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

Residents of 1436 Pendrell Street learned yesterday that landlords Gordon Nelson Investments dropped their appeal of Madam Justice Loo’s Supreme Court decision that denied them a 38% rent increase at the building.

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.

Jason Gordon and Chris Nelson of Gordon Nelson Investments filed an application to the RTO for a rent increase of up to 73% for residents of the Seafield Apartments 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 meet a very specific legal test showing 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%.)

Seafield residents put together a case that contained:
• A scientific survey that showed rents paid by residents in the building were in line with average rents paid at similar buildings in the same neighbourhood
• A custom analysis conducted by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that showed Seafielders were paying rents that were at or above the average paid for similar apartments in their neighbourhood
• Photos and letters from other West End residents living in nine other character buildings, showing that rents paid by Seafielders were in the same range (and were often higher) than rents in very similar (and in some cases, identical) apartments.

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 because residents felt that the decision was patently unreasonable and contained errors of law and of fact.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia heard the case on November 17 and 18, 2009, and 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. GNI has threatened “renovictions” (eviction of tenants under the guise that vacancy is necessary to conduct renovations), asked tenants to voluntarily agree to huge rent increases in return for a delay in renovictions, issued several eviction notices to individual tenants (all later rescinded or overturned at the RTO) and applied for the additional rent increases of up to 73%.

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.

3 Responses to “Gordon Nelson Abandon Appeal of Decision Denying them a 38% Rent Increase”

  1. Brady Says:

    Really happy to hear the news Seafielders!! I covered your story as a student journalist but have moved from the province and have lost touch.

    So checking back now to see the this post has really made my day.
    I was always amazed by your sense of community, perseverance and determination to see justice. I’m so happy to read that your community is still intact after all this process and I hope this last announcement means that you finally have found justice and peace in this matter. And maybe more importantly, I hope it means you have set a precedent in the courts that will protect renters in Vancouver.

    Way to go guys!!

  2. Derek Richer Says:

    Congratulations Seafielders in your obdurate defiance of tyranny and injustice. Gordon Nelson’s so-called confidence in an easy victory at appeal has suddenly evaporated. Without any legal substance their appeal was surely doomed to failure.

    Best of luck with the next stage of your mission to put the geographic profiling clause (of the RTA) in the dustbin of history. Eventually your brave fight for the rights of all tenants in B.C. will pay off handsomely.

  3. Business Man Says:

    What is the budget and head count of the office of accountability?

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