UPDATED: Salmon Arm seniors served eviction letters with less than a month’s notice

Nearly three dozen low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Salmon Arm have been given eviction notices that give them less than a month to find a new place. Jules Knox reports.

Nearly three dozen low-income seniors and people with disabilities in the small community of Salmon Arm are in the process of being evicted from their assisted living facility.

Tenants at the privately-run McGuire Lake Congregate Living facility said they were stunned when they woke up to find eviction notices plastered around their building Thursday morning.

“Please note that this building will be closed as of Oct. 1, 2019. Utilities will be disconnected and the building will be sealed,” the letter reads.

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Christine Lein, a resident of the building, said the eviction notice is causing seniors stress and uncertainty.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go, and then you’ve got to move your stuff. It’s just devastating,” Lein said.

Daniel Shields owns and operates the facility but leases the building.

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He said he received a letter from his landlord at the end of July that his lease was cancelled effective immediately.

Shields estimates he owes $100,000 dollars.

He claims the company asked him to come up with a repayment plan, so he sent in a proposal. When he didn’t hear back right away, he said he thought the plan was under consideration.

Shields said he didn’t tell his tenants about the possible eviction because he hoped it would be resolved.

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“I didn’t give notice because I thought we were working on a proposal,” he said.

“I was still under the hope that we were negotiating some kind of proposal because why ask me for a proposal moving forward if we’re actually not moving forward,” he said.

Shields said he received another letter on Sept. 4 that he needed to vacate the building by Sept. 30.

“It took him the whole month of August and four days of September to respond to our proposal, and it wasn’t a response, it was a ‘get out’,” Shields said.

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Lorenz Eppinger is a representative for the company that owns the building.

In an email, he said that Shields hasn’t paid any rent or utilities since May, or come up with a workable payback plan.

“We also did not request one but stated that if a plan were to be submitted it had to be concrete and, due to the circumstance, required an immediate substantial payment towards the debt,” Eppinger said.

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“We have received proposals from Mr. Shields over the years that promised payments down the road, which never came through,” he added.

Shields’ rent payments have been in significant arrears since 2014, and the monthly rent has not been increased since 2011, Eppinger said.

“The termination of the lease was not brought on by a supposed sale of the building as some speculated but by non-payment of rent due,” he wrote.

Eppinger also said that it had come to the building owner’s attention early last week that Shields hadn’t told his tenants that the lease had been terminated for the end of September.

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“In hindsight, if I’d have known this was his intention, I would have given notice on the first day,” Shields said.

Shields said he’s waiting to find out if his tenants’ situation will be covered under the Residential Tenancy Act, which would require residents to be given proper notice.

But because they rent from him, and he rents from somebody else, it’s complicated, he said.

“If we do qualify, then we can go to dispute resolution, which would happen before the end of the month, and I feel quite strongly that it would be found in the residents’ favour,” Shields said.

Shields said he often isn’t able to collect people’s full rents.

“I wanted a place for the people that fall through the cracks that don’t have outside supports,” he said.

In the meantime, he said residents were scared about their future.

“I want anybody that thinks I’m at fault to know I’m sorry. That certainly wasn’t my intention,” Shields said as he wiped away tears.

“But something needs to be done. It’s bigger than just this. When seniors don’t make enough money to live in a seniors home, that’s an issue. When we don’t have the services for our seniors because they don’t have families to advocate for them, that’s an issue.”

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The facility does not receive any government funding, Shields said.

However, he believes the province should get involved in this situation, which is something many tenants agreed with.

“It isn’t about blame. It’s about where do we go from here?” Shields said. “We can’t just take 30 something seniors and put them out on the street. So yes, the government should get involved, and if that’s kicking me to the curb and bringing in an interim manager, then do so.”

In a statement, the housing ministry said the residential tenancy branch’s compliance and enforcement unit is aware of the situation and has started an investigation.

Although the facility isn’t an Interior Health facility, the health authority will review the care needs for any individuals receiving services to ensure it continues to support their health care needs regardless of where they are living, spokesperson Karl Hardt said.

“This is obviously an incredibly difficult situation,” he added.

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