Gordon Nelson Investments Drop Appeal Of Seafield Supreme Court decision overturning RTO’s 38% rent increases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Gordon Nelson Abandon Appeal of Decision Denying them a 38% Rent Increase

Residents of the Seafield Apartments learned yesterday that landlords Gordon Nelson Investments dropped their appeal of Madam Justice Loo’s Supreme Court decision denying them a 38% rent increase.

This is a big win for all renters in Vancouver and BC at large as the decision, which now goes unchallenged, helps to clarify the law around geographic area rent increases.

The decision shows that landlords aren’t entitled to an additional rent increase simply because a couple of tenants pay higher rents in a similar unit; Dispute Resolution Officers must look at all the evidence about the whole market for similar units in the same area, not just the evidence dealing with a few higher rents.

Justice Loo also expressed doubt that the rent increase legislation is meant to let a landlord use the higher rents it is getting for newly rented units to bootstrap up the rent in other units in the same building.

While this is a major win for Seafield tenants too, the case is still supposed to be reheard at the Residential Tenancy Office (RTO), which adjudicates disputes between landlords and tenants under the Province’s Residential Tenancy Act. Residents have not been informed of any hearing date.

Background

Jason Gordon and Chris Nelson of Gordon Nelson Investments filed an application for a rent increase at the Seafield of up to 73% in January 2009.

The pair made their application under the additional rent increase section of the residential tenancy act.  This section allows landlords to receive a higher than normal annual rent increase if they can show that residents in their building pay significantly lower rents than those in similar buildings in the same geographical area. (The normal increase for 2009 was 3.7%.)

Despite the breadth and quality of the tenants’ evidence, Dispute Resolution Officer K. Miller of the RTO did not consider the tenants evidence and granted Gordon Nelson Investments a 38% rent increase in April 2009.

Seafield residents applied for a Judicial Review of the 38% rent increase in August 2009, and the Supreme Court of British Columbia set aside the RTO’s decision because it was found to be “patently unreasonable” in January 2010.

Residents at the 14-unit apartment building in Vancouver’s West End have been pressured by Gordon Nelson Investments since the former Bodog executives purchased the building in the summer of 2008.

All original tenants in the building are still living in their apartments, despite more than a year and a half of threats to their ongoing tenancies.

West End Renters Triumph Against Landlords

NEWS: West End renters triumph against landlords

Source: The Westender
By: Jackie Wong
01/21/2010 12:00 AM

After more than a year of tenant-landlord conflict, residents of the West End’s Seafield apartment building were relieved last week to learn that the rent increases applied for by their landlords were overturned by the B.C. Supreme Court. The January 12 judgement by Supreme Court Justice Linda Loo called the landlords’ application for 15- to 38-per-cent increases in the 78-year-old building “patently unreasonable.”

A B.C. Supreme Court judge declared it “unreasonable” that the landlords of the West End’s Seafield apartment building (pictured) applied to increase rents by up to 38 per cent. Credit: Jackie Wong

Madame Justice Loo ordered the landlords — a brother-in-law duo who own Gordon Nelson Investments, a property management firm that purchased the Seafield in summer 2008 — to refund tenants the difference of the increased rents they had paid since April 2009, the month in which a dispute-resolution officer at the B.C. Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) controversially approved Gordon Nelson’s application for the increases. The landlords argued the increases would bring the Seafield, a 14-unit building located at 1436 Pendrell Street, up to market value.

The Seafield’s close-knit community of long-term tenants banded together to bring the dispute before the Supreme Court in November 2009, in the hope of drawing attention to what they and other tenants’ rights advocates saw as unfair legislation.

Seafield tenants will likely start receiving refunds in the form of deductions on upcoming months’ rents, although this has not been confirmed. But the tenants aren’t sure when or if they’ll be back in court, in the event that their landlords appeal the judgement. Property manager Chris Nelson told WE in an e-mail that he and Gordon Nelson Investments partner Jason Gordon will make a decision within the 30-day time frame allowed for appeal.

A statement on Gordon Nelson’s website says the company is confident that the Seafield rent increases will be restored in a re-hearing or “quite possibly result in a larger market-supported rent increase, as rents in Vancouver and the West End have continued to increase in the face of tough economic times.”

A representative from the B.C. Ministry of Housing and Social Development, who asked not to be named in this article, told WE the ministry is currently reviewing the Supreme Court decision, and that a new hearing will be scheduled in the near future.

