A Court of Queen's Bench judge has thrown out two eviction notices issued by the New Brunswick Housing Corporation, citing shoddy investigations by the Department of Public Safety's Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods program.
The so-called SCAN program allows investigators to evict people engaged in criminal activities, such as drug dealing and prostitution, without going through lengthy criminal court cases.
But Justice Peter Glennie found SCAN can go too far and ignore the rights of tenants.
He recently overturned two eviction notices that were served on public housing tenants in Saint John's Crescent Valley last November.
"In my opinion New Brunswick Housing Corporation has failed to adequately fulfill the fiduciary and fairness obligations it owes to the targeted tenants involved in these two cases," Glennie states in the 44-page written decision.
'Inadequate and superficial investigations'
The evictions were based on public complaints received by SCAN investigator Bill Hanley alleging "habitual" illegal drug activity.
But Hanley never spoke to the tenants to give them an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them, or conducted any surveillance before they were served with eviction notices by N.B. Housing.
"In my opinion they were inadequate and superficial investigations bearing in mind the potential adverse consequences for the targeted tenants," wrote Glennie.
The tenants are not named in the decision.
In February 2011, Hanley told CBC News eviction is the last resort.
"We take statements, we talk to witnesses and we do surveillance," he had said. "What we do very early in the investigation is meet with the property owner and the tenant to try to stop the activity, without necessarily moving people out of their homes."
The Department of Public Safety has also "assured the public that a 'thorough investigation' would be carried out in each case where a complaint is received," said Glennie.
"Such was obviously not the case with respect to the present applications by N.B. Housing for eviction orders pursuant to the Landlord and Tenant Act."
In addition, Hanley, who is a former Saint John police officer, provided false information to N.B. Housing, said Glennie.
Hanley told N.B. Housing the "person(s) responsible for the activities have been instructed to cease the illegal activity immediately."
But he later admitted under oath none of the tenants in question had been notified or instructed to cease the illegal activity, said Glennie.
"This conduct contributes to the entire eviction process in these cases being undermined," he said.
The Department of Public Safety is "reviewing the decision with all relevant parties to ensure we achieve a fair and balanced process in all future and ongoing SCAN cases," spokeswoman Deborah Nobes stated in an email.