Residents living at Bluenose Inn & Suites in Bedford face eviction
Legal worker says motel owners have become landlords and have to respect the rules around renovictions
Residents at a motel in Bedford, N.S., say they're being forced to leave their rooms in what a Dalhousie Legal Aid legal worker calls a "mass renoviction."
More than 20 people currently live at the Bluenose Inn & Suites, but on March 1 they received notice saying they have to vacate the property by May 1.
"People are leaving, my family's leaving," said Brandy McGuire, an IT student at NSCC who has been living at the inn since July 2020 with her four children.
"The rest are still fighting to find something and fighting to stay here until they can find something but at the same time, they don't know how much fight they have left."
Mark Culligan, a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, said the Bluenose owners — like many other hotel and motel owner-operators — began renting to people on a monthly basis during the pandemic and effectively became a landlord to the residents.
He said that makes the hotel guests tenants who are entitled to legal rights and protections under the Residential Tenancies Act.
"[The owners] sent everyone a notice to leave the building on March 1 for the purposes of demolishing the building, however, that was actually barred by the eviction ban," said Culligan.
"And so those legal notices have no legal effect … so it's very concerning that a landlord is trying to skirt the rent eviction rules."
Last March, the ban on renovictions — the act of evicting tenants to renovate a building and then increase the rent — was lifted when the province's state of emergency ended. However, new protections for tenants were added to the Residential Tenancies Act.
The protections include that the tenant must be given at least three months notice and the landlord must give the tenant between one and three months rent as compensation, depending on the size of the building. Additional compensation may be awarded to the tenant if the landlord does not follow the new rules or is found to have acted in bad faith.
Building is no longer 'appropriate' for people to live in
John Ghosn, the director of the Bluenose Inn & Suites, said they made the difficult decision to shut down the inn because the aging building is no longer "appropriate" to live in.
"There's no renoviction here. There's no form of demand or notice to vacate," said Ghosn.
"It is a development site, but there's no immediate plans to redevelop."
People living at the Bluenose Inn pay $1,400 a month for a room with a kitchenette and bathroom and $1,000 for a single room.
Some confusion around new rules: minister
Colton LeBlanc, the minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, said he thinks there's been some confusion about the new rules governing renovictions. He said the province is doing some "targeted marketing" on social media platforms to better inform landlords and tenants.
LeBlanc said the residential tenancy board has so far received 28 applications from landlords for an order to evict tenants in order to carry out renovations.
Asked if some landlords were claiming the need for substantial repairs as an excuse to evict people, LeBlanc didn't directly answer the question.
"I acknowledge that there are instances where substantial — and I emphasize substantial — renovations are required, to maintain the safe structure, a safe roof over somebody's head," he said.
Bluenose is not an isolated incident
Culligan said he and his colleagues have written to the landlord informing them of their legal obligations, but there's been no response.
He said there's been a number of recent incidents involving landlords trying to skirt the rules, and his priority is to ensure this landlord is held accountable to the law and the tenants.
"There's been a lot of incidents in the last few months with landlords who have taken things into their own hands," said Culligan. "So demolishing a building when people aren't living there or cutting off services. So we want to shine a light on this situation so that the landlord doesn't think that that's OK to do here."
Culligan said they've heard multiple reports that the internet at the Bluenose has been disconnected for the last month and that repair and maintenance requests are being ignored.
McGuire said her children share beds and the shower in her room has been broken for a year.
"I've mentioned it to the office, they weren't interested in fixing it. We got rats, we got mice. We don't even have a door on our room's bedroom."
McGuire said she was able to find a place in Sackville but it's more expensive and she's frustrated that she'll have to uproot her children.
"Nothing was done right here. We weren't served notice properly," she said. "That's not abiding by our rights. He doesn't see us as human because we're one step up from homelessness."
- A previous version of this story said the province had received 28 applications from tenants about renovictions. In fact, the province has received 28 applications from landlords for an order to evict tenants in order to carry out renovations.Apr 22, 2022 12:36 PM AT