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Stubborn tenants block Surrey widow’s effort to sell Chilliwack rental property

Click to play video 'Pandemic-related delays putting off Chilliwack home sale for family in need' Pandemic-related delays putting off Chilliwack home sale for family in need
The family of a man who died last year trying to save his daughter from drowning have sold a home. But they have been unable to evict their tenants, who aren't paying their rent. Aaron McArthur reports – Jan 12, 2021

Seven months after her husband drowned while saving their daughter, Urooj Sheikh is still struggling to get her family’s life back together.

But she’s facing a major hurdle: the stubborn tenants who refuse to move out of the Chilliwack rental property she’s already sold, and are blocking the new owners from taking possession.

Sheikh’s husband Kashif died in June while the couple and their four children were on vacation in the Okanagan.

Read more: Father’s Day tragedy: B.C. man dies trying to rescue daughter from Mill Creek waterfall

Kashif rushed to rescue their daughter who had fallen into the water near the Mill Creek waterfall in the Ellison area, east of the Kelowna airport. While the daughter was able to make it back to shore, Kashif was not.

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Up until his death, the Surrey realtor was the prime income earner for the family, supplementing his earnings with rent from an investment property the family purchased in Chilliwack.

After Kashif passed, Sheikh quickly found herself unable to keep up with the payments on that home while also supporting herself and her children with only part-time work.

“It’s very unexpected — your breadwinner is gone,” she said. “All of a sudden you have this huge loss of income. I just can’t afford that property.”

Click to play video 'B.C. dad drowns on Father’s Day trying to save daughter' B.C. dad drowns on Father’s Day trying to save daughter
B.C. dad drowns on Father’s Day trying to save daughter – Jun 22, 2020

The home was put on the market almost immediately after Kashif’s death, with the hope that the proceeds from the sale would get the family back on track.

Yet Sheikh says the tenants made the situation extremely difficult by often refusing showings while the home was listed. They would also delay or completely skip their rent payments, she alleges, forcing Sheikh to cover the shortfall through her mortgage.

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The sale was ultimately completed despite the obstruction, and possession was supposed to take place at the end of January. But now the tenants are refusing to move out.

A person who said he lived in the home declined to speak with Global News Tuesday, insisting “the whole story” was being ignored.

The man took issue with the house being put up for sale so soon after Kashif’s death, saying the realtor “would never do that to us.”

Read more: Vancouver Tenants Union calling on B.C. government to reinstate ban on evictions

Sheikh says the law is on her side.

“There’s really nothing that I have not done legally to get everything checked off,” she said. “We’ve given them enough notice, we’ve been very accommodating with them.”

A company that specializes in evictions has been hired to remove the tenants, but Sheikh says they’ve had little success.

The B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch, whose dispute resolution system has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, has told Sheikh an eviction hearing isn’t likely to happen until March at the earliest.

In the meantime, Sheikh is left feeling helpless at the whim of people who refuse to leave a sold property.

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“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “What are we supposed to do now?”