, Herbert focused his debut speech in the legislature on the province’s handling of housing issues in downtown Vancouver.

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Photo stuartmatthews.ca

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NDP MLA Spencer Herbert hammers Liberals on housing

Spencer Herbert - Photo Brent Granby

Spencer Herbert - Photo Brent Granby

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By Charlie Smith
The Straight

Veteran Liberal MLAs must have wondered, “Who is the hell is this kid? And where the hell did the NDP find such a polished debater?”

The “kid”, 27-year-old newly minted NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, gave the Liberals a verbal spanking–with plenty of oratorical flourish–in his debut speech in the legislature today.

Most of the time, he focused on the Campbell government’s handling of housing issues in downtown Vancouver.

“I enterthis House in a time when our economy is deeply troubled,” Herbert began today, according to the draft transcript on the legislature Web site. “I enter this House when our climate and environment are under threat. I enter this House when poverty in our community and the child poverty rate continues to be at the all-time high across Canada, and I enter this place when many in our communities do not believe in this House’s power to do good anymore. And I’ve got to say that I don’t blame them sometimes.

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He went on to say that “this House has failed our province and has failed our children in many respects”.

“Many of our members speak of the future and of looking out for their grandchildren’s future,” he said in a clear reference to Premier Gordon Campbell’s favourite rhetorical trick. “For me, I speak of looking out for my generation and my future generation’s future and the future we will face.”
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Herbert noted that we are facing some of the greatest challenges ever. “My community of Vancouver-Burrard is a place where neighbours look out for one another,” he said, according to the draft transcript. “Many don’t have a lot, but they have a community. When you’re paying $1,300 for a 500-square-foot apartment, you get to know your neighbours, your parks and your community centres like the West End and Roundhouse community centres.”

Later, he said that for many British Columbians, their homes are the only place of security as savings vanish and the economic picture grows bleak. “But just when people need their homes the most, many in my community and yours are facing the loss of their homes or are afraid that they will be next,” Herbert said, according to the draft transcript. “I speak of the residents of the Seafield in the West End, who are expecting eviction notices any day now so that the landlord can slice up the historic building into small pieces and rent it out for massive amounts of money — rents that none of the current residents can afford, and they’re already paying very high rents.”

He told MLAs about 83-year-old West End resident Roland McFalland his 91-year-old sister Mary who live in the building. “They don’t know where they will turn to when they’re forced out,” Herbert said. “They’ve been great tenants, have offered to work with the landlord to make any necessary renovations occur, but it’s not enough. More money and massively increasing the rent seem to be all that matter.”

He described how the Renters at Risk group has stood up for tenants, but the government has ignored these concerns. “I think of Laurie, who is 85 and who didn’t want her last name used for fear of reprisal,” Herbert said, according to the draft transcript. “She recently faced the prospect of a rent increase of 30 percent — 30 percent. Why? She’d always paid her rent, paid her taxes, paid the yearly rent increases, followed the rules. Why is this happening?”

Then he got to the guts of the matter, claiming that the Residential Tenancy Act is not balanced.

“It’s happening because when this act was drafted, concerns of renters were ignored,” Herbert claimed. “These changes have thrown our system out of balance and allowed many to be thrown out of their homes. I’ve spoken to people whose home is now Stanley Park — the forests of Stanley Park. They were living on disability in a rental building and were forced out due to the changes brought in. They couldn’t afford to move and couldn’t afford anywhere else. So now they’re sleeping outside in the cold, terrified.”

He pointed out that in the last seven and a half years, the number of homeless people in Vancouver has risen by almost 400 percent. “My community is tired of stepping over homeless people, and the homeless people in my community are tired of being stepped over,” Herbert said, according to the draft transcript. “They need supportive housing now so that they can get off the streets and into programs that help them with mental illness, help them with substance abuse and drug addiction problems, help them get back to living productive lives

“I know this House is often one of chest-beating and desk-thumping, a place where the theatre of partisan politics is played out. I appeal to the members opposite, on behalf of my constituents, to take action now for renters and those living on the street. This is a House where our province’s business is supposed to get done, a house we British Columbians and fellow British Columbians look to, to support those most vulnerable, to look out for their interests, a house full of members who have secure homes to go to. I appeal to all to remember those whose homes are not secure and those without homes. We have the power to make positive change for and with our communities. Let us use that power now to keep people in their homes and to house those without them.”

All things considered, it was an auspicious beginning for the new NDP MLA for Vancouver-Burrard.

Source – http://www.straight.com/article-172253/vancouverburrard-ndp-mla-spencer-herbert-hammers-liberals-housing

BC Supreme Court Decisions

Two recent BC Supreme Court decisions have given some assurance to renters in the West End that they cannot be evicted for minor renovations to their units.

