West Enders Keep Pets and Homes Despite Hollyburn’s No-Pets Policy

The Province was the first paper to report the favourable decision in the tenants favour in the Emerald Terrace Pet Eviction Case against Hollyburn Properties. What a scoop!

Kent Spencer

The Province

A group of West End tenants and their beloved cats are purring today after a residential tenancy board ruled that they can’t be evicted for owning pets.

“It’s wonderful,” June MacGregor, 79, said yesterday as she cuddled Inspector Clouseau. “It makes you appreciate something more when you’re close to losing it. I’m reading the paper with my pussycat and trying to take it all in,” she said.

Tenant Andrew Simmons, who owns three cats, said “common sense” prevailed.

“The landlord [Hollyburn Properties] said pets were hazardous to people’s health, but no evidence was provided to support that claim,” Simmons said. “We had to live for three months with the fear of losing our homes. The whole thing was pointless.”

The Residential Tenancy Branch found that seven cat owners did not breach a material part of their tenancy agreement, despite having verbal rather than written permission to keep the animals.

“The notices to end tenancy are cancelled, with the effect that the tenancies continue,” dispute-resolution officer S. Okada wrote in the judgment.

The matter arose in December, more than a year after Hollyburn Properties bought the apartment building in the 1200-block Nelson Street in Vancouver.

Tenants said Hollyburn knew about the cats because the landlord’s agents inspected suites several times to install new devices.

They also said that Ethel Bergen, the manager under the previous owners, had given them verbal permission to keep the pets.

Everything changed in December, when Hollyburn’s agent, Allan Wasel, said written permission was required to own pets. Eviction proceedings were commenced after owners refused to get rid of their animals.

Okada found Wasel must have known about the pets but did nothing to remove them.

She said Wasel’s lack of action undermined his argument that a “material term” had been breached. Material terms are so important that even “trivial” breaches give landlords “the right to end the tenancy,” she said.

“The landlord did not even begin to issue warning letters to the tenants for more than a year after they took over the building,” she said.

Okada found the tenants’ evidence more convincing than either Wasel’s or Bergen’s.

“The tenants gave specific, credible evidence,” she said. “I find the landlord [Wasel] must at the very least been willfully blind to the presence of cats.” Wasel denied saying, “Hi, kitty” to one of the animals, or even seeing it. He said he doesn’t like cats and wouldn’t use the word “kitty.”

Bergen swore out an affidavit, denying that verbal permission had been given.

Wasel said Hollyburn has a standard no-pets policy in all its buildings. He said allergens will get into the carpets, which may have to be removed. He said the landlord also needs to know if pets have had their shots.

Simmons believes the board’s decision will have implications for other pet owners.

“We’ve brought this to people’s attention. We’ve shown they can fight it,” he said.

E-mail reporter Kent Spencer at kspencer@theprovince.com

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