Seafield victory a big win in the fight against renovictions – but it comes at a high price for residents.
The Residential Tenancy Branch found this week that Gordon Nelson Inc. did not meet the test of good faith in their application to mass evict tenants at 1436 Pendrell St for “renovations”.
The dispute resolution officer stated that Jason Gordon and Chris Nelson of GNI had ulterior motives behind the eviction notices they issued:
“In consideration of the Landlord’s submissions with regard to good faith intent, I find, on a balance of probabilities, their claim is undermined by their ulterior, primary motive of obtaining a substantial rent increase. Therefore I find that the landlord is attempting to end these tenancies in bad faith.”
In late November, 2010, Gordon Nelson Inc. issued eviction notices for renovations en masse to residents of the Seafield Apartments, including 84-year-old Rolland McFall and Dana Crudo, a pregnant woman.
The eviction notices came just 10 days after Gordon Nelson Inc. lost their application for an up-to 73% rent increase at the Seafield, which they had been pursuing since February 2009. When that avenue of substantially increasing rent at the Seafield was closed to them, Gordon Nelson turned around and issued mass eviction notices for renovations.
Gordon Nelson are appealing their loss of an up-to 73% rent increase while, at the same time, arguing that the building is unsafe and in need of renovations that require mass eviction.
Tenants worked around the clock (and around their full time jobs) for two months to prepare a case defending their homes.
Their evidence consisted of:
· Letters from several contractors outlining that it is possible to complete the renovations with tenants in place
· Letters from residents stating their willingness to accommodate the renovations using whatever means necessary
· Letters/emails from the landlords documenting their attempt to obtain more money from residents using the threat of evictions renovations
The dispute resolution officer found that the landlord’s overriding motivation was to achieve significant rent increases through mass evictions, not to extend the useful life of the building and conduct renovations, and stated:
“In the circumstances before me I find that, on a balance of probabilities, the Landlord was not acting in good faith when they served the Tenants with the Notices to End Tenancy. Rather, I find that it is likely that the Notices to End Tenancy were served because the Landlord was unsuccessful in their attempt to achieve significantly higher rates of rent for the rental units in question.”
Further, the DRO concludes: “…by the Landlord’s own admissions, they stated they were willing to postpone renovations for years in exchange for the Tenants paying higher rents. I find by their own words, the Landlord weighed the benefits of receiving higher rents over the need or desire to renovate a building which they claimed was unsafe and required renovations.”
While residents are overjoyed with the decision, this victory is not indicative of a working system. Tenants at the Seafield have devoted the past 2.5 years of their lives to fighting this cause for all renters in B.C. – a fight few are either willing or able to take on.
“There are no penalties for landlords who abuse the law. It basically costs them nothing to try,” says tenant Melissa Mewdell. “Despite the fact that we have demonstrated that this company has ulterior motives for eviction, there is nothing stopping Gordon Nelson from doing this again to us, or to anyone.”
“The law gives them carte blanche to make the lives of tenants a living hell, and they’ve been doing it for years,” she said.
Seafielders have put in hundreds of hours of work and have been to the Supreme Court of B. C. once, and to the Residential Tenancy Office for eight separate cases since Gordon Nelson bought the building two years ago.
The 2 1/2 year on-going battle has cost the Seafield’s close community dearly, with the departure of one couple due to health issues brought on by the continuing stress; the only successful targeted eviction of a family for a “resident manager”; and a third resident who left out of frustration and fatigue in February due to this fight.
Seafielders applaud the RTB for this landmark decision. However, when tenants must sacrifice huge amounts of their lives to defend their rights to live in peace, changes to the Residential Tenancy Act are clearly needed.
Seafielders will be speaking with the media about this decision at 9 a.m. in front of the building (1436 Pendrell Street).
Seafield Media Contact: Doug King from the Pivot Legal Society (778) 898-6349
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- Victory for Seafield Apartments Tenants in Renoviction Case
- Gordon Nelson Sells Building After Tenants Win
- Eviction Notices Reversed for Seafield Apartments in West End
- Renoviction Ruling Highlights Inconsistencies in RTB Decisions
Tags: Eviction for Renovation