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courtsCase # 1: Mark Allman v. Amacon Property Management Services Inc.
2007 BCCA 141 Allman v. Amacon Property Management Services Inc.

This is an appeal of the Supreme Court order of Mr. Justice Slade quashing the decision of Arbitrator Morrow on judicial review. Arbitrator Morrow’s decision upheld Notices to End Tenancy delivered to numerous tenants of Richmond Gardens by the landlord Amacon, which sought to undertake renovations on vacant suites. 
The Residential Tenancy Act, s. 49(6)(b) provides that a landlord may end a tenancy if it has all the necessary permits and approvals required by law, and intends in good faith, to renovate or repair the rental unit in a manner that requires the rental unit to be vacant.

Arbitrator Morrow accepted that it is possible to upgrade a suite while the tenant is still living there, but that it is both easier and less expensive to do those upgrades in a vacant suite. Slade J. said the phrase “in a manner” in RTA s. 49(6)(b) refers to the nature and extent of the intended renovations, not the means by which the landlord intends to carry out the renovations. Slade J. found Arbitrator Morrow’s decision devoid of any analysis of whether the renovations, due to their nature and extent, require (i.e. make necessary) vacant possession. Slade J. found Arbitrator Morrow’s decision to be patently unreasonable.

The issue on appeal is the correctness of Slade J.’s finding that Arbitrator Morrow’s interpretation and application of RTA s. 49(6)(b) was patently unreasonable. HELD by Thackray J., Levine J. concurring: Appeal allowed in part. Administrative Tribunals Act s. 58(2)(a) directs that Arbitrator Morrow’s finding of fact or law must not be interfered with unless it is patently unreasonable. ATA s. 58(3) factors are inapplicable as Arbitrator Morrow’s decision was not discretionary. The word “reasonably” should be read into RTA s. 49(6)(b) so that it reads: “…in a manner that reasonably requires the rental unit to be vacant…” RTA s. 49 cannot be read in a manner that gives landlords the discretion to terminate tenancies on the sole basis that they would be financially advantaged in having vacant possession.

In finding as a fact that vacant possession was not necessary, but then upholding vacancy notices that, in order to be lawful, must be based upon renovations done in a manner that “requires” vacant possession, Arbitrator Morrow came to a clearly irrational and patently unreasonable decision. Arbitrator Morrow found as a fact that the proposed renovations do not require vacant possession and it is not appropriate to send the matter back for reconsideration. The appeal of paragraphs 2 & 3 of Slade J.’s order remitting the validity of the Notices to End Tenancy back to arbitration for individual determination, and stay of the notices pending the reconsideration decision, is allowed. The appeal of paragraph 1 of Slade J.’s order setting aside Arbitrator Morrow’s decision is dismissed.
Lowry J.A. dissenting: The arbitrator’s decision was not in law patently unreasonable. It was a reasoned decision, it was not irrational.

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berry and kloet
Case # 2, Berry and Kloet v. British Columbia
(Residential Tenacy Act, Arbitrator)

According to Sarah Berry, one of the tenants involved in this case, there are 3 main points in the court’s decisions that support tenants’ rights:

1) If a tenant agrees to move out temporarily to accommodate renos, they should not be evicted.

2) If vacancy is only required for a brief period of time, it would not be reasonable to evict someone from their home permanently.

3) The Act is designed to support security of tenure. Thus, any ambiguity in interpreting the Act should be resolved IN FAVOUR OF THE TENANT, who is the more vulnerable party.

Source: http://www.wera.bc.ca/index.php?itemid=334

For the full version of the decision:
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/Jdb-txt/SC/07/02/2007BCSC0257.htm

Tool Box of Information for Rental Issues

Are you being threatened with eviction? Call TRAC – Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre – Mon. to Thurs. – 9am – 5pm – In Vancouver call 604-255-0546. Or outside the lower mainland: 1-800-665-1185

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14 December 2007

Rent Increase Policy Guideline document GL37

www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/GL37.pdf

Judge Williamson’s Supreme Court ruling of February 12 2007 in the case of Berry and Kloet v. British Columbia (Residential Tenancy Act, Arbitrator) and Hollyburn Properties

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb txt/sc/07/02/2007bcsc0257.htm

NOTE: On February 12, 2007, Judge Williamson ruled that because the tenants were cooperative and agreed to move out (temporarily empty the rental unit/s) while the landlords effected the cosmetic renovations they wished to do, the tenants’ lease is not broken but continues as before. Had the tenants refused to cooperate, the landlords could have evicted them.

