Bob and Gail Halliday, seen here at a press conference Monday to draw attention to local renovictions, have been granted the right to dispute their renovation, and will get a hearing in November. Neil Corbett/THE NEWS

Renovicted tenants buy themselves time

Will be granted hearings to dispute evictions

Residents who have been evicted from Esme Manor in Maple Ridge have bought themselves some time.

The Residential Tenancy Branch has agreed to hear two tenants’ disputes of their evictions. Eviction notices have been served for the top floor, eight units, in the 22-unit building. Tenants in three units tenants have stayed, unable to find other accommodations in their price range of $750 per month for a one-bedroom unit.

Even though the challenge of the evictions was filed late, after a 15-day deadline, the Residential Tenancy Branch has agreed to give the tenants a hearing, which are scheduled for mid-October. They had been ordered out by the end of July.

“It’s a win, but we’re going to keep fighting,” said Isabel Krupp of the Alliance Against Displacement, which stepped in to support the tenants this week.

She said the Alliance is also working with other tenants in the building to ensure they know their rights, and can appeal to the Residential Tenancy Branch to potentially delay or dismiss their evictions, as the renovations move to other floors.

The Alliance will also pressure governments to close what they say is a loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act that allows landlords to evict tenants for renovations, and then raise rents beyond the annual allowable rate set under the act each year – called renovictions.

A spokesman for the company that owns the building said it plans a major, $800,000 renovation that would double in cost if the tenants were allowed to stay. Guy Bouchard said the company, which bought the building for $3 million at the end of May, is doing nothing illegal.

He said the company simply plans to improve the building, which is “in bad shape.”

Krupp took issue with comments he made that buildings with rents at below market value attract crime.

She called it “poor-bashing rhetoric” that she has heard in Maple Ridge.

“That low-income people are criminals, or that supporting low-income communities attracts crime.”

Krupp said the Alliance has urged tenants to stay current on their rent, or they will not have grounds to appeal an eviction.

“We’re advising tenants to pay their rent, even if they’ve received an eviction notice.”

The Alliance has not been able to substantiate rumours about renovictions at two other buildings on 222nd Street.

“Renovictions are not an isolated problem. We see them across B.C.,” she said. “If there are other tenants who have been evicted in the same way as those at Esme Manor, we would like to hear from them.”

Their website is at www.stopdisplacement.ca

• Information session

A public meeting will be held on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Greg Moore Youth Centre, to cover the topic of evictions and landlord and tenant rights.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare will be in attendance, as will the Residential Tenancy Branch and B.C. Housing. The event is being hosted by the city and the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Katzie Seniors Network.

“We need to ensure tenants’ rights are protected,” said Beare, adding that through the process of helping the Esme Manor residents, government officials have found tenants need more information. For example, they did not know they needed to file for dispute resolution with the branch, after receiving their two-month eviction notice for renovations. So some missed the deadline.

“We realized in this situation, and having outreach workers talk to tenants all week, that not enough people know their rights. Not enough people know what’s available to them.”

Beare clarified that she too was involved in a Thursday meeting with the building owner, Mayor Nicole Read and city staff. Beare brought an assistant deputy minister from the Ministry of Housing.

Beare reiterated that the new NDP government is going to close the loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act that allows renoviction. The changes will require legislative amendments.

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