RTB Finds Gordon Nelson Inc. Had Ulterior Motives in Issuing Mass Evictions

Seafield Residents Victorious in Renoviction Case RTB Finds Gordon Nelson Inc. Had Ulterior Motives in Issuing Mass Evictions

Seafield Residents Victorious in Renoviction Case Against Landlord Gordon Nelson Inc.

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

EPIC WIN RTB Finds Gordon Nelson Inc. Had Ulterior Motives in Issuing Mass Evictions

Graphic Generously Donated by T. Pentlad

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


8 Responses to “RTB Finds Gordon Nelson Inc. Had Ulterior Motives in Issuing Mass Evictions”

  1. Frustrated Says:

    Sorry to rain on your parade but if someone invests in a property, they should have the right within the law to evict people with proper notice, regardless of how long someone has lived there. The tenants are not owners, they are tenants which have different rights as it’s not their money that was used to purchase the building.

    Try pooling all your money together to purchase the building and see where your rents would be.

    This sense of entitlement is exactly what is wrong with society today.

  2. Olivia Gomez Says:

    Congratulations, Seafielders! Every tenant in BC owes you a debt of gratitude. Three cheers: / / /

    Dear Frustrated, you have no idea what you are talking about. There’s background, history, context. What part of “bad faith” don’t you understand?

  3. Lee McLean Says:

    If you bothered to read the decision of the RTB you would see that the owners were found to have ulterior motives in evicting the tenants. Yes owners can upgrade their buildings for legitimate purposes, but they don’t have the right to evict tenants for bogus reasons so they can get around the rental caps and jack up the rents by exorbitant amounts! Again – the RTB Dispute Resolution Officer found:
    “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.”

    So who exactly has the wrong headed ’sense of entitlement’?

  4. Kevin Clements Says:

    The tenants of the Seafield apts. have exercised their rights within the law and the outcomes have all came back in favour of the tenants (including a Supreme Court Ruling ) The rent cheques get cashed every month , i guess they use that money for something. There has been an empty suite in the building for over 9 months now….why wouldn`t they want their money from that suite? Try reading the RTO decision.

  5. Concerned West Ender Says:

    Key points missing in this ongoing discussion:
    This used to be an extremely well maintained building right up until the new landlord purchased it.
    The previous owner had completed numerous upgrades such as: new carpeting (which Gordon Nelson has since ripped up), replacing the old wooden single pane windows with thermal double pane windows, and replacing all water plumbing lines.
    Not only was the extensive work completed with the full cooperation of the tenants, who remained in their suites throughout, but rents were increased annually in accordance with the allowable cap every year, to keep pace with market rents and help pay back some of the landlord’s investment. The natural gas fired heating system (another upgrade) works well but the new owner wants to tear out the radiators and install electric panels (not as efficient) and in-suite water tanks (also inefficient compared to the existing system) and download the costs to the tenants.
    The point is that Gordon Nelson purchased the building based on the assumption they could casually mass evict people from their homes in the name of profit as they have in every single other building they have bought. These owners don’t want people to stay put. It doesn’t suit their business plan.
    It had to stop somewhere.
    Older, well maintained buildings often build strong communities. This is certainly the case here.

  6. West end renter Says:

    On Gordon Nelsons` own website they state “denied right to invest” This is their own spin on this outcome. They are the ones denying themselves. The tenants have stated that they would be happy to accomodate their renovations. They don`t seem to be too concerned about anybodys health, well being, carbon spewing or safety issues while such renovations can easily be done with people in place. This means that since they cannot empty the building and double rents , they put this “spin” on it.

  7. Professor Weissman Says:

    I haven’t noticed GNI investing in buildings in Whalley. They are using the their money to buy properties that have value, in large part because of the enormous social capital invested over decades by the citizens of Vancouver and in particular the civic minded, long term residents of the West End.

    The informal social networks, the clubs and community centres, –the care and respect of the people of this community laid the foundation for the value of their property. In fact their fellow citizens subsidize their profits when we all pay for the sidewalk in front of their properties, along with fire response, police services, schools, libraries, sports fields, and tended parks and beaches. All of this constitutes a massive subsidy to the viability and value of “their” properties. And no, they don’t pay anywhere enough in taxes to provide these resources themselves.

    To pretend that the private ownership of housing exits in a vacuum in which landlords have no accountability to the communities that sustain them and give their investments value, is ethically and intellectually fraudulent. GNI may have money capital, but they are acting out of a fundamental misunderstanding of its relation to social capital. As is too often the case, the “self-made” have great difficulty in acknowledging their privilege and their debt to the social commons that underpins their wealth.

    At some level it’s just hard to understand why the principals of GNI have taken such a petty and mean spirited approach with their neighbours. Surely a communicative, cooperative, and civil approach would result in viable outcomes for everyone. Why wouldn’t they want to look in the mirror every morning knowing that their personal reputation rested on respect for tenants and their contribution to a vibrant, stable, West End.

  8. Derek Richer Says:

    Congratulations to the Seafielders. They have provided a great service to society. However, it is shameful that individual citizens should be expected to uphold the law and demonstrate just how inadequate the current legislation is. This is the job of government.

    A responsible government would have acted long ago to revise the deeply flawed Residential Tenancy Act. The fact that the tenants at the Seafield had to endure two and a half years of hell speaks multitudes about the inadequacy of the law. It is highly ironic that measures exist to deal with bad tenants, but no effective remedies exist to deal with bad landlords. Consequently, bad landlords are free to act with relative impunity, to impose repetitive eviction notices and harassment on tenants who decide to assert their legal rights.

    Of course, the provincial Liberals revealed their true allegiance to a few select supporters by altering the Residential Tenancy Act in 2004. Such changes as the geographic profiling clause have provided the legislative potential to transform the rental market into a greedy, lawless racket, where the odds are stacked steeply against tenants, and bad faith, harassment and double digit rent increases are the norm. The real estate market in this city is already unaffordable for many Canadians, and it is simply unconscionable to elevate the rental market beyond the reach of those already excluded from the real estate market.

    It should be remembered that the Seafielders are the exception in the ongoing provincial war against tenants’ rights. Many tenants lack the solidarity, resolve and education required to win multiple legal challenges. Unfortunately, as noted by dwindling voter turnouts for elections, cynicism and despondency run deeply in society today. One can only hope that the example set by the Seafielders will serve as a rallying cry for those who have virtually surrendered to the forces of greed and corruption in this province.

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