Seafielders and Gordon Nelson Reach Parking and Storage Agreement

During the May 26 Residential Tenancy Branch hearing over Gordon Nelson Investments’ application to remove Seafielders’ storage lockers and parking spaces, and over their proposed compensation, a negotiated settlement was reached. All parties agreed to the following:

  • By June 15, 2010 Seafielders will vacate their storage lockers and parking spaces for GNI to use during the renovation of suite 2 (currently vacant) and some common areas.
  • While GNI is using the lockers and parking spaces, they will compensate tenants by reducing their rents to reflect the agreed upon reduction in the value of their tenancies.
  • GNI will return the storage lockers and parking spaces, without changing the current terms of the tenancies, no later than October 1, 2010.
  • GNI will reimburse the Seafielders’ application fee (paid to bring the dispute to the RTO), partly to Seafielders and partly as a donation to the Gordon Neighbourhood House.

This agreement was signed on behalf of all Seafield tenants and by Chris Nelson of GNI, on May 28, 2010.  It has been forwarded to the Dispute Resolution Officer who presided over the hearing, and will be formalized as a Dispute Resolution Order of the province’s Residential Tenancy Office.

Seafielders are pleased with the agreement, and with the lack of rancour shown at the hearing.  They remain optimistic that all parties can begin to find ways to solve problems without the need for costly and time-consuming disputes.

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Seafielders Head to Arbitration for Fifth Time in Under Two Years

Removing Storage and Parking is Latest in Gordon Nelson Investments Saga

Parking spreadsheet graph a1 Seafielders Head to Arbitration for Fifth Time in Under Two Years

A sample from Seafielder's Evidence Demonstrating Parking Costs in the West End VS. Gordon Nelson's Proposed Compensation

Residents of the Seafield Apartments return to the Residential Tenancy Office on May 26th, 2010, to attend yet another hearing as a result of the actions of Gordon Nelson Investments (GNI).

On March 2, 2010, GNI issued a formal notice to remove storage lockers for all tenants and private parking for five tenants, all of which have been hitherto included in rents paid.

Reasons given by GNI were that the company requires the parking spaces behind the building to accommodate a storage bin, and the storage lockers (on the lower level) for storage of construction materials, both in anticipation of unspecified upcoming work to be performed.

Included in the notice were offers of compensation far below the cost that tenants would incur to replace these services ($5 per month rent reduction for storage and a $25 per month rent reduction for parking), nor was there any indication that the services would be returned at a given time.

In addition, the rental figures used to calculate such reductions incorrectly included a 3.7% rent increase for 9 of the 13 apartments, which the landlord had neither formally applied for nor received.

Prior to the formal process being initiated, Seafielders had requested more information
about GNI’s construction plans, and pointed out that several other options exist for storage of tools – such as space in the boiler room, the laundry room, the paint room, the electrical room and the management office. In addition, the empty suite is located at the front of the building, closest to the street, which would be the usual location for a disposal bin.

Since the formal notice was issued, Seafielders have spent the considerable time necessary to accumulate data to prove their case that the lockers and parking are terms of their tenancies, and that the compensation offered is woefully inadequate.

After previously failing to respond to the residents’ requests, at the 11th hour, Gordon Nelson Investments offered to negotiate in lieu of heading back to the RTO.

Seafielders’ responded:

“We respectfully point out that we wrote you on February 18, asking for more clarity as to your plans for renovations, particularly as to the scale and scope of the work.  Your reply of March 2 simply reiterated your original (and in our view, inadequate) offers, and stated that we would receive formal notice of the removal of the parking and storage services.

“You had over a month before we filed for a dispute resolution hearing on March 30 to try to resolve this.  Instead, you waited for a total of almost three months, until the final day of evidence exchange before our hearing, before making another offer.

“Given that we have already gone to a great deal of time and trouble to collect and submit our evidence in preparation for the hearing, we think it best that we proceed to attempt to resolve our dispute at the Residential Tenancy Branch, in front of a Dispute Resolution Officer.  Any agreement that we might reach there will be enforceable by the Residential Tenancy Office.  And, if we fail to reach an agreement, the DRO will decide based on the arguments and evidence to be presented.”

