West End tenants win 'renovictions' case

Tenants of a downtown Vancouver apartment building are celebrating after learning they won't have to move out so the owners can renovate the building.
After years of fighting, residents of the Seafield apartment building in Vancouver have won the right to stay put, the CBC's Tim Weekes reports 1:57

Tenants of a downtown Vancouver apartment building are celebrating after learning they won't have to move out so the owners can renovate the building.

An adjudicator at B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch Dispute Resolution Service ruled the landlord acted in bad faith when it issued eviction orders under the pretence that they intended do extensive renovations.

Tenant Melissa Mewdell said when she meet the new landlords from Gordon Nelson Inc. more than two years ago they immediately told her of plans to evict her and the other tenants and raise the rents.

"'We are going to evict you for renovations.' That's what they said. They said they could make more money and that's what they were going to do," she said outside her building on Wednesday morning.

The tenants' lawyer, Douglas King said the decision should serve as a warning to other landlords contemplating mass evictions.

"We hope that this is a signal to other landlords and developers that it's not going to be so easy to take a building and kick everybody out on the streets," said King

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert was at the building Wednesday morning to meet with the tenants.

He said he believes some landlords treat eviction fights as a cost of doing business and issue mass-evictions because they don't think residents will fight, or will grow tired of fighting.

"They've got limitless — it seems to be — limitless supplies of money to attempt this project again and again and again," said Herbert

"All they have to do is fill out a little form and then these people's lives get put on hold again because they could be evicted, or have their rents jacked up, or what have you," he said.

No one from landlord Gordon Nelson Inc. returned CBC's calls for comment.

Two months notice given

The landlord of the 80-year-old Seafield building, which is located at 1436 Pendrell St. in Vancouver's West End, first issued the 24 tenants of the building with an eviction notice shortly after buying the building in 2008.

The company Gordon Nelson Investments told the tenants of the 14 suites they would have two months to move out so the renovations could be done, or face substantial rent increases.

The Seafield Apartments houses 24 tenants in its 14 suites. ((CBC))
But the tenants, some of whom had been in the building for nearly 50 years, fought the eviction order, saying they were essentially being evicted so the landlord could raise the rents.

They called the landlord's move a "renoviction," and countered that they said they were prepared to accommodate the renovations, but wanted to stay in the building.

The landlord took the case to B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch's dispute resolution services, which first ruled the landlord could raise the rent by 38 per cent.

The tenants then appealed that rent hike in court and a judge overturned it in October. Ten days later the landlord issued new eviction notices to the tenants.

The tenants then took the case back to an adjudicator, who issued a ruling on Feb. 15, saying the landlord acted in bad faith and had the ulterior motive of raising the rents when it issued the eviction orders.

As a result the tenants will not have to move out of the building, the adjudicator ruled.