Following this ruling, in favour of tenants, dated February 12, 2007, the Ministry of Housing added wording to the Rent Increase Policy Guideline in August 2007, enabling landlords to apply to the RTO (residential tenancy office of the Ministry of Housing) for a rent increase above and beyond the allowable increase for the year, at least three months in advance, under very clear and specific conditions, e.g. they cannot target only a few units in the complex, but must submit to the RTO a comprehensive, detailed, plan for renovation of the entire building complex, naming tenants and specifying the rent the “now” pay, and submitting quotations from the contractor for the renovation of the entire building.

Landlords must submit full copy of this application to all tenants in the building, with supporting documents, advising them of the date of the “hearing” at the RTO, at least three months in advance, to enable tenants to be present at the hearing and prepare themselves with counter-arguments and proofs to refute additional rent increases.

If landlords send notices to tenants without going through this procedures, the notices are illegal. Tenants should immediately see a Dispute Resolution Officer of the RTO, with the notice in hand and ask the RTO to declare such notices illegal, insisting that the landlord follow the above described procedure according to the government’s guidelines and regulations.

Rulings of The Honourable Madam Justice Levine and The Honourable Mr. Justice Thackray” on the Allman vs. Amacon Properties can be read here:

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb txt/ca/07/03/2007bcca0302.htm

Residential Tenancy Office: rto.gov.bc.ca

Residential Tenancy Act

http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/stat/R/02078_01.htm

Residential Tenancy Regulation

http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/reg/R/ResTenancy/477_2003.htm

Part 4 — Rent Increases
22 Annual rent increase
23 Additional rent increase
Additional Rent Increase for Residential Tenancy

http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/reg/R/ResTenancy/477_2003.htm#section23

Additional rent increase

23 (1) A landlord may apply under section 43 (3) of the Act [additional rent increase] if one or more of the following apply:

(a) after the rent increase allowed under section 22 [annual rent increase], the rent for the rental unit is significantly lower than the rent payable for other rental units that are similar to, and in the same geographic area as, the rental unit;

(b) the landlord has completed significant repairs or renovations to the residential property in which the rental unit is located that

(i) could not have been foreseen under reasonable circumstances, and

(ii) will not recur within a time period that is reasonable for the repair or renovation;

(c) the landlord has incurred a financial loss from an extraordinary increase in the operating expenses of the residential property;

(d) the landlord, acting reasonably, has incurred a financial loss for the financing costs of purchasing the residential property, if the financing costs could not have been foreseen under reasonable circumstances;

(e) the landlord, as a tenant, has received an additional rent increase under this section for the same rental unit.

(2) If the landlord applies for an increase under paragraph (1) (b), (c), or (d), the landlord must make a single application to increase the rent for all rental units in the residential property by an equal percentage.

(3) The director must consider the following in deciding whether to approve an application for a rent increase under subsection (1):

(a) the rent payable for similar rental units in the residential property immediately before the proposed increase is intended to come into effect;

(b) the rent history for the affected rental unit in the 3 years preceding the date of the application;

(c) a change in a service or facility that the landlord has provided for the residential property in which the rental unit is located in the 12 months preceding the date of the application;

(d) a change in operating expenses and capital expenditures in the 3 years preceding the date of the application that the director considers relevant and reasonable;

(e) the relationship between the change described in paragraph (d) and the rent increase applied for;

(f) a relevant submission from an affected tenant;

(g) a finding by the director that the landlord has contravened section 32 of the Act [obligation to repair and maintain];

(h) whether, and to what extent, an increase in costs with respect to repair or maintenance of the residential property results from inadequate repair or maintenance in a previous year;

(i) a rent increase or a portion of a rent increase previously approved under this section that is reasonably attributable to the cost of performing a landlord’s obligation that has not been fulfilled;

(j) whether the director has set aside a notice to end a tenancy within the 6 months preceding the date of the application;

(k) whether the director has found, in dispute resolution proceedings in relation to an application under this section, that the landlord has

(i) submitted false or misleading evidence, or

(ii) failed to comply with an order of the director for the disclosure of documents.

(4) In considering an application under subsection (1), the director may

(a) grant the application, in full or in part,

(b) refuse the application,

(c) order that the increase granted under subsection (1) be phased in over a period of time, or

(d) order that the effective date of an increase granted under subsection (1) is conditional on the landlord’s compliance with an order of the director respecting the residential property.

(5) If the total amount of the approved increase is not applied within 12 months of the date the increase comes into effect, the landlord must not carry forward the unused portion or add it to a future rent increase, unless the director orders otherwise under subsection (4).

[am. B.C. Reg. 234/2006, s. 18.]

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