Hundreds of RV park residents in Surrey given notice to leave by May
Peace Arch RV Park lawyer says his client is just abiding by city bylaws
When Greg and Karona Doubroff sold their townhouse and moved in to the Peace Arch RV Park in South Surrey in 2011, the recently married retirees were hoping for a simpler life.
The pair envisioned spending their golden years travelling between British Columbia during the summer and Mexico during the colder parts of the year.
Over the past eight years, the plot around their 35-foot RV has been adorned with berries, herbs and bushes. Inside, the 350-square-foot space is outfitted with amenities like a 65-inch TV, a brown leather loveseat and framed photos of the couple smiling and tanned on various trips down south.
"We've worked hard on this," Karona Doubroff said, standing in the sun outside on their deck. "We've made it really personal."
But now their retirement dreams are at risk. The RV park managers recently gave the Doubroffs and about 300 other long-term residents from roughly 180 RV sites notice to leave by May 1.
"If we could have our way, you would not leave at all," the letter says.
Monthly fees at the park average around $600 per month — about half the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the area — and the Doubroffs say other parks around the Lower Mainland have a five-year wait list.
Recently, the City of Surrey passed a bylaw prohibiting people from sleeping in their RVs on city streets at night.
"Where are 300 people going to go?" Karona Doubroff said.
The Peace Arch RV park's lawyer, Phil Dougan, says the owners' actions are the result of a recent decision at B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), which governs tenant-landlord agreements in the province.
The decision says the RV park is zoned as a tourist recreational site, which, under a Surrey bylaw, prohibits guests from staying longer than 182 days in a 12-month period.
The RTB adjudicator decided the 16 Peace Arch residents who filed a complaint seeking to clarify their status as tenants are not covered by either the Residential Tenancy Act or the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.
"It's like trying to make permanent accommodation out of a hotel," Dougan said, adding that his client could face fines of up to $2,000 per day should the city choose to enforce the bylaw.
Dougan says his client has been operating under the wrong assumption and thought the tenants could stay longer.
City not in touch with owners
Rob Costanzo, the city's general manager of corporate services, said in a written statement that Surrey isn't involved in the dispute and has not approached anyone at Peace Arch regarding the bylaw or its enforcement.
Surrey Coun. Linda Annis says the bylaw was passed "many, many years ago."
"It's not one, to the best of my knowledge, that the City of Surrey has ever acted upon, and, quite frankly, I don't think we were aware that it even existed," Annis said.
Dougan says whether or not the city plans to enforce the bylaw, "the law is the law" and he has advised his clients not to contravene it.
Previous RTB decisions
But the Doubroffs say they and other long-term residents, many of whom are seniors on fixed incomes, have been operating under the assumption that they're tenants, because the owners have treated them as such.
The Doubroffs's one-page lease also clearly designates them as tenants.
The RV park owners have tried to evict the Doubroffs twice during the last 18 months over a rental dispute.
The Doubroffs contested the evictions at the RTB twice and won. They say the decisions confirm the park's status as a manufactured home park.
In May, after those decisions, the RV park demanded its long-term residents sign a contract agreeing they are licensees and the park a licensor, rather than tenants and landlord, and, as such, the tenants would not be able to file complaints with the RTB.
The group of 16 residents went to the RTB to clarify their status and lost.
The province says the decision may not apply to all long-term residents there. The RV Park is also being investigated by the RTB's Enforcement Unit, which can issue fines of up to $5,000 per day.
Located on ALR land
The Peace Arch RV Park was once a KOA campsite. Its current owners, which include Anna Woo, purchased it in 1990 for $1,051,000. It's currently valued at $8,898,000.
The RV park is located on the province's Agricultural Land Reserve, which means it must be retained as farmland and could not be developed as residential housing.
The Agricultural Land Commission says it could, however, be sold and continue to be used as an RV park.