The rent-increase issue is the last in a long line of disagreements between Seafield tenants and Gordon Nelson Investments. In fall 2008, WE reported that Seafield tenants felt threatened by Gordon Nelson’s intimations that tenants would be evicted to make way for building renovations. “After only a month of living here, I was being told I was going to get kicked out of my own home,” recalls Seafield tenant Melissa Mewdell. “I had no idea what to do about it. If these guys weren’t around to help me,” she adds, gesturing to her neighbours, who have supported each other through the conflict, “I probably would have left.”

Even though the disputes have resulted in Seafield tenants becoming extremely well versed in residential tenancy procedure, the lack of transparency they’ve experienced at the RTO has been troubling, says Mark Moore, who lives at the Seafield with his family. “You can’t find out how many of these cases there are [at the RTO]. You can’t find out how they were decided. There are no transcripts kept of any hearing. If this is where things are going to be adjudicated… it would at least be nice to know what’s going on here. This is notwithstanding the fact that we never know how many people are evicted who never go to the RTO because they don’t complain.”

Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Herbert has been working with Seafield tenants and other local renters during their lengthy struggles with the province’s residential tenancy system. As part of efforts to resolve what he sees as gaps in B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act that leave long-term renters vulnerable to unfair rent increases, Herbert brought forward a private member’s bill in November 2008. It has not yet been reviewed in the B.C. Legislature.

“I really hope that Housing Minister Rich Coleman will look at [the Seafield] decision and will look at the evidence, which is piling up, and decide that the Residential Tenancy Act needs to be reformed,” Herbert says. “B.C. renters owe a huge debt of thanks to the Seafielders for their perseverance, but think about the huge number of people out there who don’t have those resources, who don’t have that sense of community to support each other.”

Way cleared for 38% hike in heritage apartment rent

Residents of the Seafield Apartment Building, Photo: Shauna Lewis

Residents of the Seafield Apartment Building, Photo: Shauna Lewis

RESIDENTIAL TENANCY ACT

Way cleared for 38% hike in heritage apartment rent
Decision highlights flaws in law and will allow landlords to drive up rents, critics say

WENDY STUECK

April 24, 2009

Source: Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — A Residential Tenancy Branch decision has cleared the way for rent increases of up to 38 per cent, or about $500 a month, for a majority of units in the Seafield Apartments, a heritage West End building whose tenants had banded together to fight the increases.

Residents of the building, who include an elderly brother and sister who have lived in their apartment for nearly 50 years, yesterday declined to comment on the decision, which was reached earlier this month.

But renters’ groups and New Democratic Party candidate Spencer Herbert yesterday used the decision to highlight what they say are flaws in British Columbia’s Residential Tenancy Act.

“Landlords will use this loophole to drive up rents far above the allowable increase,” Mr. Herbert told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver. “In economic tough times, we should be doing more to protect renters, not less.”

Continue reading

West End tenants facing huge rent increase

West End tenants facing huge rent increase

It’s all because of a clause in the Residential Tenancy Act

Katharine Sawchuk/Dave White VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) | Friday, April 24th, 2009 7:20 am
Source: News1130

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Tenants in Seafield Apartments in Vancouver’s West End have been handed a 38 per cent rent increase. This is due to a regulation in the Residential Tenancy Act which lets landlords increase the rent if they can prove it’s significantly below market value.

Christine Ackerman with Renters at Risk says this marks the end of rent control in B.C. “This decision itself proves that rent controls in B.C. are no longer. They are dead, they do not exist because you can find a tenancy agreement and it says you’re going to pay this much rent, but your landlord is just going to go and apply for an above average rent increase. And you’re going to be paying before you know it, another $500 out of your pocket every month.”

Ackerman says tenants are hoping to have this reviewed, in which case the decision could be put on hold. She says Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert will help repeal the clause.

Chris Nelson with Gordon Nelson Investments – owners of the building – says tenants at the Seafield are paying 50 to 60 per cent below market value. “We believe that the Residential Tenancy Branch evaluated a lot of evidence from both us and the tenants and ruled that in several cases an increase was warranted.”

Nelson says they are disappointed they didn’t get the full amount of the requested rent increase.

Global TV coverage of Seafield rent increase

Story broadcast on April 23, 2009 at 5:00 PM on Global BC TV early news. Watch the video: Vancouver tenants get massive rent increases.

Tenants group website: Seafield Apartments

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