Evictions overturned for P.E.I. tenants being displaced for Tim Hortons staff

After a hearing earlier this month, P.E.I.'s Rental Office has ruled in favour of tenants fighting eviction notices issued by Tim Hortons franchisee D.P. Murphy Inc.

Rentals regulator overturns eviction notices issued by Tim Hortons franchisee in Souris

woman in black winter jacket in apartment kitchen
Brenda Hanson says she's 'overjoyed' to be staying in her Souris, P.E.I., apartment. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Three tenants of an apartment building in Souris, P.E.I., have won their battle against eviction notices they received from the building's owner, local Tim Hortons franchisee D.P. Murphy Inc.

But it's a bittersweet victory for at least one of them.

After a hearing on the evictions earlier this month, P.E.I.'s rentals regulator — the Office of the Director of Residential Rental Properties — ruled Friday that the rental agreements of existing tenants will remain in place, and those tenants can stay in their homes.

Brenda Hanson is one of three residents who fought to remain in her home in the small town at the northeastern tip of the Island.

Woman moving boxes in an apartment.
Brenda Hanson says she is holding on to the empty boxes she gathered up, in case D.P. Murphy Inc. successfully appeals the overturning of its eviction notices. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

She said she had started collecting boxes and was getting ready to move, but hadn't yet found a new place to live.

"I'm overjoyed to be staying," she said, adding of her landlord: "If I'm going to leave, I'm going to leave on my own terms, not his."

D.P. Murphy operates several Tim Hortons franchises across Prince Edward Island.

According to documents the company filed with the Rental Office, the company had planned to use the building to house temporary foreign workers coming to work at the Souris branch of the coffee shop. 

Lawyers for D.P. Murphy declined to comment for this story.

Tight rental and labour market 

Hanson said the need for housing — and workers — is well known in the community. But she said the evictions wouldn't have helped with those challenges.

"Every day you turn on the news, the biggest issue is there's no place to live, no apartments," said Hanson. 

"And I understand there's no workers either, but we shouldn't have to leave our home to house them."

Woman with tinted glasses standing in apartment kitchen
Beverley Harris says she moved into a new apartment while waiting for the eviction decision from PEI's Rental Office. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The decision brought up mixed feelings for tenant Beverley Harris, who had already made arrangements to move out of her two-bedroom top-floor apartment into one half its size.

"I feel pretty good in that we got the eviction overruled," she said. "The other part of me is sad that I had to move."

Harris said she felt "forced" into moving. She had begun looking for another apartment when she wasn't sure what the outcome of the hearing would be.

"When I went to look for housing, there was not much available," she said.

"I guess out of fear I took that apartment….  I ended up moving there 'cause we didn't get our decision till Friday and it was kind of too late to turn back then."

Harris is paying rent on both apartments this month, and having to downsize because her new place in a seniors' housing building is so much smaller.

She said the process has been costly; she hired a mover, gave some of her things to charity, and is paying for storage for other items.

She said she's seeking compensation from her former landlord, "just to cover my moving cost because that was an extra cost to me that I wasn't planning on," she said.

"I don't think that's unfair to ask for that, plus the stress that we went through."

Appeal period not over

With the Rental Office ruling behind them, both women said they are now waiting for the appeal period to pass so that they can move forward.

"I didn't get rid of my boxes just yet," said Hanson.

According to Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, the parties in an eviction appeal decision have 20 days to file an appeal with IRAC.