British Columbia

Surrey RV park tenants say landlord dodged responsibility in fixing persistent power outages

Some residents of a Surrey RV park say their landlord left them to fend for themselves when a power outage had them living in the dark for days right before Christmas.

'It's unacceptable to leave people without power in the middle of winter, in the middle of COVID,' tenant says

Valerie Ball, a resident of Hazelmere RV Park, says aging infrastructure is to blame for recent power outages and she believes the responsibility for fixing it falls on the landlord. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Some residents of a Surrey RV park say their landlord left them to fend for themselves when a power outage had them living in the dark for days right before Christmas.

Hazelmere RV Park resident Valerie Ball said she wasn't able to turn on the lights, flush the toilet or use any running water between Dec. 19 and 22, as temperatures dipped below freezing overnight. The park's landlord gave residents no indication of when the power would be restored, she said.

A tenants' advocate says situations like this aren't unusual in RV parks and illustrate the importance of tenants knowing their rights. 

The lights came back on after CBC News visited Hazelmere RV Park on Tuesday.

"I had a quilt, a blanket, a sheet and a sleeping bag on top of me last night with my two dogs in my bed," Ball said Tuesday before the power was restored.

"It's unacceptable to leave people without power in the middle of winter, in the middle of COVID."

Ball, who has lived in the park for five years, said the power initially went out two weeks ago for two days. Then, a fire in a breaker box last week killed the power for almost everyone. It was later restored for some residents but not for others, she said.

Ball said aging infrastructure is to blame for the outages and believes the responsibility for fixing it falls on the landlord. Park staff have hardly communicated with residents, she said, aside from telling some to buy generators.

Ball says she spent several cold nights in her RV after the power went out on Dec. 19. She put blankets on the windows to try to keep out the cold. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'This is crazy'

On Tuesday afternoon, generators buzzed at several RV sites where residents still didn't have power. Contractors could be seen coming and going from the park. 

Ball said she pays an average of $750 a month for rent and feels the landlord is taking advantage of her and the other residents. 

"I'm not going to buy a generator, it's not my responsibility," Ball said.

"It's the park's responsibility to make sure we have electricity and water and sewer."

Kenny Zacher, a resident of 16 years, said the landlord has not communicated with residents about a timeline for fixing power outages.

"We've had cold weeks before, but nothing like this," Zacher said Tuesday before the power was restored. 

"This is crazy. They tried to blame it on [BC Hydro] but hydro's not responsible for in here."

Ball has filed an application for dispute resolution with B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch. 

Electrical crews work on power lines at Hazelmere RV Park on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Landlord denies responsibility

In an email, the park's landlord, who did not provide his full name to CBC but is listed in the dispute documents as Andrew Matheson, said the park has had two power outages, but they worked to fix them immediately after they occurred. He confirmed power was restored on Tuesday.

"We engaged BC Hydro and also had an electrical crew engaged to restore power as quickly as possible but like others we were at the mercy of BC Hydro," he said.

"It's important to note that we have open lines of communication with all guests, we have multiple on-site staff available daily and we strive to be responsive and helpful at all times."

Matheson said residents would not be charged for the nights spent without power and staff would be handing out gift cards. Ball said she was unaware of this until CBC relayed Matheson's response. 

In an emailed statement, a BC Hydro spokesperson said there is no indication power to the RV park was recently interrupted and that if power went out, it could mean there was an issue with the property's private line.

"If that was the case, it would be the property owner's responsibility to fix it," the statement said.

Matheson did not respond when asked whether there were issues with the park's private electrical lines.

Kenny Zacher, who has lived in the park for 16 years, said BC Hydro is not responsible for the power outages that have occurred in the park recently. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Residents in 'grim' situation, advocate says

Part of the problem lies in a document residents were asked to sign this summer, said Paul Lagace, coordinator and legal advocate for the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre.

A revised set of park rules included a clause that was different from a previous document signed by tenants a year earlier. Residents essentially signed to relinquish "exclusive" possession of their rental sites, which is integral to having a tenancy agreement under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, Lagace said.

This leaves tenants in a "grim" situation, he said.

"If the tenant is not under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, there's nothing to compel the landlord to deal with the issue," Lagace said. 

This is why it's important for tenants to understand what they're signing, he added.

Ball says she's glad the power is back on but worries outages will happen again, and is at her wit's end with the lack of communication.

"It would be a miracle if we got any money back," she said.

Temperatures dipped below 0 C in Hazelmere RV Park in Surrey this week. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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