It’s important to note that any time a formal notice is issued by the landlord it is incumbent upon the tenant(s) to respond in order to defend themselves or to make their case. However, in the event of a reversal or failure to show on the landlord’s part, or in the event of using the RTO process for the purpose of harassment, no compensation is offered to the tenant whatsoever.

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Hollyburn Properties Threatens Sick 82-Year-Old in Latest Emerald Terrace Evictions

Lynn Punky v2 Hollyburn Properties Threatens Sick 82 Year Old in Latest Emerald Terrace Evictions

Photo of 82-Year-Old Lynn Stevens, One of Two Emerald Terrace Residents Threatened with Eviction by Hollyburn Properties Last Week.

Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

Hollyburn is known for a lot of things (you may recall them trying to evict seniors for owning pets last year) – but threatening to evict an 82-year old lady who’s battling cancer?

That’s an all time low.

Hollyburn Properties Limited threatened two tenants at 2045 Nelson Street last week with evictions.

Why? To make way for resident building managers. (That’s right – more than one resident manager is apparently needed at Emerald Terrace).

Lynn Vac Sign 2 v2 Hollyburn Properties Threatens Sick 82 Year Old in Latest Emerald Terrace Evictions

And, to make matters worse, they’re choosing to evict tenants even though there are vacant apartments at the building that could be used for building managers.

One of their latest targets is 82-year-old Lynn Stevens, who is currently being treated for Ovarian cancer.

The other tenant threatened with eviction is Andrew Simmons  – a vocal renters’ right activist who was instrumental in fighting Hollyburn’s attempt to evict renters at Emerald Terrace last year for owning cats.

This will be Simmons’ second eviction notice in 18 months.

We understand that both Stevens and Simmons can stay at Emerald Terrace – if they agree to move out of their apartments into different suites for higher rent.

We stand by our friends at Emerald Terrace during yet another unfair and relentless eviction attempt by Hollyburn Properties.

Tell us how you feel about Hollyburn’s latest eviction threats at Emerald Terrace by sending us an email, or commenting on this post.

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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.

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Gordon Nelson to Appeal BC Supreme Court Ruling on 38% Rent Increase

Seafield residents received notice today that landlords Gordon Nelson Investments will seek an appeal of the BC Supreme Court ruling denying an up to 38% rent increase at 1436 Pendrell Street.

Madam Justice Loo of the BC Supreme Court overturned an RTO decision granting Gordon Nelson Investments an up to 38% rent increase last month because the decision was patently unreasonable and contained errors of both fact and law.

Jason Gordon and Chris Nelson are seeking the following:

  • That an appeal of Madam Justice Loo’s decision be allowed
  • That the Order of the Honourable Madam Justice Loo pronounced January 12, 2010 be set aside
  • That the decision of Residential Tenancy Officer K. Miller dated April 2, 2009 be restored
  • That Gordon Nelson Investments Inc, be granted its costs in the Court of Appeal and the BC Supreme Court

Read the notice to appeal Madam Justice Loo’s decision on their above normal rent increase.

Read "Gordon Nelson to Appeal BC Supreme Court Ruling on 38% Rent Increase"

B.C. Supreme Court Overturns Gordon Nelson’s 38% Rent Increase

thumbs up B.C. Supreme Court Overturns Gordon Nelsons 38% Rent IncreaseGordon Nelson Ordered to Refund Rents; Case to be Reheard

Today, the Supreme Court of British Columbia overturned the ruling that allowed landlords Gordon Nelson Investments to increase rents at Seafield Apartments by up to 38%.  The case is remitted for rehearing by a different Dispute Resolution Officer at the Residential Tenancy Office.

Furthermore, the decision orders Gordon Nelson Investments to return all of the additional rent it collected as a result of the April 2, 2009 decision.

The Honourable Madam Justice Loo of the BC Supreme Court found that the Residential Tenancy Office’s (RTO) decision awarding the 38% rent increase was “patently unreasonable”.

In our reading of the judgment, the four points used to overrule the RTO decision were:

  • That the Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) “failed to comply with the statutory requirement” by not considering the Tenants’ evidence. Madam Justice wrote: “…the Officer must consider the Tenants’ relevant submissions. It defies common sense to imagine an affected tenant…would make a submission showing that there are rental units that attract higher rents.”
  • That the DRO was “patently unreasonable” in awarding the landlord an above normal rent increase when the landlord had only two “comparable” units demonstrating their case. (In contrast, our evidence – which was disregarded – contained scores of comparable units, in some cases even identical, at similar or lower rents). She wrote: “…it is doubtful that s. 23(1)(a) requires merely two comparator units.”
  • The DRO made an error of law by basing her analysis on rents before (rather than after) the regular annual rent increase (3.7%) permitted under the law;
  • The Justice concluded that “the officer made a patently unreasonable factual error” when the DRO granted the rent increase based on apartments that were not, in fact, comparable to units at the Seafield by her own admission.

Madam Justice concluded on page 19, paragraph 49 of the decision:

“The Officer’s decision of April 2, 2009 must be set aside and the underlying dispute is remitted for rehearing by another dispute Resolution Officer…In addition, the Landlord must refund the Tenants any additional rents paid as a consequence of the Officer’s decision.”

Seafielders are incredibly relieved at this ruling as the second of three phases of the RTO’s rent increase decision was about to take effect in February.  This would have raised rents by another $170 a month for some tenants, who were already paying $170 more as of August 2009.  These increases would have forced many tenants to leave the building, breaking up the Seafield community.

For more background, check out:

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Season’s Greetings to All From the Seafield Family

christmas card thing Seasons Greetings to All From the Seafield Family

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Seafield Tenants Apply for Judicial Review of 38% Rent Hike

Seafielders have begun the process for Judicial Review of the Residential Tenancy Branch’s April 2 decision to award Gordon Nelson Investments a 38% rent increase.  We have done this for a number of reasons.

From the RTB website:

“4.1.7 What is the process for judicial review of a Dispute Resolution Officer’s decision?

No government official or Residential Tenancy Branch staffperson has the ability to change, vary, alter or interfere with a dispute resolution officer’s decision. Only a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia can review a dispute resolution officer’s decision based on an error in law, bias, or procedural fairness.

We are pursuing our legal right for a judicial review in accordance with the reasons stated in the RTB rules above.

Why now?

Timing is a critical factor, between availability of counsel for both sides, court availability, and possible delays in the court system due to the Olympics.

Seafielders also can’t afford to wait.  The longer the time between the RTB decision and the judicial review, the longer Seafielders are paying phased-in installments of the 38% rent increase.  For the sake of our community, we must move forward.

Seafielders extended the courtesy of advising Gordon Nelson Investments of our need to file for JR before we instructed our counsel to proceed, and emphasized that we still all hope for a positive outcome to the ongoing negotiations for the purchase of the Seafield, 1436 Pendrell Street.

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Seafielders Work with Gordon Nelson Investments to Form a Non-Profit Co-op

Many have asked us over the past two months what the status is of our hearings and of matters at the building. We Seafielders apologize for our silence.

We are currently in negotiations with Gordon Nelson Investments to form a non-profit co-op at the Seafield.

The past 10 months has been difficult for both parties, and Gordon Nelson has kindly offered the possibility of selling us the building so that we can form a co-op. We are confident that both Gordon Nelson and all of us here at the Seafield will reach a solution that will make everyone happy in the very near future, and are proud of both ourselves and our landlords for making such a bold and creative move.

We are happy that both sides are exercising good faith at making this deal happen, and are anticipating good results.

We will be releasing more information about this as soon as we can.

Thanks for your patience and support,

The Seafielders

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Mole Hill Residents Facing Geographic Rent Increases

mole hill vancouver housing Mole Hill Residents Facing Geographic Rent Increases

There’s more bad news for West End renters as another group of tenants are battling geographic rent increases.

The “low-end of market” residents of the Mole Hill Community Housing Society  were recently served with notice of extraordinary rent increase through the  RTO.

The society plans to increase rents over two years, with requested increases of up to 28% in the first year and 20% in the second.

If successful, these rent increases will un-house many long term residents. Mole Hill sets a cap on the household income of perspective applicants, a cap that has jumped in recent years – and so those who have lived on the block for any longer than 3 years are unlikely to be able to stay in the West End if evicted by higher costs.

Seafielders found a website made by one of the residents. She discusses the details of the Mole Hill rent increases.

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